Monday, June 21, 2010

Adding Baby To The Family: A Balanced Approach

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On Becoming Baby Wise talks about the importance of the marriage relationship as well as the family dynamic. Chapter One is titled "Your Baby Needs A Family." Adding baby to a family means you aren't completely child-centered. Before McKenna was born, I wrote a post with thoughts on Welcoming Baby To The Family. That post points out the fact that baby joining the family still means the family needs to make sacrifices. In this post, I want to give ideas on how to avoid the other extreme of everyone making sacrifices but the baby. How do you successfully add baby to the family without swaying too far in one direction or the other?
  1. Life Doesn't Stop When You Have A Baby: Babywise points out that you are still a daughter, sistser, friend, and/or wife. Those relationships were important before you had a baby and need to be maintained. But do note that Babywise says life slows down for a few weeks after a baby is born. My personal view is this: take the time you need. I remember after Brayden was born. It seemed like everyone wanted a piece of us. It was understandable; they wanted to see the new baby. They wanted to know how things were going.
    But when I think about the things we did after he was born and the places we went, I can't believe it! I went to a wedding shower when he was one week old! And it isn't like it was close. We were driving all over the place. It was just crazy. It is no wonder it took me several months to fully heal.
    After my girls were born, I took time to heal. Yes, the birth was far less traumatic overall since they weren't my first babies, but we also let family know before the baby was born that we wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. Were people always happy about that? Definitely not. But they did understand.
    So my key here is balance. You don't have to do everything you did before. You can take time to heal. You can take time to get to know your new baby. You can take time to get used to having a child. No, life doesn't stop, but it doesn't march forward as though you never had a baby, either.
  2. Date Your Spouse: Have a weekly date night. If possible, have someone watch the baby while you two go out. If you are breastfeeding, this is hard. Run out for ice cream or something you can do between nursing sessions. I also like to point out that a date doesn't have to happen away from home. I think it is good to do every so often, but sometimes it can be hard to find someone to watch your baby. If that is the case, make the effort to have a date night each week even if that date often happens at home. You can be creative about it. Even just calling it a date makes it feel more official. I really think a weekly date night is very important.
    A bit of my own advice, try to not make the entire conversation about the baby. I know it hard. But try to talk about things other than baby. I don't think it is realistic to not talk about baby at all, nor is it fair unless your spouse says absolutely nothing about work at all. I know some people like to have a "no talking about children" rule while on dates, but my view is that is unrealistic. The children exist. And my husband likes to hear things of interest that happen that day.
  3. Continue Loving Gestures: Continue showing love to your spouse as well as your baby. I think this one can be hard, and is probably the hardest thing to implement after the baby is born. Let's be honest; it is hard to take care of a baby. It basically zaps you of everything you have. I remember one day when Brayden was a newborn when 7 PM rolled around and I realized I hadn't had a chance to brush my teeth that day! And I am supposed to offer loving gestures, too? If I can't brush my teeth, I am not going to have chances to write love notes.
    Do what you can. Share your feelings and abilities with your spouse. If you are like my situation, you could tell your spouse you know is strange and different. You want to be able to show love the way you did before baby, but right now it is all you can do to brush your teeth each day. Be upfront and honest. When things ease up, do make the effort to show your spouse you love him in the ways that are most meaningful to him.
  4. Invite Friends Over: It is so good for your soul to have friends over. You feel almost adult again :). Everyone in the family makes sacrifices of time or doing things they want to do as they prepare for friends to come play.
  5. Couch Time: As  you and your spouse talk about the day in front of the children, it helps everyone remember no one person is the center of the family universe; the entire family is important. Each member has needs. And Mommy and Daddy have a special relationship. Mommy and Daddy love each other and Mommy and Daddy are a team. Mommy and Daddy communicate.
Figure out what is right for your family. My personal expectations and acknowledgement of myself post-partum is that the first few weeks are just about getting used to life. I try to cut myself some slack as we get in some sort of groove. I then also know that the first 6 weeks are going to be emotional for me. But after that point, I can start to function more like my normal self. The key here is open communication with your spouse.

So don't stress out by this list. Take it on as you are able to. Let everyone adjust to life with a new baby and life with a new body. It will come, and as it does, you can create a family dynamic and avoid becoming child-centered.

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