The nursery is decorated, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, the hospital bag is packed – and you're eager to begin your new life with your newest family member!
While nothing can quite prepare you for those first weeks of parenthood, there are many practical ways to help ease the transition. After all, taking care of your baby will be a round-the-clock job, and the only way to learn is through observation, education and experience.
Between the feedings and diaper changes, the sleepless nights and unexplained crying spells (Yours or your baby's!), fatigue and stress can quickly take a toll. So before you're officially a parent, take some time to "baby proof" your life.
- Organize your home before the baby arrives. Face the fact now: You won't take on the role of mother or father; first, you're a maid or butler. Prepare for the constant Feed me! Change me! Put me to bed! demands newborns make. Create a list—from clothes to toys to bottles and bibs—of what you'll need; then sort, wash and store ahead of time. Plus, use any opportunity to stock up on your favorite foods, healthy snacks and pre-made meals. After all, it's much easier to tote a fussy infant to the kitchen than to the grocery store.
Take time for yourself and your spouse. The demands of parenthood make it all too easy to focus exclusively on the baby while putting your needs as a couple aside. So you'll feel like you're swimming rather than sinking, make a concerted effort to support one another like a team.
One spouse, for example, could give the other spouse fifteen minutes a day of alone time to decompress, to get some fresh air and to spend a few quiet moments for resting mind and body. As a couple, pray together and talk about the day—after the little one is sleeping soundly. And, as difficult as it is, make it a priority to find a babysitter you can trust. Go on a date as often as you can—even if it is for a cup of coffee. A little time away from the crying and spitting up can help put a harried life back into perspective.
Modify your expectations. After bringing the new bundle of joy home from the hospital, many parents anticipate a peaceful, intimate transition. Yet caring for an infant can be exhausting, emotionally demanding and boring – not to mention incredibly stressful. Lighten up when it comes to housework, phone calls, thank-you notes and errands; your regular routine can wait.
The birth of a baby is, without a doubt, miraculous. Still, this major life change can rattle relationships, emotions and finances. How will you safeguard your marriage against the inevitable distractions, frustrations and busyness? How can you minimize the financial hit while meeting your child's needs? How do you listen to copious amounts of advice without becoming overwhelmed?
Take heart: We're here to offer wisdom and encouragement that'll help you survive and thrive during those early days of parenthood.