Five years ago, I brought home my brand-new baby boy and wondered what motherhood would look like. My husband and I knew nothing about babies, and truth be told, we were scared shitless. We had never changed a diaper, given a baby a bottle, or held a newborn. We couldn’t even keep a succulent alive, and they hardly require any attention.
Much to our surprise, being a parent wasn’t that hard. Our son breastfed and bottle-fed like a champ (and never spit up), slept through the night at 6 weeks, hardly ever cried, didn’t care if he was held or put in a swing, and basically took care of himself (I kid, I kid). But really, being a parent wasn’t that difficult. What was all the fuss about?
This time around, with our second child, parenthood looks drastically different. We have what I like to call a “velcro baby.” If you aren’t familiar with a “velcro baby,” it’s a baby that you can never fucking remove from yourself or else they will scream bloody murder all day long. Everything is very dramatic with a velcro baby because the only time they are happy is when they are nuzzled in your arms.
I know, it sounds magical, and 90% of the time it is, but sometimes mama needs to use the restroom or shave a leg. A velcro baby wants to be on you all the time. They want to be on you when they eat. They want to be on you when they sleep. They want to play on you. They want to poop on you (in a diaper, most of the time). Basically, they want to set up shop and never leave until they are 18. If you are blessed with this beautiful gift, I have some tips on survival.
1. Wear them all day, every day.
If you do not have a Baby Bjorn, a Moby, or any other device that you can use to wear your baby, get in the car and head to Target now. That thing is a lifesaver, and it’s the only way that you will ever get anything done around the house. You can strap them on you while you are cooking dinner, folding laundry, or putting on makeup (I know that’s laughable because no one has time for makeup with a newborn). You are also building arm muscles and strengthening your core at the same time. Who needs to go to the gym when you can just use your baby as a weight? Score.
2. Get a little help.
It is not realistic that you put your entire life on hold so that you can hold your baby 24/7. Some of us have other things to do, like a job or other children to tend to. Find some help, fast. It doesn’t matter if it’s your mother-in-law, a babysitter, or a random person at the grocery store who offers to watch your baby, the answer is always “YES.”
We have no family nearby, so I made the difficult decision to send my baby to Mother’s Day Out two days a week, and it’s been the best choice for my family and for my sanity. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but for me, it gives me time to have a part-time job and a chance to breathe. Breathing is so important. It also allows my baby to have some early socialization and takes away the pain I feel when I see her crying 24/7. I’ve been told that she doesn’t cry when I’m not around. Apparently, she’s already an actress at 3 months old.
Which bring me to my next point…..
3. Let your baby cry it out sometimes.
I know it can be beyond painful to watch your little one cry, but you have to get over that. Babies cry, and if you have a velcro baby, they cry a hell of a lot. I suggest you learn to tune out the crying, or invest in some earplugs or a sound machine. Your baby will survive, I promise. In fact, I think studies have shown that it’s actually good for them (okay, maybe I’m making this up to make myself feel better but whatever). Also, keep in mind that our parents let us cry all the time, and we survived. I’m pretty sure they would leave us crying in our crib while they walked next door to have coffee with the neighbor for a half hour. Gah, why wasn’t I a parent then? I would’ve won mom of the year through the ’70s.
4. Have a specific plan in place for getting them off of you and into the crib.
This is important because you need your sleep, and they cannot sleep on top of you until they go to college. Transferring our baby to the crib each night seriously takes acrobatic abilities. I make sure to change her diaper, turn off all the lights, and dress her in her sleep clothes before her last feeding. Once I’m done feeding her, I text my husband to come into the nursery to assist me in peeling her off of me and transitioning her to the crib. After we make the transfer, we both army crawl out of the room in hopes that she doesn’t notice. Okay, it’s not that dramatic, but it takes some mad ninja skills. Just make sure you have a plan.
5. Get out of the house together to do an activity.
This is for the baby’s socialization and your sanity. Join the little gym or a music class where you hold your baby, in public, while doing an activity. This will get you out of the house and around other adults, and it will give your baby a chance to interact with other babies.
I’ve also become the queen of attending social gatherings lately (which is so out of character for me), like birthdays and meeting friends out for dinner, because someone always wants to hold the baby. It’s a win-win, really. Your friends get their baby fix, and you get to drink your margarita in peace. A 20-minute break is all a mamma needs sometimes.
It’s hard to hold onto your sanity when it feels like you have another human being living on top of you, but remember: It’s just a season in your life. With my firstborn I spent a lot of my time cleaning, working, and doing anything and everything but holding my baby, and I regret that. It took me being forced to hold my newborn to make me step away from the constantly running to-do list in my head, and I’m forever grateful. I’ve been given the gift of soaking up my new bundle while being forced to slow down a little. Who needs clean dishes and folded laundry anyway?