Having your first baby is a huge adjustment. In a very short time period you go from a young child-free working woman to being alone at home with only an infant for company. For many of us it’s the first time we’ve even held a baby this small, and now we’re solely responsible for keeping the wee bundle alive. It’s sort of mind-blowing if you think about it.
I spent most of my early days with my firstborn Hannah breastfeeding. She would sometimes nurse for 45 minutes or more, so I fed her on the couch while I watched TV. A high point of my day was visiting the bathroom by myself or having two free hands to eat. It was amazing to be totally at the mercy of my baby. I lived and died by her whims (or my best guess as to her whims) in spite of how completely defenseless she was.
I realized very early on in parenting that I had two choices. I could spend my days at home alone watching reruns and feeling sorry for myself. Or I could get out of the house and find someone, anyone, to talk to. Someone who could understand how my world had been totally upended and why I sometimes secretly wondered if was even cut out for motherhood. Given those two options, I chose to get out of the house.
I went online and searched out activities. Pretty soon I set up an informal routine that had me doing something almost every day of the week. We went to library baby time, mom and baby yoga, strollerobics, swimming lessons, church, La Leche League, and community mom-and-baby groups. We went on playdates with much older kids, and visited friends almost any time we were asked. I seized almost any reason to get out of the house and interact with others.
It saved my sanity, it really did. I was still sleep-deprived and unkempt, but I was no longer alone. It wasn’t always easy for me to get myself out the door, and it didn’t come all that naturally to cultivate new relationships. New moms are sort of like 13-year-olds at a school dance. We all want to get out on the floor, but no one really wants to make the first move, so we end up stuck on the sidelines looking at each other. Which is why I think playgroups help, because they provide a low-risk way to interact and meet people.
I still feel like playgroups are saving my sanity 4 1/2 years later. I’ve made some really great friends and cultivated a fabulous support network. I feel like I have more balance in my life – that I’m meeting my own needs along with my children’s needs. I believe we are all the happier for it.
Amber’s daughter Hannah is now 4 1/2 and joined by her 13-month-old brother, Jacob. You can read more of their adventures at Strocel.com.