New Normal: The current state of being after some dramatic change has transpired. What replaces the expected, usual, typical state after an event occurs. The new normal encourages one to deal with current situations rather than lamenting what could have been. ~ Urban Dictionary

What a great definition! It covers all that is real and true for new parents. “The current state of being after some dramatic change has transpired” – what could be more dramatic than giving birth? No matter if it was fast and furious, or long and tiring, drug and intervention free, or including lots of interventions and even surgery – birth is by its very nature dramatic and everything changes after the baby is born. And yes, the new normal of parenting does force encourage you to deal with your current situation rather than lamenting what could have been – but come on. For every new family, there’s a period of adjustment for sure and in birth circles it’s more commonly called, “The 4th Trimester.”

Pregnancy is broken up into 3 chunks of time, or trimesters. This allows for discussion of what a woman can expect to feel emotionally and physically in smaller bite sized chunks while she’s getting ready to give birth. And there’s tons of information out there on the subject of birth, but not as much information available about what the first 3 months postpartum. When will a family realize their “new normal?”

In my opinion, it takes a family at the very least 3 months with each baby, no matter how many times you’ve done this before, to begin to realize your life with baby as your new normal. And let’s be clear, that I am talking about a fairly straight-forward pregnancy and birth, with a baby that is a great eater and an (at least) average sleeper. That doesn’t mean that at 3 months, it’s all rainbows and unicorns, it’s just that you’ve gotten through 3 months – or 12 weeks, or 90 days, or 131,487 minutes, or 7,889,220 seconds, depending on how you want to count it – and it all adds up to a ton of experience taking care of a newborn. So, you start to feel like you get the rhythm of what the day will be like for all of you by about 3 months. It doesn’t mean there wont’t be any more surprises, it’s just that they won’t be coming at you second by second. You’ll get a chance, at this point, to catch your breath before the next big switch up occurs.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that at this 3 month mark your newborn really turns into a different little creature. Fortunate, because if they were incredibly fussy and colicky, they kind of settle down around 3 months old – they’ve gotten most of what was ailing them out of their system. It’s like a little light switch gets turned on or off at this point, and the squishy cuteness of baby blob turns into a whole new and exciting little person. They start to really track you as you walk around the room, they start making noises (other than shrill cries!) and they really start to smile with intention, directly at you, because you are the center of their universe and they love you so much! In short, you finally get a little payback for all of the hard work you’ve been putting into this whole parenting thing.

It’s unfortunate, because at this crucial time when our babies actually start acting like babies, instead of newborns, so many of today’s parents have to leave their baby to go back to work. Many of them have to return to work much earlier than 12 weeks. Most partners only get to be home for the first week or two. Why do we have this so backwards? Take a look at this map of the world and tell me how it’s possible that the US (sharing the distinction with Suriname and Papua New Guinea) is the only developed country where there is no required paid parental leave after the birth of a new baby! That’s just sad and wrong. Moving from couple to family, or single woman to mother, is one of life’s biggest transitions! Not allowing for adequate time off to adjust to this new normal is just not right.

I joke in my classes, that in my campaign for President of the United States, this would the only issue I would run on – everyone gets a year off of paid maternity and paternity leave! I’ve taught thousands of couples over the years, so not enough really to swing a national election, but I think my ticket might have a chance! There isn’t a new parent out there that wouldn’t like to have more (paid) time off to adjust to their new life as a family.

It’s so important that we include partners in this movement! I think they get the shaft in this regard. It’s assumed (and if she’s recovering from birth and planning on breastfeeding, then it’s a pretty good assumption), that she’ll be staying home with the baby for whatever amount of time the couple can afford. Some Mommas may be able to make the decision that they’re only going back to work part-time or maybe not at all – but what about the partners? It’s essential that we stop thinking it’s only about Mommas and babies! Partners are going through their own personal journeys of transition and transformation too, and it’s unfair that we don’t recognize their period of adjustment as being equal to that of the birthing woman.

The guideline of waiting through that 4th Trimester before my couples realize their new normal is really helpful for new couples. But that 3 month waiting period is essential to adjusting to life whenever a new baby comes into the picture. Each member of the family has to reassign themselves into their new role every time a baby comes into the picture.

But if I had it my way, as your POTUS, you’d still have 9 more months to get used to your new normal, instead of jumping back into everything way too soon. You’d have the necessary time to not only adjust, but to actually enjoy this period of adjustment as well. I don’t know, I think it might work: “Extend The New Normal! Vote for Barb Buckner Suárez!” What do you think?

How much time do you think is absolutely necessary to realize your new normal? How much time did you take off before returning to work? Was it enough? Do you have any (better) campaign slogans for me?

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