People will come over to your house. This is good, truly it is. Other people! People who don’t wear diapers or spit up on you. People who can communicate with words instead of shrieks. Sometimes they even bring you food, which is excellent.
But if you’re like me, your house is sort of your private sanctuary. It’s not the place where all the neighbors come and hang out. Certainly not while you’re trying to figure out how to feed a tiny person with food you’ve made with your own body. That was weird. But just know that the visiting phase doesn’t last forever. And that it’s perfectly fine not to answer if someone calls or rings the doorbell. Um, not that I ever did this.
Your baby will probably want to be held a lot. Babies just do. Doodlebug definitely did, and it was a big change to go from normal human contact to nearly-nonstop, 24/7 human contact.
So trade off with your spouse whenever you can. This is also where the visitors can come in handy – let your friend hold the baby while you take a shower. Let your mother-in-law try out the baby wrap you haven’t even gotten a chance to open yet. (Side note: if babywearing is not your thing, that is OKAY.) And if your baby refuses to be held by anyone but you, read on. Tiffany feels your pain.
Introverts are not good at switching gears or leaving a project before they’ve finished with it. Guess what – you will have to do that all the time with a baby (and with older kids, too).
Since I was at home with Doodlebug, it was vital for me to have “off-the-clock” time where someone else was in charge and I could set my own pace. At first it was just a twenty-minute trip to the grocery store, alone, while my mom babysat. Later it was going to the library to write while Doodlebug and iDad hung out for the afternoon. Family is great. Babysitters are great. Preschool is great. School is really, really great.
Moms’ groups. They’re everywhere – at the hospital, in your neighborhood, for nursing moms, for working moms, etc etc. I tried to embrace the concept, really I did, but it was just not me. I didn’t want to go and be with people I barely knew when I was already busy with my baby, who I barely knew! So I will go ahead and say that you do not have to join a moms’ group.
Having mom friends is key, though – I spent a ton of time with one friend whose son is a few months younger than Doodlebug, and that was just right for me. Plus, now there’s Facebook and Twitter, which can function as your own virtual moms’ group from the comfort of your own home. And, of course, you know you are always welcome here.
On the blog. Not at my house. If you ring the doorbell, I reserve the right to pretend I’m not home.
I definitely believe introverts have a more difficult time adjusting to motherhood. In my case I am fairly certain one of the after effects of giving birth was a bad case of agoraphobia, particularly after Señor Lunchbox arrived.
Señor Lunchbox had acid reflux and slept in roughly 20 minute blocks the first months of his life (no, really. I timed them). Everybody was tired but as the parent on maternity leave my primary job was to take care of him. It took ages for us to figure out the reflux situation, get the proper medication, and for it to start working. He finally began sleeping better.
When he was awake, however, it was Mommy or nothing. Not Dreamy, not a bouncy seat or special pillow or sling or swing or any of those “soothe your newborn” gadgets. If I put him down to eat, he screamed, and if I dared to pee or just wanted to have my arms back for a few minutes, he screamed. The lack of physical space was smothering and became increasingly difficult to manage. I didn’t love Señor Lunchbox any less but there were days when I wondered how I was going to make it through. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did.
There were other reasons I stuck close to home. Both Princess Slim and Señor Lunchbox are summer babies and it was boiling hot in the weeks after they were born. On cool mornings I would take them out but only for a quick stroller-spin around the block or to lounge on the patio.
Also, after Señor Lunchbox was born, Dreamy took the Good Car to work and I had the Beater Car. I love the Beater but it has half an airbag and dodgy air conditioning. I didn’t feel exactly secure about placing a newborn in the back seat, hopping on the highway, and hoping for the best. And where would I have gone, exactly? The mall to look at clothes I couldn’t fit in to? A library or museum with a howling, projectile-vomiting baby? No, thanks.
Now I realize my inability to leave the house wasn’t really about the heat, or the car; had I wanted to go out I could have made something work. The real issue was my non-existent energy level. Monitoring one’s energy level is critical to introvert self-care, and mine was so low that I simply could not deal with the stress of being around other people. One tiny person consumed every bit of emotional, mental, and physical energy I had. “We’re on vapor, Cougar,” from the movie “Top Gun” pretty much sums it up. I was the next smallest state of matter after vapor.
The lesson learned is this: contrary to all the instincts that activate upon becoming a mom or dad introverts must take care of themselves first to be good parents. 99% of the time you’ll be able to put everyone’s needs before yours; it’s that 1%, however, to which you must pay attention to avoid depleting your energy reserves. Ignore your need to recharge and you might end up like Cougar, out of fuel and panicking as you try to land your jet on the aircraft carrier. Without anything in your tank things can get scary fast and you may not have it in you to pull up before crashing onto the deck.
How did I pull out of the tailspin? That’s a subject for another post.