I really enjoyed Babywise and The Baby Whisperer. Each of the books highlight different and important aspects of bonding, and child training, feeding, naps, and various other subjects relevant to parenthood. A thorough perusal of them both should give you a pretty balanced perspective. Discuss the concepts with your spouse and pray for wisdom. (There are many other wonderful books out there, but I found these to be particularly helpful.)
After Erin was born, my husband and I had to work twice as hard at our relationship! The Five Love Languages has been very beneficial to us, even just as a conversation starter.
Asking for help
Ask a loved one to stay with you and your spouse for a few days after your baby is born. My sister in law took the initiative to spend at least three days with Ben and I while we were recovering and adjusting. She cleaned our home and cooked our meals, doing wonderfully unexpected things like washing our laundry, and cleaning up the less pleasant nooks and crannies of our bathroom. She also took it upon herself to make sure I drank lots of postpartum smoothies, and various other helpful things.
During my pregnancy I was very forgetful. Since I've had Erin, I'm not so much forgetful, as I haven't had the energy or time I need to plan and think ahead. I have found it very helpful to keep running lists of the household inventory that needs restocking. If someone offers, or if Ben happens to be going out, I can send a list!
Health and Recovery
Please, please take everyone's advice and SLEEP whenever you have the opportunity. Even after it's been several weeks, or even months, and people stop asking how you're feeling, try to at least fit in a nap.
Make (or have someone else do this!) a bottle of diluted grapefruit seed extract hand spray. Erin is three and a half months old and I still like to have people sanitize when they visit (or wash up after a trip to the grocery store). I'm not a big fan of commercial hand sanitizer. Grapefruit seed extract is an excellent substitute.
Making a soothing peppermint oil for your baby is very simple. While visiting my parents, Erin was suffering from painful tummy gas. My mom simply put a few drops of peppermint essential oil into a tiny vial of olive oil and shook it up. Erin was wrapped up tightly so we just rubbed some of the concoction on her little foot and within a few minutes her gas was gone! I usually rub some into her tummy now, and it works even better. Spearmint essential oil is another option, as I've heard that it is gentler on your baby's system. Just make sure to dilute!
Communicate how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Sometimes women assume the exhaustion or discouragement they feel is normal, or just a temporary no-biggie. Trust me, it's not worth the trouble! The right supplement, or a small diet change can help significantly. Communication with your loved ones and physician or midwife is very important.
Activities/Things to fill your time
After your baby is born, it might be difficult to find the motivation to do anything extra. I would suggest however that you get started on your baby scrapbooks as soon as you can! It's really easy to put this off, and I can tell you it's very likely that you will regret doing so.
Try to be intentional about which activities you choose to fill your down time. Realize that whatever you end up doing on a regular basis will probably become a habit, or at least something that happens way more than it used to. Be warned, and also take advantage of this! Some suggestions:
- Research interesting topics. I love books on interior decorating, container gardening, household organization, personal finance, travel...basically anything that catches my eye in the moment. Ben and I used to frequent Barnes and Noble, and I started to keep record of all the cool things I learned in a tiny moleskin he gave me.
- Start a new hobby. What have you always wanted to do, but never thought you actually would? Immediately after you have a baby, most people are extremely helpful! When someone asks if they can do something for you, this might be the perfect time to get the supplies you need for a new hobby. You might not even get to it right away, but at least you are prepared to begin whenever you want to.
- Revive old favorite past times. The guitar you haven't touched in ages. The paintbrushes you've almost forgotten how to use. Remember your old journal? This is a great time to pick up hobbies that have fallen to the wayside.
A couple of things I would have like to have put more thought into before labor began:
- How I did my hair! Looking back, a sturdy up-do would have been perfect. I should have asked one of the ladies present to do a nice braid for me. :) (I'm terrible at braiding my own hair!)
- My birthing outfit. I chose a flowy, stretchy purple dress that hit about mid thigh. This would have been perfect had I not decided to jump in the bath! Unfortunately it became very uncomfortable and difficult to manage once I was partially wet. I think next time (Since I plan to labor in a birthing tub next time!) I will wear something made of swimsuit material that reaches mid-calf.
- Set up a birthing tub! Even if you don't think you want to use one, I strongly suggest you have one ready to go just in case you change your mind mid labor. I did change my mind, and I did not have a birthing tub. And let me tell you, a bathtub just doesn't cut it. :)
- Make sure the birthing room has the option to let in/shut out day light, or a small lamp to replace the overhead light if you are laboring during the night. It's nice to have options...I found it more comfortable when the room was dim.