Monday, March 23, 2009

One working mom to another one

Planning for your life after your first child is born is a natural thing
to do. But you don't know at all what your baby will be like, or what
you will be like after the birth.

Babies come with different temperaments and needs. You may end up with
an easy-going baby who sleeps a lot, nurses without trouble and doesn't
have colic. Or you could end up with a colicky baby who cries for the
first three months, doesn't eat enough and has chronic diaper rash. Or
you could end up with an infant who has a special need, like a sensory
disorder or even autism. You could have a premature baby who is in the
hospital for a month after being born. You just don't know. So my advice
is to think about plans, but stay flexible enough that if your baby
needs your total attention for some reason, that you are able to give it
to him or her.

Having your first child is also a life-changing experience for you, your
marriage and your household. I agree with another poster that taking
care of your child (especially your first where you're learning as you
go) is the hardest job you may ever do. Here's a simple fact: just after
birth, the typical baby will feed every 3 hours. If you're lucky and
your baby nurses easily and falls asleep afterwards, each feeding and
changing will take about an hour. So that's 8 hours a day, 7 days a week
right there, 56 hours a week with no breaks longer than 2 hours. Now add
arranging meals for your husband and you, laundry, shopping, your own
grooming (bathing, dressing, etc) and errands. Let's call that 10-15
hours a week. (And it all has to fit into those 2-hour periods when your
baby is sleeping, and you have to take the baby along when you're out of
the house). We're up to 66-71 hours a week, again with no breaks. This
period typically lasts for 6 weeks to 3 months. If you're lucky again
and your husband takes an overnight feeding with a bottle, you may be
getting as much as 5 hours of continuous sleep a night. That is a BIG
job for one person. Do you have local family, and are they willing to
help? (Or do you prefer your mother-in-law stays out of your way? :-))

Now think of any issues. Colicky baby - less sleep for you, much more
time spent trying to get the baby to fall asleep. Baby who nurses slowly
- each cycle may take 1.5 to 2 hours, leaving you only one hour out of
three to do anything else. Post-partum medical issues for you (like
recovering from a C-section, trouble with milk production, infections,
etc) - everything will take longer than in the optimistic case above.

After I had my son, I developed post-partum depression (which is not
uncommon). I was a stay-at-home mom, but I was forced to get help just
to survive. I was lucky to be able to hire a nanny who helped me 20
hours a week during my son's early life. But hiring a nanny when I was
exhausted from taking care of the baby and depressed to boot was one of
the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Another thing to consider is what your plans are for any more children.
Most women choose to have their children within a few years of each
other. If you plan to have another child in 2 or 3 years, would your
business be self-sustaining enough that you could take the time with
your second baby? What if you choose to have more than 2 children?

One last thing - I hope you realize that your mood is already being
affected by your hormones. This effect may get stronger as you approach
delivery. I found some tremendous energy while I was pregnant, where I
thought I could do anything! After delivery, there is a 4-6 week period
where your body returns (chemically) to its pre-pregnancy state, and
your mood may shift radically during this time. If you breastfeed your
baby, those hormones affect your mood too. Just keep this in mind as you
consider your decisions.

And congratulations on your pregnancy!

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