Recovering After Baby

**This article is something I wrote from my column on MasalaMommas this week.  Hope you enjoy**

My first Masala Mommas column was all about the Journey to Baby –the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant.  Once I was pregnant, there were countless blogs, websites and books (not to mention friends and family with their endless advice) devoted to having a healthy pregnancy and learning to care for one’s newborn upon his or her arrival. After giving birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl, I found there was far less information on how a new mom recovers after a baby. I am not just talking physical recovery – although that is a big part of it.  I am talking about mental recovery. Giving birth is a huge (sometimes tragic sometimes triumphant) event and recovering – mind body and soul – is an equally significant undertaking.

There is no prescribed course to become acclimated to your new life with baby but that doesn’t mean family and friends won’t try and tell you what to do.

Get back to exercising in six weeks.

Start walking right away.

Go on date nights with your husband.

Make time for yourself.

Sleep when the baby is sleeping.

The comments go on and on. But the reality is after having a baby I was just exhausted and had to slowly figure out this new world I was living in.  It was like being dumped in a swamp and being asked to run fast.  Very fast. At first, I just couldn’t do it but slowly (very slowly) I figured out the answer lied within me. Yes, I wanted my body back. Yes, I wanted to re-ignite a flame and stay connected in my marriage. Yes, I still wanted to pursue my personal passions.  But I couldn’t do all of these things at once. All I knew for certain was that I needed to learn quickly how to care for this new little being that just came into my world. I want to be an amazing mom and I want to give my little baby an amazing life but one step at a time.  First I needed to figure out how to give her an amazing day or at the very least an amazingly clean diaper.

The pressure to recover and acclimate to this new world is intense and even overwhelming.  We don’t just jump back to our pre-baby selves in 30 days. To acclimate to this new world, I did something controversial.  I decided to focus on just two things. Me and the baby.  New moms are supposed to prioritize the baby but putting themselves first, or at least second, is seemingly unheard of.

How did I prioritize myself?  There were little things like making sure I took a shower each day and put on makeup.  For my fellow new moms you know what a luxury that can be.

The bigger things related to time. Even in the first few weeks after having my baby, I carved out an hour a day for myself.  I didn’t necessarily go anywhere but I would hand over care giving responsibilities to my husband and spend an hour in my room reading a magazine, trolling Facebook, talking on the phone.  If I did go out, I usually just walked around Target or went to my local coffee shop. These precious sixty minutes helped me stay connected to me.  They gave me the focus I needed to go back down the stairs, pick up my beautiful baby again and be the mom she needed me to be.  I quickly came to learn that a happy me led to more happy things in my life.

I also used my maternity leave to do something I always wanted to do – take an online creative non-fiction writing course.  I can hear you all saying “She did what?” Well, yes in the middle of feedings, diaper changes, baby laundry and recovering from giving birth I also took an online class.  This was the respite in my otherwise demanding day.  Since the course was online I could do it at my own pace.  So whenever baby was sleeping, I focused on my class. You may think where was the time?  I somehow made the time because I wanted to do something, in addition to baby, that kept me connected to me.  The online writing course was exactly that.  Now the book I have always wanted to write is in progress and that makes me happy.

Having this time to do my class or take 30 – 60 minutes a day for myself was a luxury and one that I was lucky enough to be afforded by having a hands on husband who was able to care for the baby.  It also helped that my baby slept in nice long chunks during the day which is when I was able to attend to other things.

In every culture focusing on baby is the mom’s key responsibility.  American society accepts that in addition to focusing on baby you focus immediately on weight loss and getting your love life in order by going on date nights with your husband.  But rarely if ever do you read anything about getting reconnected with yourself.  Life changes when you have a baby and in our society the mom often gets left behind.  I took the approach of getting my life on track so that I could be a better me and have the energy, drive and enthusiasm to be the best at all the other roles in my life.

Things are by no means perfect in my house. But allowing myself the luxury to keep being me, to check in with myself on a daily basis, to take a pause from baby and husband and remember the person I was pre-baby gave me the ability to keep going with love, patience and enthusiasm.

Celebrate Good Times!

Holiday season is finally over.  From mid-October to mid-Jan I was in non-stop party mode.  Not the raging, at the club all night in my trashy outfit, drinking and dancing the night away kind of partying.  That kind of partying is a distant memory. I am talking about the kind of partying you do when you have a newborn and find yourself at home most of the time or at the home of other friends with little babies.

These parties go something like this.  First you try to get ready. You want to get out of the t-shirt and yoga pants you spent most of your day in (the same ones the baby spent most of the day spitting up on) and dress up a little, do your hair, wear some makeup. I mean you are going out and these days that alone is a treat.  So you give the baby to your significant other.  Somewhere in the middle of doing your hair or your make up the baby starts crying, the husband needs help. You go and take over and in so doing you have eaten up the little time you had to get ready. So now instead of leisurely doing your hair or trying that new eye makeup trick you read about in this month’s Cosmo you have to speed things up. For me, that usually means leaving the natural waves in my locks to air dry rather than blow drying them straight.  I call it my beach goddess look just to make myself feel like it was intentional.  The beach goddess look doesn’t require much make up so I do my five minute face in under five minutes and get dressed.

Once you have managed to pull yourself together, you then have the fun task of running around the house making sure baby is ready, the baby bag is packed and then begin you can begin process of getting baby in the car and finally you are off to the party. By that time, if you are anything like me, you are already hot and sweaty so a quick refresh (and I mean quick) is required. At the party, you meet the other mommas who faced similar circumstances while getting ready.  They have their hair in a ponytail or a bun.  It’s their sleek and sexy out of the face look.  It’s all the rage with new moms.

These parties have music, food and definitely drinks of the alcoholic variety.  But before the mommas can indulge in any adult beverages they need to get the kids situated.  Conversations are interrupted to change diapers, for feedings, and hopefully the final interruption is putting these little ones to sleep.  As the kids have gotten bigger, they are sleeping longer which means more time for mommas to have fun (usually talking about their babies, complaining about husbands or talking about people who don’t have babies).

For me, the best part of these parties is taking pictures of the kids. This was especially hilarious on Halloween.  We hosted a mini-Halloween party for our friends with new babies.  We had a darling little pumpkin, a crawling lady bug and a mini Darth Vader, cape and all.  We placed all three babies on the couch and then three sets of parents made gallant attempts to get their kids to look at the camera preferably while giving one of their fabulous baby smiles.  I have never laughed so hard looking at all of us parents trying so hard to get our kids to smile at the same time.  The kids looked freaked out and no wonder with six adults jumping up and down making various sounds and gestures in the hopes of getting the desired reaction from our babies.

Closely following Halloween was Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, where my baby decided to throw a wrench in my plans by screaming hysterically in front of the temple, so much so we never got out of the car to go inside.  We then headed to a Diwali party where my normally happy baby decided to throw up all over my new Indian outfit. We were so defeated from picture taking on Halloween that we didn’t even try to get a cute Diwali picture.

She did much better when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These were big celebrations at home with her Nani and loads of family and friends.  Many of these friends and family where meeting our little one for the first time.  By the time these celebrations came along, my little princess turned into quite a ham. I swear this four month old has learned to pose for the camera and now photographs like a champ. The moments are perfectly captured, including an awesome pic with Santa.

We capped the holiday season with a Lohri party at our house. Lohri is a bonfire party that rings in the New Year and is mostly celebrated by people in Northern India. We made it a traditional affair complete with popcorn, peanut brittle, jaggery and traditional Punjabi meal of saag and makki di roti. It was a small event but a fantastic one that I was determined to have. I really wanted to celebrate Lohri for all the new babies in our friends circle, and especially for my little baby.  Of course, my baby was asleep before we lit our bonfire and sang songs but she will have plenty of (sleepy) pictures of herself from the event.

Now that the celebrations have quieted down, I am excited to start planning her first birthday.  Only 7 months to go! Keep the celebrations coming!