As I prepared for the arrival of our first son in 2011, I had the first few weeks ALL mapped out. My parents were coming out the first week, my inlaws the second. My husband was taking two weeks of paternity leave. Several friends had already volunteered to drop off home-cooked meals, and thanks to everyone’s strong recommendations to get a night nanny, we had one booked for the first few weeks.
I was totally set.
That is…until the first few weeks ended.
Those first few weeks after Asher arrived were blissful. Or at least, I think they were blissful. You see, there’s a black hole where my memory used to be right around that timeframe.
The only thing I remember was that it was almost like we had…dare I say it…TOO much help around. My husband and I were running on adrenaline those first few weeks, and even though we were sleep-deprived, we were still flying high on excitement and energy. It was awesome having our parents around, but quite frankly…having 4-6 adults present with one little baby just didn’t leave anyone with all that much to do! In fact, I remember handing my baby over to other people to hold several times when I really wanted to cuddle with my son because I felt like, “well gosh, they didn’t come all this way to help us just to sit around on our sofa twiddling their thumbs! Guess I’ll give them the baby…”
Having those home-cooked meals dropped off from our friends were nice…but with our parents already there, cooking for us, because you don’t need 4 adults watching one baby at any given time…we wound up just putting all those lasagnas we got (and yes, they were all lasagnas. I’m not ungrateful, just stating fact) in the freezer. Having that night nanny was helpful…but I was still getting up every 2-3 hours at night to feed the baby anyway at first, so it’s not like it saved me all that much sleep.
It was right around week six when the sh*%t really hit the fan. You see, by week six, everyone has forgotten about you. Your baby is no longer “brand new,” so therefore no longer exciting, and the parade of people coming to keep you company, see the baby, bring you dinners, has long ended (what I would have given for one of those lasagnas at week 6!)
However, the baby is not one bit easier to manage than it was at week one. In fact, I would argue that baby is actually much, much harder at that point. By that point, our son was spending much more time awake and alert (translation: he needed constant attention) and my husband was long back at work (yay two week paternity leave in this country…but that’s a whole other blog post.)
And remember all that awesome adrenaline I was telling you about that keeps you flying through those first few sleep deprived weeks with baby? Yeah. Well, that adrenaline is totally gone by week 6. And all that exhaustion, compounded week after week after week has caught up to you so badly that you can’t see straight or pronounce your own first name, let alone think about accomplishing anything with your day. And just when I was finally able to drop the nighttime feedings and think about the possibility of getting more than four straight hours of sleep at night…you guessed it, our night nanny was done. Just swell.
So what do I wish I knew before I brought baby home?
That instead of planning for those first few weeks, I should really have been optimizing for weeks 6-12, when I’d really need the most support, and wouldn’t have droves of people offering it up to me.
This time around, with our second son, I got the memo. My husband didn’t begin his paternity leave until several weeks after our baby was born, and he took an entire month off. We organized home-cooked meals for our friends starting at week 3, instead of right away. And we dug deep and splurged so we could have help at night until the baby was 12 weeks old.
And while like any new parent, I certainly had my moments, and no amount of planning can prepare you for what weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation do to you…at least I knew it was coming.
So when I hit that week 6-12 rock bottom, I knew exactly what support to ask for.