Life as a new parent
After nine months of preparation, your baby has finally arrived - and getting to grips with this new life can quickly outshine all else. Here's what you can expect, for better or worse.
The immediate upheaval
Post-birth, your first response is likely to be a heady mix of euphoria, shock, exhaustion and panic. Here's your baby, right before your eyes, which can feel overwhelming.
Deal with it: In many ways, your best bet is to simply let it all wash over you, and make sense of it afterwards. If your partner is present you'll find they're going through exactly the same thing, while the midwife and other delivery staff will also be supportive and sympathetic. So whatever you're feeling, from tears of joy to outright terror, don't be afraid to express it.
It's likely that the labour process was intense for all involved, and has left you feeling in need of as much care and attention as the baby - especially for the new mum. New fathers will be expected to transform into the newborn's Personal Assistant, and deal with all calls and goodwill visits from friends and family.
Deal with it: Take every opportunity you can to nap, doze and sleep. You're bound to be on a high, but that won't last for ever, and your routine is about to be turned upside down . . .
So, you tend to go to bed around midnight, and wake up when it suits, with a lie-in at the weekends... not any more. You might have heard that a new baby sleeps a lot. The catch is that they tend to do so at seemingly random times throughout the day and night.
Deal with it: Much depends on whether you're feeding on demand or by the clock. If it's the former then your baby dictates your day, and if it's the latter you need to live by the clock. Either way, the key is to be consistent. It will be chaotic for a few weeks, but you can be assured that things will settle down. You may not get that lie in any more, but you'll be rewarded in other ways.
The appearance of a new baby often makes new parents number one in the social diary. All of a sudden, everyone wants to pop in, often unannounced. The attention can be welcomed, but it's often draining as well.
Deal with it: The first few days after the birth is an important time for you to bond with your baby. It's important to make this a priority for both parents, and so if you'd rather not end up playing host all day then say so. As long as you do it respectfully, people will understand.
Along with the visitors often comes offers of help. It could range from taking care of the baby for a while to cooking you meals or cleaning the hovel you've allowed your place to become.
Deal with it: Whatever your situation, be sure not to dismiss offers of assistance out of hand. You might be coping perfectly well, but it's always worth knowing that you can count on people you trust to help out if you need it. Besides, when the novelty of your new baby starts to fade, you may find the offers start to dwindle -and at a time when you need them most.
After the storm
It could be days, weeks or months after the baby's arrival, but at some point you will feel as if your life is approaching something like normality. You may have work or college to consider, at a time when there's no longer a constant trickle of visitors to see your cute kid.
Deal with it: Try not to allow yourself to become isolated from the outside world. It's very easy to do so, with so much of your time devoted to your baby's welfare, but making friends now is almost as important as it was when you first started school. The NCT is a sure-fire way for you to connect with other new parents and share your experience. Also try to make time for yourself, by recruiting your partner, family or friends to baby sit - even if it's just for a short time.
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