|When I was expecting my first baby (3 years ago now!) I was very excited and optimistic. When confronted with poor attitudes, stories of doom, and the usual "your life will end, just you wait and see", I would listen politely and think to myself, "I will never end up like that!"|
I was going to love being a mom! I wasn't going to mind all the extra work. I would never complain, and I wasn't going to hire others to care for or babysit my children all the time. I wanted to care for my own children. And besides, newborn babies slept all the time, anyway. How hard could it be?! Those "other people" are just selfish!
But I think I was probably just a little over-confident.
I do love being a mom! I don't mind being busier; in fact, I can't imagine not having little ones to care for all day! I don't usually complain, but, I do sometimes need to adjust my attitude a little. (Still working on that, you know...) And we rarely hire sitters because we do enjoy being with our children all the time! I couldn't imagine sending them away to school "just to get them out of my hair" like so many people say they do. The "terrible twos" have been full of exciting new moments and so many leaps in learning and communication. I truly have enjoyed motherhood immensely. :)
However, because of my over-confidance, I really didn't prepare much for having a newborn baby. I read lots of great books about childbirth, and geared up for an exciting home birth. I somehow didn't realise that in the end, 12 hours of labor would seem... easy when compared to 3 days of engorgement or staying up all night with a new baby... for a whole week.
I thought that planning an easy dinner like taco salad would be quite feasible with a newborn. I mean, I'd just cook and clean while the baby slept, of course.
Where did I get the idea that all newborns slept all day?! Mine sure didn't. So there I was, unable to do much of anything besides nursing 12 hours a day, changing diapers, and holding my baby, who refused to sleep by himself, or sleep much, period!
I had thought that having a newborn baby to care for would be pretty easy, and that everyone else just liked to complain. I found out that, depending on the baby, it might be a real challenge!! But no one told me that if I prepared adequately, it could be easy, or at least, easier. I had thought I was prepared. I knew I could have done more things before-hand, but I wasn't sure exactly what or how, and no one really offered advice on what they did to make a smooth transition between pregnancy and newbornness. And I was too confident to ask.
So a year after my first baby was born, we found ourselves blessed to be expecting a second baby! Right away, I determined that I was going to prepare. I was going to plan. I was going to do everything I could before the baby was born.
I imagined things like having to hold a fussy baby for the whole entire day, and needing to make dinner and having two 5-minute blocks of time in which to make it. I imagined not being able to do anything besides take care of my two children (diapers and feedings). I imagined the absolute worst-case scenario, and decided to prepare for that!
I figured it couldn't hurt... after all, if I did get a typical baby (who decided to sleep for 16-20 hours per day) I would just have plenty of time to relax and have fun with my toddler!
So I worked and planned and our second baby arrived, and I must say I didn't regret an ounce of the preparation I had done. I think that because I prepared for the most challenging outcome possible (while still keeping an optimistic outlook on life and motherhood!), the transition between having one child and two went really well.
I'd like to share what worked for me! It may not work for every family, but if you're looking for ideas about what to do before your baby arrives, these are my suggestions for you to consider!
First, one important thing to remember is to be content. If we aren't content with whatever is going on in our lives right now, we won't be content tomorrow, either.
I think one of the things that helped me was the fact that I did my best to enjoy every moment of pregnancy (yep, all 10 months of it ) until my baby was born. Then, I tried to enjoy every moment of having a new baby. It's easy to look ahead and think "if only". If only my baby were here... if only my baby would sleep through the night... if only my baby were potty trained... Don't long for the future, and don't wish for the past. Enjoy your life just how it is, right now!
I also had the mindset that I was going to prepare for the worst that could happen. I realised that babies are wonderful, fun, and exciting... and can be most enjoyed when one is adequately prepared. :D Even if my new baby slept 20 hours each day, I was still going to be prepared for a full-time job (with overtime: a 2-year-old!).
On a practical note, here is what I did in preparation for the new baby!
1. I tried to train Yehoshua (who was 20 months old when I had Eliyahu) to be as independent as possible. I taught Yehoshua to get things for himself and to help me with things. We had already been working on helpfulness and obedience with him, but I tried extra hard to get him to do things that I might otherwise have continued helping him with. I knew he would be too heavy for me to lift right after I had a new baby, so I encouraged him to climb into his high chair by himself, or things like that.
I also didn't want Yehoshua to feel as though the new baby was the reason that he had to do more things for himself. So, we started early and made things fun, mostly with praise or verbal encouragement. :)
2. I made menu plans and used my freezer to prepare food ahead. We have a small freezer, so I had to be careful in my planning. I planned a 2-week menu of easy, homemade meals. Then I did everything I could do in advance for those meals. (We couldn't afford to eat out, and indeed, we didn't eat restaurant food at all after having Eliyahu.) I repeated the 2-week menu as needed for the first 6 weeks. I'll go into more detail on this one below.
3. I cleaned the house thoroughly. I sorted through everything and got rid of a lot of stuff. I also did things that I very rarely do, such a cleaning the ceiling fans or moving furniture to clean behind it. I started the housecleaning about 2 months before the baby was born, and did a room or part of a room each day until it was finished. I also re-arranged the children's bedroom (to fit in a second crib). :)
4. I made some homemade thank-you cards to have ready to send out to those who gave gifts or helped out. I made lots of these, for which I was thankful, since a couple months later when Yehoshua broke his leg, I wouldn't have had time to make any. (I also had food prepared ahead in the freezer still, which was a real blessing when taking care of a 3-month old baby and a 23-month old toddler in a spica cast!) :)
5. I got some paper plates, cups, and silverware to use after the birth. I had done this the first time around, too, and thought it had really helped. However, we dislike most disposable dinnerware, and I couldn't afford to buy expensive disposable stuff.
I found that since I had prepared meals in the freezer, there were very few dishes from making the meal and that the two plates, two bowls, and two forks we dirtied while eating dinner really wasn't much work to wash. So, most of our disposable dishes didn't get used after all. I'm glad I had them on hand in case it was a help, but for a small family like ours, we just preferred real dishes. :D
6. Since we live in a two-story house, and I planned to stay off the stairs for a while*, I brought some of my clothes downstairs in a little suitcase. I had everything in there for after the birth, too, and it was nice to have it all in one location.
Our washer and dryer are located in the basement, and I used post-its to mark where to start the washer or dryer and what temperatures to use for things. (I normally do all the laundry by myself.) That made it easier for whoever was loading the washer for me, and I didn't have to give instructions over and over. :)
*Every woman is different in regards to this, although it is generally recommended to stay away from stairs for 1-2 weeks regardless. After both of my babies, I had lochia for 8+ weeks that was greatly increased by even one trip up the stairs or any heavy lifting. I felt perfectly capable of climbing the stairs or lifting things, but saw the effects of it the next day. So, I refrained from using the stairs for a full 6 weeks after delivery.
7. I used my hand-held DustBuster for little messes instead of the upright vacuum. It takes a lot of strength to push the vacuum around, not to mention the time it takes to get it out! So for little messes, I really appreciated my DustBuster, which I was capable of using, rather than needing to ask someone else to vacuum. I did have someone else help me by vacuuming the entire house once a week, but the DustBuster worked for small messes in-between vacuumings. :D
8. I paid some of our bills in advance. We write checks for our monthly bills, and as finances allowed, I wrote a check for 2 months' of those bills so that some of the bills that were arriving around the time of the birth had already been paid and just had to be filed away. If you do online automatic bill payment methods, you wouldn't have to worry about this, though! :)
9. I took people up on any offers of assistance, but was also non-committal before the birth. We didn't want a lot of visitors right away. We made it clear to people that we would let them know when it was a good time to visit! When someone offered to help, I told them, "Sure!"... and then said that I would get back with them about a good time. :)
I was blessed with a lot of assistance after Eliyahu's birth. My mom came over once a week and cleaned the house. My mom sent over extra food, especially the first week. My mom also watched Yehoshua for a few hours each day during the first week. Other people came and helped with cleaning or played with Yehoshua. I felt so blessed to have so much assistance, because I know many moms are very alone and completely overwhelmed after having a new baby!
10. I planned to get "nothing" done for at least a month. :) I planned a day full of diaper changes (I had two in diapers then!), feedings, and basic things like taking a shower or going to the bathroom. I planned on about 10 minutes of meal preparation and 15 minutes of clean-up afterwards. I planned no internet time (and indeed, enjoyed a 7-week internet break!).
As my baby got a little older (I think around 3 or 4 weeks of age) I would plan one "project" per day. That could be anything from giving baths, cooking something (that hadn't been frozen ahead or pre-mixed), writing thank yous, paying bills, or washing my hair. I took "baby steps" and felt very accomplished when I had gotten even just one "extra" thing done!
I basically set myself up to feel like I was making progress and accomplishing things, rather than remembering all the things I did before I had a newborn to care for. :) I set my "goals" low so that I wouldn't feel as though I was falling behind and becoming overwhelmed. :D
How I prepared Yehoshua (20 months old) for his new sibling
We always talked with excitement to Yehoshua about his new sibling. He loved to pat my tummy and say "baby!", which was one of the few words he sopke at that age. :) He wasn't really aware of what was going on, but he knew it must be something fun and exciting! :)
When Eliyahu was born, I would have Yehoshua help with diaper changes by taking the used disposable diaper to the trashcan and throwing it away. He was very good at this and liked to help.
Yehoshua also took Eliyahu's dirty clothes, bibs, etc. to the laundry hamper for me. Any ways that I could have Yehoshua "help" kept him out of trouble and made him feel really important. :D
Whenever I sat on the couch to nurse Eliyahu, I would ask Yehoshua to bring a book. He would sit beside me and we would read together. He loved this, and again, it kept him out of trouble while I was busy. Reading stories while nursing was a challenge at first, because Eliyahu was not a "natural" at nursing. He got lots of air and it was often a two-hand job to nurse him. Yehoshua wasn't old enough to know how to turn pages in the books for me. But we made do and then after a few weeks Eliyahu was better at nursing and we had lots of fun reading stories together. :D
We also let Yehoshua use "Eliyahu's blanket". This started out as an accidental discovery, when one afternoon Yehoshua didn't want to take his nap. We took a receiving blanket that Eliyahu had used and said, "Do you want to use Eliyahu's blanket??!!" Yehoshua got very excited about that, and from then on he always used "Eliyahu's blanket". I think it made him feel special because he was getting to use something that belonged to his little brother. :)
So, what actually happened?
Well, my second baby was a pretty average baby. He slept about 14-16 hours each day when he was a newborn. I actually got a little sleep myself that first week!
Things weren't perfect; there's always that little unforeseen twist like incurable diaper rash or the umbilical cord that refuses to fall off. (Oh, yay! ;D) I sure still had some moments when I felt like caring for two children was a pretty overwhelming task. But I also had lots of moments of rest and peacefulness.
And it wasn't long at all before I was thinking "I wonder when we'll get to have another baby!" ;)
Things I wish I would have done
1. Boosted my milk supply during pregnancy. Yehoshua weaned himself at 16 months, and I would have liked to nurse him longer.
2. Exercised more. I felt so tired during pregnancy, I wondered how in the world I could manage caring for a new baby. As soon as I had Eliyahu, though, my energy returned and I felt so much better! I still wish I would have managed to beat the tiredness and get off the couch to exercise a little more though.
3. Gone to bed early. ;) Let's just say that I kind of regretted staying up until 11:30 pm before having a baby at 5:30 am the next day. After 2 hours of sleep, I asked myself, "Why in the world did I ever wish that I would wake up in labor?!" :)
Meal planning and cooking: What I did before the baby was born
Since I already had my "two-week easy meals menu" made out in advance, I prepared the things listed below and was able to have a home-cooked dinner on the table with very little preparation time (usually just by boiling some pasta, shredding some cheese, or cooking up some frozen veggies as a side dish)!
1. I made homemade mixes for things like whole-grain muffins, corn bread, etc.
To make these mixes, I measured the dry ingredients into zipper sandwich bags and labeled them. On an index card, I wrote down the recipe name, the wet ingredients needed, and the baking time and temperature.
For my homemade corn bread, this meant that I just needed to add some oil, egg, and milk to my dry mix. Then I had fresh, homemade corn bread which had taken me about 5 minutes to mix up.
This was really worth the time involved before-hand, since it meant that I didn't have to get out 5-10 ingredients plus measure everything for homemade baked goods. I liked this method so well, I still do it, for every-day use!
2. I made plenty of homemade granola to have on hand: nurtitious, filling, and full of fiber (I needed all I could get!).
3. I cooked beef and chicken and froze it in small portions.
For my bite-sized cooked chicken chunks, I simply made one of Joshua's favorite meals (oven-roasted chicken) weekly. I took the leftover meat off the bones, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and froze it. Then I could thaw the meat to use in casseroles or soups.
4. I made extras of things and froze them in meal-sized portions.