The holiday season is upon us once again! This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale. This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days. I guess some things don’t change *wink wink* Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring. So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!
Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays. Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4. But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly. One way to try and make the season more manageable? Plan ahead. Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.
If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head. For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe. Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared! Speaking of prepared…
Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)
You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip. Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes! My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga. But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.
I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me. A lesson I only needed to learn once! So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this? Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.
Don’t Underestimate People
If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen. I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around. So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens. What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug? What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether? What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?
Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation! Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.
Smile… a lot
This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out. As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort. Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health. And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face. However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked. It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s shoes you’re wearing.
Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos. You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me. Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care. Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.” But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them. I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health. So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.
Make time and BREATHE
If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this. Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe. Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough. Try not to let the little things get you down.
And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit. My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby. Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood. Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!
Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!
(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)