The first weeks of parenting: what the experts aren’t telling you
Why is it that so many parenting books begin with some version of this little, deceptive, awful phrase? They all say this one dang thing:
After the first few weeks…
But what about THE FIRST FEW WEEKS?
The first weeks are some of the longest and most challenging of a new mother’s life, from healing physically and emotionally processing the birth experience, to being up all night with feeding and sleeping, to raw nipples (if you’re breastfeeding), to trying to understand why obnoxiously loud shushing works for some babies to sleep, to feeling like basic things you assumed you could do are completely beyond you. For many, many new parents, the surprise of not being even able to feed oneself or eat enough food while having a baby around—a baby that sleeps, a lot!—is a shock to the system, and is really hard to figure out.
And no one told you.
Why? Why does our culture and our experts seem to gloss over this pivotal time?
Today, we get to check-in with Vanessa Van Edwards, who was seven months pregnant when we last spoke and is now mother to a vibrant seven month old daughter.
Vanessa gives us a rare, genuine, unfiltered look at what it felt like to be unprepared for parenting a newborn, despite all her hours of reading and research. We learn about her plans and preparations for maternity leave as the founder of her business, Science of People, and how the leave she’d prepared for was upended by a customer service crisis at just 12 days postpartum. Last we heard from her, on Episode #096, she was preparing for a new baby and to take maternity leave as an entrepreneur. Today, we check in about what really happened.
Vanessa is a researcher, business owner, work-from-home mom, and author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. Her comments –– “I was way over prepared for the birth and way underprepared for parenting” –– fundamentally altered how I view the newborn period and how I speak to other mothers preparing this journey.
IN THIS EPISODE WE TALK ABOUT:
- Why there are dozens of books and classes on the birth experience and so little attention paid to the first weeks of life with a newborn.
- What happens when you feel like you’re out of options as a new parent in light of Vanessa’s experience with an infant who would only sleep while being held. Do you sleep with your baby even though doctors tell you not to, or do you not sleep so your baby can? And why don’t we tell stories like these to help future parents prepare for the unpredictable first weeks?
- The gratitude and anger Vanessa feels toward her business. One on hand, it sustains her family financially and fulfills her. On the other, it’s unpredictable needs forced her back to work less than two weeks after having her daughter when she’d planned to take at least two months at home.
- Why running her business from home leaves her partner feeling like he’s crushing work and fatherhood while it leaves her feeling like she’s constantly making the impossible choice of being with her daughter or being a great worker.
Join us as we talk about the first few weeks: an unpredictable, challenging, rarely spoken of period that deserves much more attention.
The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #104
SOME QUOTES FROM THE EPISODE:
- “I was way over prepared for the birth and way underprepared for parenting.”
- “Whenever you meet a new mom you’re like, ‘How was the labor? How was the birth?’ But you so rarely are like, ‘How was the first three days? Tell me about the first three days.’”
- “Most of the books I had read said, ‘After the first few weeks, you and your baby will – After the first few weeks, feeding will be – After the first few weeks, your baby and sleep will be –.’ I hadn’t noticed that most of the resources I had and that I think that are out there skipped the first two to four weeks, and that really threw me.”
- “It’s like very hard to feel like I am doing everything very well, because if I’m really productive at work, it means I didn’t take enough breaks to pop down and see [my baby] when she was awake. If I pop down to spend a lot of time with her and take an extra long lunch with her, I didn’t get as much time during my work day. That’s a significant emotional burden that I now face every day.”
- “All of a sudden while you’re pregnant, you’re in the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You’re thinking about dreams, and values, and goals for your baby, and meaning with your partner, and you’re in deep love, and you’re grateful. You’re at the very top of that triangle. The moment you give birth, the triangle is cut in half and you go right back to the bottom, which is, ‘Am I getting enough food?’ and the answer is usually no, you’re not eating enough. ‘Am I getting enough sleep? Are we all safe and taken care off?’”
- It can be emotionally and psychologically frustrating and exhausting because you’re like, “I’m a person who just gets things done. Why can’t I do this? I’m smart. Why can I not even make it to the toilet?”
- “I feel really kind of betrayed by my business, which is hard, because my business also sustains me and I’m also very grateful for my business.”
- “It’s going to be a little mucky and messy, but I think that also is a real benefit of owning our own business.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT VANESSA VAN EDWARDS
Vanessa Van Edwards is lead investigator at Science of People, a human behavior research lab. She is also the national best selling author of Captivate — a science based guide for awkward people to level up their social success and banish awkward silences forever. It was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of the year and has already been translated into 16 languages. Her innovative work has been featured on CNN, Forbes and she is a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine.
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EPISODE SPONSOR & SPECIAL OFFER
Thank you to the sponsor of this episode: Aeroflow Breastpumps. They are dedicated to making the hassle of getting your breast pump a little bit easier—actually, a lot easier! Head to www.aeroflowbreastpumps.com/startup to have them help you qualify for a free breast pump through insurance.
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