Survival mode. New moms and dad know this stage of life all too well. It is that period right after you bring a baby home and you are celebrating the fact that you took a shower, ate a decent meal and slept more than an hour or two consecutively. Isn’t it funny how pre-baby you took all those simple things for granted?
We just welcomed baby number four to our family in early September, and we have been in survival mode for the last two months. Some days are better than others. Some nights are better than others. You never know what to expect and when. And WAIT – even with all that uncertainty of when the new baby will have a blow out or how long they will take to eat or WHEN they will need to eat or when they will sleep or randomly bust out crying for hours on end or when they just spit up ALL over the new shirt you put on… you mean we have to keep ourselves and other kids alive? Why yes, yes you do. Welcome to the stage of a new baby called survival mode.
This is when you meticulously evaluate what is necessary for survival and do only that. One minute, one hour, one day, one week, one month at a time…until *POOF*. You take a minute to sit down on your couch and realize that you’re officially out of survival mode and it’s like you don’t even remember it. Ok, that’s not true, because we all remember it, maybe just not every gory detail.
With each child, this survival mode period has looked completely different for me. With one kid, it took everything in me to get dressed at least once a week. With another kid, it was finding the time to shower and wash my hair (because who has time to shower AND wash their hair). Another kid, I had all sorts of trouble finding time to cook/make us food to eat. But here are the things that you DO need to find time to do during survival mode no matter what:
- Give yourself the grace you deserve. Do NOT feel bad about sitting down and doing nothing. After I had my first two babies, I thought “I’m a mom, I have to do all the things,” and it was too much. The second two kids, I gave myself days (even weeks!) to just sit with my baby in my arms. And sometimes it hurts so bad to get up that this is much needed. And your baby is not on a schedule right away? No worries ladies, I promise before you know it, you’ll eventually emerge from the survival stage…but at the time..remember that your goal is to literally SURVIVE (definition: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship)
- STATIONS. This seems so simple, but was much more needed with baby number two (and on) after we moved into a two story house. What kind of stations? You need a place (or two) with the necessary baby supplies on each floor or at different areas of where you live so you’re not running all over when there is a blow out or projectile spit up. And for you too! C-section or vaginal delivery; get plenty of supplies for the bathroom. Keep pads and such in all the bathrooms so you’re not running all over when you have to pee — or for the dreaded first poop (!!).
- Accept help. Most people are lucky enough to have family and/or friends that are willing to bring over meals, come hold your baby, pick up your house, etc. Don’t say no. For some reason I felt so bad about this at first. But NO! When I take people dinner, I realize how much it blesses ME, so I had to change my mindset and just accept the love during this time! You can always reciprocate it at another time. And “help” can also be just a little time with someone to chat. I usually miss adult conversation and realize how much that means to me to just sit with a friend and chat during this time especially. It also means talking to your doctor or other professionals as needed. Postpartum depression/anxiety is a real thing and very scary and going through that alone can be even scarier.
- Sleep. If this means you get in your bed at 8 p.m…so what? If you’re more of a nap person, then get your nap on. You’re not going to have a lot of chances to sleep (especially when you add on other kids into the mix), but I go to sleep RIGHT when my baby goes to bed and it’s helped so much. Even if the house is a complete mess (which it is) and there is laundry everywhere (which there is)…just brush your teeth and get in bed. You’ll thank me. I also had to accept that during this time, doing things like grabbing drinks with friends after kids are in bed just wasn’t going to happen because that sleep is precious and it takes SO much longer to catch up on it. And then I’m super grumpy and less patient.
- Perspective. Now here was the game changer for me. And this didn’t come until post-baby number three. So you first time moms, this is really me speaking to you. While the days seem so long and the nights can be something we all dread. I promise you that with the mental and physical mom strength that you never knew you had, you will make it through this time. Even if you emerge still a little sleep deprived, not knowing what happened to your stomach (so much squish!) with sore nipples, keep this perspective in mind that I’m about to tell you. You spent approximately 40 weeks growing and carrying your baby(ies). If you’re “survival mode” lasts 6 weeks, that is only 15% of the time you spent being pregnant. Only 15%! Here’s another one: your baby will live in your house for approximately 18 years, which is 936 weeks. If you use that same six week time frame, that’s only 0.6% of the time your child is at home with you. You can do that, right? YES YOU CAN. Other percentages that are helpful: toddler stage is about 24 months (from 12-36 months by definition)…so your baby that is so helpless right will be a toddler for 16 times longer (speaking in weeks) than that 6 weeks of survival mode. And while the not sleeping is scary and terrible, I hate to break it to you, but toddlers are kind of frightening in their own special way!
Other tips include lots of coffee and changes of clothes…for all kinds of “accidents.”
So when do you “know” you’ve exited survival mode? As with so many things, I feel like it’s not an abrupt moment but when you start to feel a little more like YOU. And while you might be a little less showered, still have sore nipples, have baby puke stains all over your clothes…for me, when that sweet baby looks at you and SMILES at YOU…I finally feel like the end of my “survival mode” has arrived. When the baby starts giving a little back to me, I do a little dance and then if I can, go back to sleep 😉
P.S. With my now eight week old, the smiles are in full force and it’s heaven. While the last eight weeks were the hardest that I’ve had with any other baby, seeing my little man smile at me makes it all #worthit – so carry on, mama. You can, and will, make it through!