3. Make time for you
All the things you take for granted now—time to shower, to grab coffee, to visit your favorite websites—will be challenged. But don’t let everything go completely. Self-care makes you more resilient and ultimately a better parent, notes Wroth. “You are the cornerstone in a unique way at this time for your family,” she says. “As the cornerstone, you need the resources to be strong for yourself and your family.” Kim Richardson, M.A., L.C.P.C., says new moms are often unprepared for how isolated they feel. The best remedy, she says, is brief and daily excursions to “connect with the world again.” Use your time now to suss out places that are stroller friendly, such as the park, mall or a local coffee house.
4. Find fellow moms
Taking a class—childbirth education, infant CPR, prenatal yoga—is a great way to hook up with expectant peers. When the baby comes, these women will be a great social outlet (who else is available to chat at 7 a.m. on Sunday?), as well as a source of great tips and support.
You can also find new-mom groups through local hospitals, churches and community centers or via websites like Meetup. Beyond your mommy group buddies, Richardson advises identifying one or two seasoned “mentor moms” whose children are older and whose parenting style you admire. “One of the most important things you’ll need to hear is ‘You’re doing a good job,’ ” says Barnes. “Find someone you trust who will say that regularly to you.”
5. Stay connected to your partner
Caring for a new baby can feel like a relay race. Sure, you and your partner are tagging in and out, but you’re barely touching, and that can fray a relationship. Before baby comes, develop a regular habit of plunking down next to your significant other on the couch each evening. Try a 10-minute hangout with your cellphones and the TV off, advises Cheri Augustine Flake, L.C.S.W., an Atlanta-based stress reduction therapist who runs new-mom workshops. “It doesn’t matter what the conversation is about, as long as it’s not a honey-do list or about the baby.” After birth, sex may be the last thing on your mind, so this daily 10-minute hangout can be an important connection for both of you until you feel amorous again.
Katherine Bowers is a Boston-based health writer and mom of two.