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The New Mom's De-Stressing Plan

I had big plans for the three months I was taking off from work after my son's birth  -- mother-and-baby exercise classes, lunch dates with other new moms, a stack of novels to read, visits with friends, and walks with my blissfully peaceful newborn snuggled in his frontpack. Maybe, while he was napping, I'd even paint the living room.

Boy, was I living in a fantasy world. I never anticipated the stress I'd feel, particularly during the first six weeks of Steven's life. Looking back, of course, it makes sense. Like most parents, my husband and I knew next to nothing about newborns, nursing, jaundice, cord care, and the many colors of baby poop. Add in hair-trigger hormones, the overwhelming demands of a new baby, unrealistic expectations, and a tiredness so severe you can barely remember your last name, and you have the materials for some of the most stressful moments in your life.

Luckily, there are good ways to cope, as I found out from Alice Domar, Ph.D., a woman who knows about stress. As the director of the renowned Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the author of Healing Mind, Healthy Woman, and the mother of 3-year-old Sarah, Domar  -- along with her team  -- has done pioneering work in stress management. So BabyTalk asked her to put together a program specifically for brand-new moms  -- simple, practical techniques to reduce anxiety, increase energy, and get more enjoyment out of those first, precious weeks with a baby.

And that's what she did. The methods Domar suggests aren't just simple, though; they take little time and you can use them whenever you like  -- from the day you leave the hospital on. But the New Mom's De-Stressing Plan may be especially useful during those first six weeks. Why? That's when most new mothers  -- who generally don't see their doctor again until six weeks postpartum  -- may be feeling a bit adrift, full of questions and concerns. And while Domar's program won't give you the energy to paint the living room, what you will accomplish is tremendous: You'll enjoy your newborn more and you'll discover your own inner strengths and abilities as a mother. What could be more worthwhile than that?

Alice Lesch Kelly is a freelance writer who lives in Newton, MA.