The hormones were crazy. I got an abscess in my boob from nursing a newborn. My life had been turned upside down.
For the first three months, our house was in survival mode. The best we could muster was a walk to a coffee shop a block away. Newborns don’t really do much besides eat, sleep, and poo, so I didn’t really feel like we were robbing our daughter of experiences.
At about the three-month mark, I stopped soaking through shirts or having overly, full, painful boobs, and I had started to get the hang of things. Anna was also sleeping for at least one stretch of night for about 5 hours. I was ready to get out more.
My advice for the first 2-3 months is to not feel pressure to do anything besides what you feel like doing. If you have the energy and inclination to get out more early on in your mat leave (or just had a second kid, so you have to) by all means, get out more.
My one other piece of advice for the newborn phase of mat leave is to tell your friends and family exactly what kind of help you need. Be specific: ie. wash our dishes, take out our garbage, bring groceries, bring dinner, etc. I found people were grateful to be told specific things they could do to help, and we were grateful for the help.
At the three-month mark, I was more than ready to make new friends and do stuff to break up the monotony. I started googling to find the parenting community in New West and I looked through my Evernote to find the brochure I got from RCH on baby events in New West. But in my opinion, the best resources are the New West Moms Meetup group and the New West Moms Facebook group.
The Meetup does exactly what you think it does – facilitate meeting other moms in New West. Events include, for example: babies & beer meetups at Steel & Oak, skill sharing, coffee and walks at 6th and 6th St, reading group, and playdates at Queens Park and Pier Park. The Facebook group also facilitates mom and baby, and mom’s nights out. I can’t recommend both the outings and the online community highly enough.
Tenth to the Fraser has covered how great this group is over here if you’d like to read more. I now have a decent-sized group of mom friends and I’ve met most of them through the meetup group or the mom’s nights out organized by the Facebook group.
The first time I went to a meetup I was terrified and I arrived half an hour early by accident, but everyone else feels the same way you do. That’s the beauty of meeting other moms on mat leave: you have so much shared experience and everyone is just as terrified as you, so it’s easy to find support and new friends very quickly. If you’re scheduling meetups, my advice is to pick baby-friendly places and set a wide range of time that is drop-in. It’s impossible to accommodate everyone’s different nap times and that way people can feel welcome to come when they can, for as long as they can.
For those into babywearing, I recommend both the New West Babywearers group and the Babywearing from the Valley to Vancouver group. If you’re looking to learn how to wrap your baby, or for any kind of help or advice related to babywearing, these groups are really great – both the hands-on help you get at the meetup and the online community.
For those who are breastfeeding, I strongly recommend reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (bad name, good book), meeting up with other nursing moms, and getting a board-certified lactation consultant quickly if you need help – it’s worth it. I also joined the KellyMom Breastfeeding Support Group. The advice and support there is top-notch and you can get answers for your specific question. I used it for help figuring out how to go back to work after 6 months and keep nursing/pumping (my husband and I split parental leave – which I also highly recommend). It can be easy to wander down internet black holes on your iphone while nursing trying to find answers to the many questions you have, best, most reliable places I found were kellymom.com and AskDrSears.com.
Mat leave unfortunately almost always includes a visit to a walk-in-clinic. Heads-up: a fellow New West mom took this clinic to task for their stroller un-friendly policy, I’m not sure if they’ve changed it yet. You can also go the public health unit on the 2nd floor of Royal City Centre to get medical info, get your baby weighed, or get vaccinations – but be sure to book appointments early. You can just walk-in to get your baby weighed during the week, which is handy if you’re shopping in the neighoyrhood and want to stop by. I went to their breastfeeding class, which was moderately helpful, but it wasn’t facilitated well enough to support meeting other Moms.
Other organized activities to do in New West on parental leave (check websites for current schedules):
- Stage New West Baby Discoverers . Weekly music class. Requires registration, and isn’t drop-in. But as I’ve mentioned before, so worth it!
- NW Public Library BabyTime. Drop-in weekly program with stories, rhymes and songs.
- Strong Start. Drop-in weekly program with snacks, free play and circle time. Run by the school district. I’ve heard the different schools have different levels of quality. I only tried Connaught.
- The farmer’s market. Babies usually like to look at people and colourful things, and there are often other parents there to run into.
Things I never went to, but heard good things about:
- Family Place. Lots of weekly drop-in times with snacks and toys.
- Baby Talk. Facilitated classes for new parents 0-9Check seasonal Active Living Guide for class times)
- Motoring Munchkins . Big rooms with lots of toys. Enough said.
- Baby swimming classes at Canada Games Pool.
- Zumba class (either Wednesday at 7pm at Knox Church in Sapperton – taught by a New West mom or Sunday mornings on 2nd floor of River Market). Not mom-and baby classes.
- Pitter Patter Circle Time at Purpose Society. 12-week program in a group format, with snacks. Drop-in or register.
- Take advantage of the cheap childminding at Centennial Community Centre and go for a fitness class (after you get the OK from doctor and you feel like it)
- Review the Anvil Centre seasonal Program Brochure for interesting classes (I’ve heard they might offer mom & baby yoga)
- Check out the Active Living Guide for other classes
- Sign up for emails from kidsnewwest.ca for parenting resources and ideas
- Check out Tenth to the Fraser’s weekly “Happening in New West” column for more fun activities
I really enjoyed my mat leave once I started meeting up with other moms everyday and going for long walks exploring the neighborhoods and parks. I got used to the rhythm. The community I found was key to enjoying the time.
Have I missed anything? Let me know. At the moment, there aren’t any Dad groups in New West. If any Dad is reading this – feel free to start one!