“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.” Proverbs 24:3
Your early days with a newborn is one that is filled with adjustments and readjustments. It would be wise therefore to set new, realistic goals of what you and your family can achieve in the next 4 weeks.
I learn that when you have a newborn, on top of the number of pre-existing kids you may already have, you actually have to plan for life being prepared with ‘one man down’.
It may feel like a newborn will not add much complexity to your already busy day since she will be sleeping most of the time. But the truth that we often forget is that you are actually gonna be tied up feeding and looking after and understanding your newborn.
The mum who once holds the important job of looking after and chauffeuring the other 2,3 or 4 kids, maintaining the home and feeding the family, doing the shopping and paying the bills is actually down. KEY MAN is DOWN! So armed with that mindset, you and your family will have to learn to readjust your priorities and goals and focus on some new ones, at least in the next 4 weeks, so that you will not feel lost in the myriads of activities that go around the house, on top of the broken sleeps, the numerous feeding, the nappy changing and meeting the needs of the rest of the family, which can prove to be highly stressful. You need to know exactly what it is you are trying to achieve and you need to give priority to those goals as they will take concerted time and effort to accomplish.
Your older kids still need a lot from you too – they need your love, your attention, your food…but they mostly need your structure for their little world, so they can feel secure and happy.
Your husband needs you too, maybe not as much, and there is a beautiful and united understanding between our roles and responsibilities now that we have done this a couple of times. If you are a first time mum, or your family is undergoing a major change, then it would be wise to revisit what you and your partner agree each needs to do, in order to arrive at harmony for yourself and the rest of the family.
The first 4-6 weeks is fundamental, both for baby and yourself. That is when you set the tone for the rest of baby’s year – in terms of her feeding and sleeping, her body clock, her sense of security and attachment. It is also important for you as your body will begin to heal after the pregnancy and birth in those first few weeks. This time is also foundational for the rest of the kids. They are learning to live with an added member of the family and mum’s attention is going to be divided. Older kids will have to take up the older brotherly or sisterly role with the added responsibilities that come with maturity. And it is also an important time for your marriage as the first month becomes the fulcrum to how the woman and the man relates to each other – be it in a frenzy chaos and or in a spirit of orderliness and understanding.
So I set out to learn what are our family’s most pressing needs while I am down. This is what I did when i first got home from the hospital. I grabbed a piece of paper and divided it into 4 columns. I listed all the things I want to do under 4 different headings – “Urgent and Important “, “Urgent but not Important”, “Important but not Urgent” and “Not Important and Not Urgent”.
Urgent and Important are things you have to do now. These for me meant being clear in my head what my goals and priorities are for the next 4 weeks. If these are muddled in my mind then everything else that I did would be breaching after the wind at best.
Urgent but not Important are things you have to do now but they are not the most pressing things. These things call for our attention all the time. Feeding the baby, changing nappies, preparing meals, showering the kids…
Important but Not Urgent are things you want to do but they don’t have to be done right away. These things I slot into my daily timetable so I know I am chipping them away a little at a time until they get all done. These for me include reorganising the wardrobe, cleaning the home, booking the travel, preparing the party, holding the meeting, giving the talk, filing the paperwork…
Not Important and Not Urgent are things you can park aside to do later when you have the time and the energy. These for me are my ‘dream’ list…things I will want to do once I have the time…
NEW GOALS FOR THE FIRST 4 WEEKS
Under this category, i learn to identify and set specific goals for each of my family members.
ME – My main goal during this 4 weeks was to make sure that I do enjoy the moments and not feel snowed under by the many chores and responsibilities that suddenly dawned upon a mum of three. Being highly choleric, I know that I needed to learn to slow down and smell my roses for I also know how fleeting the newborn moments are! I wanted to cherish and appreciate these days which I knew will never return. I made it a priority to receive help from my parents and to rest so that I can enjoy bond with her and establish a good routine. I also needed the time and space to get attuned to my baby – to understand her cries, her disposition and to monitor her healthy growth.
HUSBAND – I set some goals for my husband. Too many times in the past his needs had gone unmet. I wanted to make sure that this time round he gets the gift of sleep and that in our newfound roles as third time parents we get to talk about important stuff about our family, ie leadership, finance, vision, career, ministry, and things around the home – like wallpapering, buying a new sofa, getting a freezer, travel etc!)
CHILDREN – I also set SPECIFIC goals for all of my kids as they are of different ages. For all of them, I wanted to make sure that we fill up their love tank with the coming of the third baby and that they did not feel left out or neglected. They were blessed with both parents’ and grandparents’ love and attention. This goal worked so well that even when my husband had gone back to work and my parents had left, the habit of filling up each kid’s love tank in their own love language became a learned skill and a beautiful family habit for all of us.
OLDER KIDS’ TRAINING GOALS
A FLEXIBLE STRUCTURE – I learn to set a working rhythm for the older children so that once they are home alone with me and the baby, they would know exactly what they are supposed to do at what time of the day. For me, I had to re-implement the 3Rs of our day – training them to have the same regular time for Reading, Resting and Room Time. (Refer to post “Room Time”).
MERGING TIMETABLES – The other tricky thing I have to learn is to merge all of the children’s timetables when summer holiday starts and I am home alone with the baby and the kids. This timetable has to work to meet the varying needs of 4 people while satisfying the training goals identified. (Refer to post “Structuring Our Day”).
MUMMY SCHOOL – And I really wanted to have a more meaningful time with my older children, where I know I am actually teaching them something at home. So I planned for some home curriculums to use.
CIRCLE TIME – Lastly, I wanted to impart a faith in their tender hearts, that will carry them through any turbulent future years. So I decided that our home should be where our children can experience God, for themselves, not on borrowed faith. (See post “Building a Culture of Devotion”).
For BABY, my goals in the first 6 weeks include: establishing a consistent routine that makes a happy, healthy, content baby. This for me specifically mean a couple of things:
1) making sure baby receives a full quality feed at each feeding (good luck trying to keep awake a sleepy newborn while feeding! In the early days a feed might take up to an hour as baby learns to latch, and suck, and you would probably have to deal with a couple of nappy changes and clean ups during that hour. Oh, did i forget to mention about the burping? A baby with reflux will take longer and more burpings too!)
2) slowly putting baby on a 2.5-3 hourly feed cycle (this is not as easy as it sounds as you would have to learn the different reason your baby is crying every time she does and the techniques to settle her cries that work with her. It’ll take time to learn her normal and abnormal cry periods and where she is in her cycle everytime she wakes.)
3) slowly establishing a feed-wake-sleep cycle (again, this is not as easy as it sounds as you try to establish a new normalcy in your baby’s life and help her differentiate night from day. )
4) teaching baby the gift of a good night sleep (which essentially focuses on establishing a good day time routine and ensuring enough feed and minimising sleep props).
Looking back, I have to say that my first 4 weeks with my recent newborn turns out to be a truly beautiful time. I was given the gift of rest. Even though life was really busy and hectic, I was rested in the inner man. It was also a time for healing and for relationships to flourish as we embrace different friendships that come our way. I was thoroughly blessed by the help of my precious parents as they selflessly shared their time, energy, resources and love to help me while i take the time to spring full back into the speed of life. As we have lived apart for about 21 years, we needed to adjust living together again, and we made it our goal to enjoy our parents’ company, sharing all the goodness of God as they witness our lives 24/7.
In those time I was given the time to spread my wings – I was able to heighten my parenting skills in areas I was not confident about before. I was able to devour good books and sharpen my knowledge about family life. I was also given the gift of stillness – where I could seek God in the busyness and the joy of carrying a newborn in my arms.