This post may contain affiliate links
If you’re having a baby anytime between the months of October and January, things can get intense. As they can any time of year, but I mean, really intense. Besides the normal million adjustments of the newborn season, there are a thousand expectations, traditions, and commitments surrounding the holidays that don’t necessarily make room for your postpartum health and happiness.
If you're hoping to enjoy holidays and baby simultaneously, you'll need a plan. Here's a few things you'll want to consider doing in order to keep your season merry and bright.
Adjust your expectations—and everyone else’s.
No doubt there’s a certain way you do the holidays, and it probably means a significant amount of work for you. This year, let simplicity be your word of the season. Allow your expectations to adjust to the idea of a simpler season, and let your people know that you’ll be focusing on family time (you and your immediates) and relaxation/down time rather than on those specific, work-heavy traditions.
Put family first. As in yours. As in you.
Participation and even showing up are just not requirements this year. The most important thing you’re doing this holiday season is having a baby. Holiday parties and family gatherings are not “a great way to let everyone meet the baby” unless such events fill your cup. If sitting at home with just your people fills your cup, do that instead. This season is on your terms. This shouldn’t be the year that you try to squeeze in a few minutes of family time here and there while you fulfill normal holiday obligations. Clear the calendar to put yourself, your baby, and your immediate family time first. When you commit to nothing, you can add things back in on your own terms, IF you are feeling ready and excited about it. Always err on the side of less commitment, and you’ll be so much happier for it.
You may really miss your awesome yearly traditions. So if you want to keep some of them, by all means- do it. Just do it smaller. If you always bake a thousand cookies, maybe do two dozen- or get some ready-made dough and go to town. If you're in charge of gifts for the family, simplify the gifts by volume and by items (nothing you need to spend hours searching for or making) and order all of the things online in one fell swoop with direct shipping (giftcards are your bestie this year.) Keep all the traditions that are no work for you (i.e. watching football on Thanksgiving)- and remove all the work parts (i.e. Plan the Thanksgiving meal as take-out from your favorite restaurant.)
For the things that absolutely need to be done for the holidays—enlist the help of spouse, friends, or even professionals to do the cooking/baking/shopping/wrapping for you. Ask early (ideally before the baby is born) to ensure the help will be there when you need it.
Seriously, don’t. No matter if the attendees promise to bring all the food and do all the work. No matter if it means there won’t be a holiday gathering. Don’t. Host. If for no other reason- and there are a thousand other reasons- than because you may not feel up to it or ready for it when the day arrives, or you may not feel up to it halfway through and yet there everyone is, sitting on your couch and adding dishes to your sink. For the love of all things jolly and joyous, just don’t.
Take advantage of all the people and the food
IF you are feeling up to attending holiday things, it can be great to not have to cook and have someone hold the baby and entertain the older kids while you sneak upstairs for a nap. Be not ashamed of leaning on family or friends in this way—in fact, that’s the point of having people, and being people. (Not to be used per se, but to support one another when needed. And you need it.) One note if you are expected to bring something: there are many, many shops, restaurants, and grocery chains that have all the pretty food and drink. Go ahead and pick something up, re-plate if you must, and make it your offering. No shame. Cooking for other people is just not even a thing right now.
Acknowledge the sacred
One way to get away from the hectic, pressured pace of the season is to focus on the sacred. The Nativity, the Christ child, St. Nikolaos of Myra- the origins of what we celebrate lend themselves to simplicity, beauty, and introspection. By focusing on the sacred foundations of our celebrations, we can calm it down and clear out the noise while simplifying deeply. For more, Jen Hatmakers take on this is a great read.
It is possible that some family or friends will disagree with your decisions to not attend the traditional gatherings this time of year. Additionally, some of your people may have serious needs that others deem more legitimate than your own. (“But Aunt Betty is sick, we need to see her this Christmas!”) While compassion is the name of the game, health and peace are as well. There will always be more needs that you can meet, and certainly, there will be times for you to take all the strides for another. Immediately after birth is not the time. Even months after birth may not be the time. Create boundaries that allow you to give yourself what you need, and from your overflowing cup give to others- when you’re ready.
Holidays happen every year. A new baby, not so much. Protect and enjoy postpartum first, and all of the merriment of other celebrations can follow.