Guest post: motherhood is a double life

Writer, professor, and now mom of two Lisa Catherine Harper sent us this list of activities that helped keep her sane during her rookie year of motherhood.

When I think back on my first long year of motherhood, my mind plays tricks on me. I think I remember a year of blissed-out infatuation, but my book, A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood tells a more complicated story.

For instance, when Ella was 9 months old, I hit a wall of depression and fatigue that I thought would never, ever end. It did, but not until I had learned that the world hadn’t left me behind. I was just operating on a different plane of reality. For me, birthing a baby was a little like birthing a new self: the physical changes gave rise to even greater emotional and psychological ones.  My book talks about the science and the story of these confounding changes. Below is a practical list of some of the things that helped me make my way through my newly doubled life:

  • Find a playgroup. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to find other mothers with whom you can share birth stories, compare spit-up, and just generally get used to your new self. (Editor’s note: We agree!)
  • Mom/Baby Yoga. Or something like this, because it’s nice to get used to your new body around other people who are also getting used to their new bodies.
  • Walks. I walked somewhere—with or without purpose–nearly every single day. A walk along the beach calmed me and (sometimes!) my daughter. It anchored us to a place and a routine. Our favorite spots were Stowe Lake and the path along Ocean Beach.
  • Have lunch. At a restaurant. With a friend. Anywhere–even a grown-up, nicer place. Take advantage of your new baby’s portability. If lunch seems too daunting, start with coffee.
  • Museums. Pick the one you like best. Time it so that you can leave your house and arrive as soon as possible after that morning nap. Wear your baby and just go for a few hours with a friend to your favorite grown-up museum. It will satisfy your soul and give your baby something new to look at. (Ed: Wait, did she read our challenge this week?!)
  • Parks. I met my new-mom friends in parks a lot.  While the babies couldn’t really do anything but lie around in the shade and nurse, it was lovely to lie around next to them, in the sun, have a picnic and talk about how everything had changed. Eventually, swings are involved, but that requires standing up and pushing. Don’t wait to get out of the house until yours crawls.
  • The zoo.  We loved the zoo. We went to the zoo several times a month.
  • Farmers markets. One of the easiest, most stimulating places to take your baby.  We had a terrific steamer, and every Sunday, I’d cook and puree a week’s worth of fruit and veggies to freeze them in ice cube trays. (Ed: Here’s how.) Bring your partner or a friend and have a meal there, too.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. This may be the most important thing my mother told me. I slept nearly every afternoon when my daughter did. Naps kept me from going over the edge.
  • Enjoy being alone. I learned how to take pleasure in simply sitting still. I learned how to pay attention to my daughter and the moment by moment unfolding of her life.
  • Don’t be shy. Read your favorite books, poems, and stories out loud to her. When she’s really little, she just wants to hear your voice. Play her your favorite music. Dance with her. Be silly.
  • It really is a phase. The baby is only a baby for a very short time. What you love will pass. Every mother instinctively mourns this fact. But the very hardest bits? They pass, too.

Lisa’s book  A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood is available on