It’s the moment you’ve been anticipating–the day you get to bring your baby home. All your the time spent trying to get pregnant or adopt and become a mom is finally approaching–but you’re terrified about being at home as a single mom to a newborn. For any mom, coming home from the hospital can be overwhelming, emotional and vulnerable. No matter how strong and independent you are, you are going to need some help. Some people assume you want space and to be left alone when you first have a baby. But if you are a single mom, you are not going to to gather some support for you and your newborn. The good news is that it’s a time when people love to help and are readily available to jump in—as long as you ask them to.
If you wait till you bring the baby home to set up your help, it might feel too overwhelming. So, think ahead about what you might need and have a support system in place. It’s better to have too much help lined up than not enough.
Family help can come fraught with baggage and emotions at a time when you may be more hormonal and emotional than you’ve been in a while. Make sure you have a list of friends and service providers who can jump in to help. And figure out those friends that can be in charge of rallying your helpers and communicating your needs and wishes to the outside world
Lots of people will offer help, especially at your baby shower and the last weeks leading up to pregnancy. Have a friend in charge of asking for and coordinating help. Consider having the service set up and bring an iPad to your shower so people can sign up on the spot. They can always change their commitment later if needed.
Many people set up MealTrain, MealBaby, or LotsaHelpingHands. I would highly recommend upgrading to MealTrainPlus for a $10 flat fee or using something like LotsaHelpingHands, because it allows you to can schedule other things such as a ride to the pediatrician, cleaning chores, a visit to keep you company, and allows you to have multiple organizers.
- You may be tempted to think you can handle simple food when you first get home from the hospital, but you will likely find that your newborn wants to be help or nursed almost constantly, making it hard to find time to do the simplest of tasks. I remember feeling like between nursing and sleeping, I would never get out of my chair again. Or you may be in pain after birth and not wanting to get up and walk around much. This is one time in your life during which people will happily feed you, so take advantage of it.
Traditionally, many new parents request that meals be left on the porch so as not to disturb a sleeping baby and intimately bonding family. But as a single mom, I wanted some company—an adult to talk to and commiserate with, or someone to do some basic chores for me. Let people know if you welcome the visit with food drop off. People will understand you may end up not being able to visit if the baby is crying. But it’s great to have the option of a visit.
- Have friends or family members make a few big batches of your favorite stews before you give birth and freeze in 1-2 portion servings so you have nutritious, iron building food when you need it.
- Ask friends who sign up to bring meals, to bring at least 2 servings and schedule people to bring food every other day.
- Freeze anything left over from friends’ who deliver meals.
- Cleaning. No matter how meticulous you are about keeping your house clean, you need to let it go in the early days of bringing home a new born. Your job is to recover, sleep, and bond with your baby—not clean your house.
Relinquish control and ask friends to do a load of laundry of a sink of dishes anytime they come to bring you a meal or schedule to come do household chores. Everyone who visits, wants to hold the baby and may not immediately gravitate to the chores that need to be done. You won’t be alone if you feel like you want to hold your baby, while they do the chores for you.
Make a list of necessary chores before you give birth and have it ready when friends visit. Let people know ahead of time that they will be expected to help with one task when they come over to visit. One fun idea is to put the names of chores on popsicle sticks and leave them in a jar. People can pull a stick when they arrive and quietly do the chore without having to ask you.
If you aren’t comfortable with having a friend clean your house, consider hiring a cleaner. You don’t want to spend your precious energy and time cleaning your house when you first come home from the hospital.
Tip: Have someone clean your house during the last month of your pregnancy or even while you are at the hospital giving birth, so you and baby come home to a clean house.
- Nap nanny. One of the main pieces of advice you might hear when you first come home from the hospital is “sleep when the baby sleeps.” It is great advice but only so feasible when you are a Single Mom and have no one else helping to take care of things.
Schedule some time to nap by scheduling friends to come over and hold the baby while you nap or shower. If you’ve set up meals using LotsaHelpingHands, you can build this into your list of requests for help. People love to hold babies so it’s a win-win for everyone.
- Errands. Running errands with a newborn is overwhelming. It’s hard to explain but it just is, trust me. Many cultures seem to inherently get this and require that the mother stay at home with her baby for 40 days or 6 weeks. Your newborn may cry every time you put him down, or hate the car seat. Figuring out how to transfer the car seat and mount onto a stroller and breast or bottle feed in public, get really tricky in those early days.
Instead, minimize the time you need to spend outside the house. If you need to, pick one chore or outing a day –not more! Take advantage of things such as grocery delivery via Instacart or AmazonFresh. Use PostMates or Thumbtack to get errands done. The only place you really need to go those first two weeks is the pediatrician.
Tip: Order diapers and wipes online. Many retailers give discounts. For example, Amazon gives a 20% discount, so there’s no need to go out for them.
- Hire a Doula. A postpartum doula is trained in basic baby care, meal prep and how to help you coordinate your friends and family to help out. If coordinating and making requests for help feels daunting, consider that a doula could take over this role for you. Her sole purpose is to help you feel less overwhelmed. She can come during the day or night to lend an extra hand, coordinate those who are coming to help or visit, cook you meals, show you some baby tricks, help with the first bath, or take care of feeding and comforting your child while you sleep. It ca be reassuring to have an extra set of hands and a confidant in those early days. Friends and family want to help, but sometimes having help that is devoid of family dynamics and drama is priceless.
Night doulas can get very expensive quickly but it can be well worth it to get a good night sleep. A lack of sleep and raging hormones can easily push you over the edge. And, a daytime doula can help you troubleshoot issues regarding breastfeeding, infant care, post partum depression, as well as coordinate you friends and helpers so you don’t have to.
Many women feel like it’s too expensive or a luxury they can’t afford, but if at all possible, see this as a necessary expense, even if it’s just for a few days after close family has left. It will help you feel empowered and supported as a mother and could set the tone of your early experiences.
The early days of motherhood can be blissful and precious while at the same time nerve-wracking and overwhelming. Welcoming a baby into the world is no small feat and doing it alone adds an additional layer of stress. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to ask for help so you can set yourself up for the best possible outcome.
Sarah Kowalski, a single mom by choice, is an author, family building coach, fertility doula and postpartum doula. She empowers women to find their own unique path to motherhood. Her book, Motherhood Reimagined: When Becoming A Mother Doesn’t Go As Planned,is available anywhere books are sold.