Everything is fuzzy. Like the world is a little blurry and all my memories are a bit hazy and I’m not experiencing anything the way I usually would. The days have melded into one, I have no idea what time/day/week/month it is and the only thing keeping me in some sort of normal routine is a list of alarms on my phone. My brain is mush, everything is on autopilot for survival and there’s no room for anything else. I’ve always been an “8 hours of sleep, 2 litres of water, fuel your body optimally” kinda gal but I have discovered that it’s completely unnecessary – I can live off the odd hour of sleep here and there, drink exclusively caffeine and eat exclusively takeaway and function (though I use the term function very loosely).
What is this dystopian existence I describe? New parenthood. Specifically new parenthood to twins.
And they are AMAZING. I can’t believe they’re mine. But damn – it’s hard. That’s all I’ll say on that because all you ever hear from new parents is that you’ll experience a tiredness you’ve never known and that the first few months are really tough but you brush it off because that information is, well, useless. (No offence to everyone who said it to me but come on, it’s not anyone actually thinks it’s going to be easy. We should all shout “that is brand new information!” a la Phoebe Buffay any time someone tells an expectant parent that they’re going to be tired with a newborn baby.)
So, rather than describe the difficulties in an effort to “prepare” any new or expectant parents (news flash – literally nothing can prepare you), I am going to try and be useful and impart the wisdom from my aforementioned mush brain to try and help you feel positive during the tricky newborn phase. Brace yourself for some mindset tricks and tips because I’ll be honest, in terms of logistics or practicalities, I got nothing.
1. Practice gratitude daily. This is a huge one for me and works as an active, rather than reactive strategy to feel better. It’s going to be tough, we already know that. But this is something you’ve been waiting for, dreamt about, and if you’re anything like me you felt anxious during pregnancy about the possibility of not getting to this point. Now you have your baby (or babies!) in your arms! You made it! Remember that fact every day.
2. Tell your baby (or babies!) how grateful you are for them. Get into the habit of talking to them and telling them how much you love them. Do this ESPECIALLY during those trying twilight hours when you feel like you’re the only human being awake on the planet and the baby’s cries could shatter glass. Because we are only human and those moments can feel like they’re going to break you so working in a little positivity can be the difference between getting through it and totally losing your shit.
3. Put yourself in their shoes/booties. A matter of days or weeks ago, they were happily swimming around with total freedom of movement, never feeling hungry because all their nutrients were directly pumped into their bodies from you, never feeling cold because they were all cosy in the womb, feeling totally safe and secure with no loud noises making it through.
Now they can’t even roll over, let alone do somersaults. They’re hungry and are rarely satiated instantly because at the very least, you have to wake up to help them and for the most part you probably have to prepare them a feed. They can’t regulate their temperature so they’re most likely too hot or too cold because what new parent is going to get that bang on from the get go? They have to contend with the moro reflex waking them up every few hours (or minutes) making them feel totally unsafe and there are loud noises everywhere. Being a newborn must be a confusing and frightening NIGHTMARE.
They are not crying to try and test you. I know that sounds like a given but sleep deprivation can do a number on your logic. Remember how hard this is for them and do what you can to make their experience a little easier.
4. A mantra for you – “this is temporary”. Or maybe “this too shall pass”, or “this is just a phase”. Whatever wording works best for you, it’s good to remind yourself that this won’t last forever, however hard and never ending the nights might feel.
5. Accept you are not going to get a lot of sleep and make your peace with that every single night. Seriously, my outlook completely changed when I went to bed expecting to be awake a lot. In the beginning, I was so hopeful, so blissfully naïve and optimistic and every single time they woke up crying it was a crushing blow. Accepting it was going to happen was actually pretty liberating – I was prepared, therefore I could cope with it.
Side note on this one, I actually started tracking everything on my phone which turned into a weird coping mechanism. So I would note down when they woke up, note down how much they drank or if they were breastfed, note down nappy changes and when they settled. I basically kept a log of the night and weirdly it seemed to go faster. Plus I then had data to help me know what to expect the next night – live and learn!
During pregnancy, I tried to enjoy (or at least embrace!) every single aspect, and I think doing the same during the new-born months is helping for your mentality (and sanity). Try to avoid wishing the time away. Yes, it will be lovely to get more sleep and feel more functioning human and less Walking Dead. But right now you have a tiny human (or humans!) who is completely dependent on you and you GET to spend every night with them. You get to know them better than anyone else because you see them more than anyone else. You spend quality time with them, and lots of it, and build unbreakable bonds with them during those night feeds. So, as difficult as it feels in the moment, embrace EVERY moment. You’ve got this.