Observe your first-time-mom friends closely and you may notice two kinds: the frantic ones and the calm ones. Which type do you like to be around, and which type do you want to be?
Of course, even the most Zen new mom gets wigged out at times, but maximizing your mellowness will help both you and your baby. "The time you have with a new baby is so short, and being calm can help you enjoy it as much as possible," says Philadelphia psychologist Deborah Ledley, Ph.D., creator of the website The Calm Mom (thecalmmom.com). "Plus, babies can sense when a mother is stressed and overwhelmed." Here's how to prepare for a peaceful postpartum period.
- DON'T EXPECT BLISS "When a new mom says, 'It's so great! It's the best time of my life!' that's the socially acceptable thing to say," Ledley explains. "She doesn't want to admit, 'The crying drives me crazy, and sleepless nights are killing me.'" Don't hold yourself to an unrealistic standard.
- LEARN TO TAKE YOUR SWEET TIME Since you're already waddling, pregnancy is the ideal time to practice that slow stroll you'll take over to the baby when she cries. "What happens when parents sprint over is that babies don't learn self-soothing skills," Ledley notes.
- STOCK UP ON NECESSITIES "With my first baby, I had no idea how many wipes and diapers you go through," Ledley says. Midnight isn't the time to realize you've just used up your last package.
- URGE FRIENDS TO ORGANIZE A MEAL TRAIN A well-nourished mom is a calm mom, and nothing nourishes like a home-cooked meal delivered right to your door. Drop hints to your friends and send them to sites that make it easy, like mealbaby.com, mealtrain.com or takethemameal.com.
- RESOLVE BIG-PICTURE ISSUES NOW Five days after the baby is born isn't the time to decide whether to have a bris or a christening. The week before you're due back at work isn't when you want to look for child care. "Couples tend to avoid these issues, and they can cause a lot of stress when they come up," Ledley says.