Baby has arrived. Life has been a whirlwind of visitors and doctor visits, diapers and burp cloths, a blur between nights and days. You've worn mostly pajamas for over a month and haven't ventured out further than a few blocks from your home.
Then, one day, your partner makes eye contact with you to say, "I miss you." Or maybe you feel a longing to do something that doesn't involve diapers and burp clothes, to eat a meal that hasn't been microwaved 3 times, or to wear something without worrying about it getting spit up on.
These thoughts and feelings are experienced by every new mother I have supported; not to say that all new parents feel this way, but many do, and if you do, it's ok!
So you want to go out, what now?
The following are tips and suggestions past clients have found helpful when venturing out on their first date after baby:
Choose a Trusted Care Provider
Set Intentions and Boundaries
Set up a system of back up support.
Leave a few numbers for your care provider to contact; these may include anyone who is familiar with your baby and/or home as well as a trusted neighbor.
“If you need help finding something you can call ______. She is our house cleaner and knows where everything is.” (make sure to check with this person before sharing their number and let them know when they may be expecting a call)
While a trusted family member may not be available to babysit, they may be available to receive calls from your babysitter, support them, and, if need be, contact you. For ease of mind you may want to use the call block feature on your phone to only receive communication from your designated go to.
“If you're concerned about baby's behavior call ______ and talk it through. They live far away but will know where we are and will be able to offer emotional support and, if need be, can contact us.”
Choose Your Space With Awareness
Choose a dining location that will not have children or infants present. Hearing an infant, even if it is not your own, may trigger your milk to let down. You may not have yet experienced this phenomenon; your first date is not a time to experience it for the first time.
Take a Tip from the Kink Community
Schedule a rendezvous with your partner rather than tripping over each other at home.
Be anonymous, sitting alone waiting to meet a tall dark stranger.
Send loving or even sexy messages during the day or days before your date.
Preparing to go out can be as fun as going out. When scheduling care be sure to include time to pamper yourself at home. Suggest your care provider take baby on a walk or otherwise create space for yourself in your home. Take a long shower. Listen to music that isn’t “Rock-a-bye Baby”. Try on a few things in front of the mirror and play with accessorizing.
You may feel drawn to squeeze into something from your pre-pregnancy closet, if it is comfortable, go with it! Chances are though, your body shape has changed, and that’s ok. Choose comfort over style.
If your partner would like time at home before the date, consider scheduling an updo, pedicure, or massage. Any one of these treatments can take 30-60 minutes, giving your partner time to do what they need to do and starting your date off with much needed pampering.
*if you’re breastfeeding*
bring an extra pair of breast pads and choose something that will be easy to pump in. You may want to choose a patterned top over a solid top; in the event of leaking, a pattern will be less revealing.
This may be the first time you and your partner have had a quiet moment to talk since the birth. Feelings may be raw and words may be hard to come by. Trust your partner and be open about how you are feeling. The chances are, they are sharing many of your feelings.
MAKE time and space to hear them.
You both may be in a fog. Physically and emotionally exhausted. During the days before your date consider writing down thoughts and feelings you would like to share with your partner as they surface.
Try these prompts
I am so grateful that ......
I feel .... when ....
The most challenging part of this experience thus far has been....
The most joyful part of this experience thus far has been....
Choose somewhere quiet or schedule time to take a walk before or after your meal. There is much to be said about motion enabling us to find words that may otherwise be hard to find.
Be an active listener. Take a breath and repeat in your own words what your partner is communicating. “What I'm hearing is _______. Does that feel accurate?”
Many first time parents share the experience of feeling isolated from their partner. When sharing feelings that may be raw, maintain physical contact. This may look like holding hands across a table, maintaining eye contact, or sitting next to your partner rather than across from them.
Set a Time Frame and Stick to it
If all you both really want to do is go home and cuddle, do that!
Communicate with your care provider that this is your plan and enter your home in such a way that communicates to yourself and your partner that the time is still special to the two of you. A white noise machine at your door may help to maintain this space.
Set an alarm or timer for when you are to relieve the care provider so that you don’t have to worry about the clock.
Breastfeeding & Pumping Tips
Are you breastfeeding? If your baby is exclusively breastfed and has not yet used a bottle and you have not yet used a pump, you may want to begin preparing for your date a few days in advance.
When beginning to pump, your most successful window is going to be first thing in the morning when your prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production) levels are highest. Nurse your baby as usual, being sure to drink plenty of water and have a nutrient dense breakfast. Once baby has concluded nursing, place one or both flanges on your breasts and begin pumping. Pumping may be a bit uncomfortable at first but pain is a sign that something isn’t right; the pressure on your pump may be set too high or the flange may be a poor fit. This may be a good time to schedule a visit with a lactation counselor or educator to get support and education. Follow this link to find a La Leche League support person in your area: http://www.llli.org/webindex.html
It is not uncommon for a baby to refuse a bottle from their breastfeeding mother or if the mother is nearby. This may be a wonderful opportunity for your partner to participate in baby feeding and bond with your baby in this special way as you introduce your baby to a bottle.
Once you’re on your way out, bring a spare pair of breast pads and your pump or a hand pump. If possible, pump or nurse just before heading out. You may need to pump during the date, choose a space where you will feel comfortable pumping such as a private booth or restaurant that has a lounge area in their restroom. You may alternatively wish to go to your car to pump or use this as an opportunity to pay a friend a visit.
Regarding alcohol and breastfeeding
Many things have changed recently on the topic of alcohol and breastfeeding. For the most recent information follow this link: http://www.llli.org/faq/alcohol.html
In reality, all of these are wonderful ideas. On the first one just try to leave the house without crying and coming back before ten minutes are up. Try not to check your phone every 30 seconds to make sure its not broken. And try to have fun. It gets easier with time, I promise.
Have a LOVELY date!
Written for DayOneDoula by
Celina Wigle, CPD
Postpartum & Full Spectrum Doula
Sexual Wellness Mentor