I could have just as easily called this post:
I thought while #8 is just two weeks old – still young enough for it all to be very fresh in my mind, I would give you some of my survival secrets… yes it is survival, no they are not secrets!!! Most baby books tackle survival from a first time mom’s perspective… but since most folk have “two point something” children then there should be quite a market for folk to know what to do with their other kids when a newborn arrives… I wrote about the jump from one kidlet to two previously Se7en Things People Ask Me About Siblings… And quite honestly it is two or more…
I think the most important thing you can do for any newborn is to have hours and hours to sit around and admire it, hold it and love it… You have months to think about how you are going to achieve this – unless you are one of those urban legends that only discovers that they are pregnant at 38 weeks and I have yet to meet one of those!!!
Most books and articles will say “Just lower your standards” trust me when a visitor arrives and you have eight kids and you haven’t cleaned the bathroom in two weeks they won’t be telling you to lower your standards… No I don’t lower my standards but I do lower my expectations – I expect to do less and my “To Do List” after nine months of nesting is pretty much reduced to nothing but the most basic chores.
- Keeping On Track: If you take nothing else from this post then take this!!! When you have a new baby your brain is all over the place and you can be too. You get up and go to the fridge for a drink and put two dishes in the dishwasher but then remember you should return a phone call, as you dial you think you will collect the post on the way to the post box you collect in half of yesterday’s laundry. Which reminds you to put todays laundry on and so you go and gather it in the bathroom but put the caps back on the toothpaste instead and then your newborn wakes up and in the 30 minutes you had to do chores you have achieved absolutely NOTHING and you have been very busy doing NOTHING and you are now totally exhausted.
Here it is: Finish one thing before you start the next. It is better to just have the load of dishes in the dishwasher than some dishes in the dishwasher, a table half wiped and the laundry half in the washer… it is just as much work to half do every task as to do half the tasks properly. I reduce my tasks and do them till they done… if the table isn’t clear then I don’t pack the dishwasher and so on… retrain that wandering brain!!!
- Keeping Rested:
This is the most important of all, without rest you are a prisoner of war – the lack of sleep war. You are most unlikely to have a baby who sleeps through the night. Be grateful! If you have lots of big siblings “helping” in the day time then the night time is perfect for spending some alone time with your little one. Usually we are uninterrupted at two in the morning, it is peaceful and lovely and I am grateful for that time together. I certainly wasn’t pregnant for all those months so that he would sleep all the time – I like spending time with him!!!
So when do I rest… well when our baby sleeps I always (!) without fail have a little nap!!! Right now he sleeps and eats and wants to be held and sleeps and eats etc… every other sleep he has I sleep too. That’s it I just can’t go any longer and survive. I know it and I do it!!!
Otherwise, I have to watch other folk’s sleep as well!!! In the last month of pregnancy bed times slide as I am just too tired to get all these little ones to bed… but I am back, as are bedtimes, and they know it!!! I no longer have the fatigue of pregnancy to deal with. I have found that while the fatigue of pregnancy kills me I can cope with the fatigue of lack of sleep a whole lot better.
- Keeping Fed: Now rest might be my priority but food is everybody else in the families priority!!! When our newborn wakes up at the crack of dawn I put breakfast ready. When he has his morning nap I get lunch ready… as soon as he sleeps after lunch I get as much of supper ready as I can… This is why: When your baby is inside of you, you gently rock it… and then sit during meals and collapse into bed, so whenever you are busy your baby is lulled to sleep and whenever you normally sleep it is ready to play… There is nothing worse than bounding children needing a meal and your newborn wide awake looking for food at the same time – you know they can take hours to nurse… I try and prepare as much as I can in advance and shift our meal times slightly earlier. Earlier mealtimes means that no-one is starving and therefore impossible and if a disaster happens then we can resolve it and still be on track.
We have been really blessed with meals this time round and it has been wonderful!!! Never before in all our babies have we been overwhelmed like this!!! It has been fabulous. Usually folk look at me and they say: “You wouldn’t like a meal would you?” and you know they are thinking: “How on earth do I feed ten people!!!” Really most of our people are tiny still and only eat like quarter people!!! So we aren’t catering for ten, five at the most but certainly not yet ten of us!!! Needless to say that we are so very grateful for thoughtful friends but I feel terrible that they think they should provide a meal, even a packet of biscuits goes a long way when a meal does run late. And a packet of rolls or a batch of muffins is really just as heavenly as an entire meal!!!
- Keeping Clean: I can shower in about 3 minutes flat – that’s all it takes… 3 minutes and the first three minute gap I find in a day I take for a shower, while I am there I do my teeth and charge the kids toothbrushes for after breakfast. Yes I have to say this because you would be surprised how many people ask: “When do you find time to clean your teeth?” Now when I had one child a baby bath took at least an hour… what on earth was I doing!!! Now while the se7en have breakfast #8 has a bath… really just a nappy change with a dunk in the sink and fresh clothes – 10 minutes tops. The trick is being prepared when I change a nappy or change his clothes I am not finished until I have everything absolutely ready for the next time around… A fresh little nappy and a fresh set of clothes are good and ready for him so there is no scramble before I change him… we are just ready.
As for housecleaning, well break it down into really small bits… smaller than that! It takes about two minutes to sweep our kitchen but maybe 30 minutes to sweep the whole house… I keep the kitchen swept. It takes about four minutes tops to wipe the bathroom. Once a day when I am in there helping a little person I will quickly wipe/mop everything down and honestly that’s all it takes – as long as things are neat folk will assume it’s clean… well I am hoping anyway!
- Keeping Tidy: We usually have a couple of visitors around the time of a newborn and for them I want our house to be welcoming. I don’t want to say come and look at our little blessing and all the chaos we live in. Normally we don’t live in chaos but with a newborn I need things to run smoother than normal. The trouble is you will spend hours sitting and nursing and your kids will spend those same hours unpacking their treasures!!! But I have nine months to organize/orchestrate things. I make sure that during all that nesting time everything has a place… and if it doesn’t then out it goes – it is a time to be ruthless.
Now I can say tidy up we have ten minutes and boom most of the house is back where it belongs. I never said our house was immaculately clean – but it appears to be tidy!!! Cleared surfaces, books on shelves and toys away. Other chores get done, like laundry and so on, because they are part of our rhythm… At the end of the day when I check all the laundry is folded and returned to its owner then I put the goodies out that they need for bedtime… little people need their jammies out and I charge toothbrushes again for bed-time… because I know as soon as I sit down for bedtime (rest!!!) #8 will awaken ready for action and all those two second bed time tasks will suddenly be totally unachievable!!!
- Keeping Friendly: It is a big temptation to just say no to guests, when a friend asks if they can pop over and visit… I often just want to say no-thank-you, but actually that’s mean!!! They want to meet your new baby, most guests come and go. Also visitors are fun for the whole family and are part of the celebration, let them come and just adapt your rhythm. The ones that linger longer or are extremely high maintenance are part of life as well… we all have had those, accept them as part of your trial in life – endure it and move on… really it is sometimes better to get somethings over with and then you won’t spend your days dreading them.
Meanwhile, thank-you’s need to be said… I avoid the phone like the plague, luckily ours hasn’t been working for months!!! Phone-calls disrupt and take forever and when you should have been doing a quick task you have done a phone call and nothing! Thank-you letters are your friend, they take as long as you like and I keep them really short! Trust me on this: folk want a photo and to hear that you appreciated their gift… a sentence or two and it really takes a minute… I keep thank-you cards at my computer and every time I sit down I fill one in – don’t let them build up because you will just get overwhelmed… also the longer you leave it the higher the recipients expectations of a thank-you become… trust me get them out. Remember nobody wants an epistle on your childhood or your birth story… just trust me here!!! If you want to write that then start a blog about it!!!
- Keeping it Fun: The last thing I want my kids to remember about newborns is all their mother did was sleep and ignore them. I have to keep it fun…and that is easy with a bit of preplanning. No elaborate outings, crafts, games and such like… but simple pleasures that we don’t normally do: bubbles and face-paints, heaps of stories on the couch, initially stories while nursing is hard because newborns need a two handed mother and undivided attention to nurse – trust me on this… but I allocate someone the job of page turner and we are off!!! My kids also obsess over a particular toy (dare I say LEGO) so anything else is pretty much packed away and out of sight… It is really fun for them if I bring out the cars or animals and have a theme day – no extra work for me, but a change is as good as a holiday I believe!!!
Here is a secret: I know I am not up to much for the first twelve weeks, my newborn needs me and shall have me. So I very carefully plan to do nothing much for the first twelve weeks and I know some of you are saying twelve weeks – gasp that’s a long time, yup it takes me twelve weeks to get my rhythm back. I know I have done it before!!! I never say as much out loud, but anything over the bare minimum in that time – like blogging for instance – is actually overachieving, way beyond my personal expectations!
That’s us – surviving our little newborn in the most delightful way. Only at two weeks he is uncrumpling, his legs are uncrumpling, his face is uncrumpling and listen to me here: newborn is so quick and fleeting, just enjoy it…
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.