- or moms in general :)
I am now 7 months into motherhood, so as I blog to you I am a novice and fellow new mother figuring out mommy life as I go.
I am passionate about my work and have been counseling for the last 7 years. At times I struggle to practice what I preach but the one area I try to not let go of is self- care.
Yes like everyone I may have the best intentions to eat health, and meal prep, work out 3-5 days a weeks etc. which can be self- care so long as the weekly goals are contributing to anxiety and a list of things I HAVE to do to feel good about myself and take care of myself.
When I neglect my self-care it effects everything, my sleep, health, mood (watch out)… basically everything. So now with a baby my self-care is even more important. I need to take care of myself for her!
I was pretty convinced that I wouldn’t get any ‘baby blues’ because of my education and professional background. I remember during the pre-natal course the list of symptoms “fatigue, overwhelmed etc etc.” I thought to myself duh- that only makes sense I’m going to have these symptoms with a new baby, a living thing that is dependent on me and I’m going to have TONS of new stuff to learn. Side note- I have no experience with babies. So the thought of changing diapers, breast feeding etc … it seemed normal to me that I would feel overwhelmed.
When my precious little bundle of joy arrived I was hit with a dose of reality, sore when sitting, spraying myself with a bottle, cramping, breast engorgement all the ‘joys’ you don’t seem to hear of. And then there is motherhood, the enormous responsibility of caring for this beautiful tiny human. This is a responsibility that nobody can describe. I think I was on an adrenaline high for the first few weeks of motherhood. I think my biggest challenge at first was latching, thankfully the breastfeeding client helped but there were times that I would sit and cry while my daughter fed because of the pain. Then I would feel guilty for crying in front of her- yes I was being really hard on myself.
I think my first true experience with ‘baby blues’ came later, when I couldn’t attend my best friend’s bachelorette due to multiple night feedings and my baby not being on a bottle etc etc etc…... I felt kind of trapped. Well my self- critic immediately kicked in and said “what a horrible person you must be to think that you are trapped because of your baby,” gee thanks self- critic. I’m not a horrible person or mother for having that thought, motherhood/ parenthood is an adjustment and I think it was the first time that I realized I couldn’t do what I wanted when I wanted. I didn’t resent my daughter or being a mother but the situation. Through these times (and many more I probably don’t recall or haven’t listed) I relied on my self-care techniques listed below to help me.
Things I didn’t think about at first
- the change to my routine, not being able to ‘really’ do stuff on my schedule, there is some flexibility with a new born but not a lot. I am a do-er and not used to watching TV, I couldn’t remember the last time I binged watched a show (I know its bad).
- None of my friends had babies the same age. How would I ever meet new moms, would I be isolated and alone?
Things I have learned so far
- I absolutely love how much life has slowed down (despite the fact that time seems to pass so quickly without you knowing…OMG she’s 3 months already when did that happen??)
- Lounging around with your newborn, soaking up precious cuddles, gazing at the new bundle of joy for hours on end is time well spent, also time you won’t get back… so why rush to schedule or return to a ‘normal life’ Mind you I also understand this tends to be a luxury of your first born, as with subsequent children there are other demands.
- The incredible strength that women have to endure many challenges and hurdles when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood. From watching a very close friend of mine have a premature baby and exude pure optimism despite all fear and chaos around her, to the stories I hear from all my new mommy friends.
- Every baby and mother/ family interaction is different. There is NO place for judgment or comparisons when it comes to motherhood or parenthood.
Now onto self-care.
20 Self Care Tips That helped (are continuing to help me)
I am a light sleeper and not a good napper, so saying nap when the baby does doesn’t work for me. Instead I would intentionally pick an earlier bed time and stay in bed later.
2. Get connected- Join Groups, Find a Community
So finding other moms through the early years centre, mommy connections, mom and baby yoga/ fitness classes helped me connect with other women who were experiencing similar challenges and changes as me. I find this key to keep myself in check about relaxing and understanding that there is no parenting handbook and essentially everyone is winging it and doing the best they can! It is so validating to you support from other moms as you transition into motherhood.
3. Go Shopping
Retail therapy; treat yourself after a few weeks to some new clothes. Seeing the maternity label on the clothing I found would bring my mood down, the waistbands were all stretched out from my belly and despite being comfortable did nothing to flatter my current awkward transitionally new mommy shape. It takes a while to get used to this’ new body… if only rolls were as cute on adults as they are on babies! Anyways, treat yourself to some comfy new clothing that you aren’t swimming in that are still functional.
My advice is schedule these appointments, maybe you need to wait until the baby is a month old and feeding times are more predictable but seriously book these appointments. Whatever you did to ‘pretty’ yourself up before continue to do it. No it’s not selfish to leave for 1-2 hours for a little pampering.
Once you receive the doctors green light incorporate light exercises into your daily routine, doesn’t have to be beast mode. Small things like bridges with baby on your belly, or pushups from your knees and kissing baby’s forehead OR even a brisk walk. Get the body moving, it activates those endorphins- feel good chemicals
Do you enjoy Second Cup or Starbucks? I sure do, lattés were always a treat to much self. Now after a day of waking, changing, feeding, burping and repeat there is nothing as soothing to me as a nice warm latté, bring on fall and the pumpkin spice, reminds me of being wrapped in a big comfy sweater… what is your treat to yourself?
7.Take Time to Shower
During the first few weeks or months it seems like a luxury, but serious take peoples help have them watch the baby for half hour even if the baby is sleeping and give yourself a nice warm shower. I would often bring the baby on a play mat into the steamy bathroom and giver her diaper free time, if she got fussy I would sing but the water was still extremely refreshing, the au de baby puke is not always appealing….
8.Get Up & Dressed
So this kind of goes along with taking a shower but doesn’t have to. I recall reading an article years back about applying for jobs online and doing telephone interviews at home, if you are in your PJ’s it was a different effect mentally then if you were to get ready let you were actually going into a job interview. I applied the same mentality (most days) to being home with a newborn. Getting up, changing out of my PJ’s made me feel ready to take on the day. Doing my hair is a gift to myself since it is usually a venture itself (this goes along with a new long shower!). Some days I have a ‘lazy Sunday’ during the week and stay in PJ’s with baby puke on me soaking up all the cuddles too.
9.Take help/ Ask for help
Ok so I really suck at this one, I like to feel in control and asking for help I used to see as a weakness but it is actually strength. Asking for help isn’t easy but there should be no shame to asking. I would feel ‘guilty’ for the thought of taking time off. Don’t feel guilty for taking time off, most likely you are in the same house as your baby still and using the washroom, or doing laundry, taking a nap whatever it is you need to do.
So as I said earlier I am a do-er I am not used to prolonged periods of time within the house, I embraced it and my precious cuddles but I also liked getting out once a day even if it was for 20min. I trip to the grocery store, coffee shop, walk around the block. Fresh air or a change of scenery is good for you and for the baby.
11.Don’t Stop Being You
So you don’t have, as much time to dedicate to your interests doesn’t mean you should stop altogether. This self-care will be quite individualized and will most likely combine some of the other tips listed. It could involve continuing to read, gardening, doing crafts stuff that you enjoy!
All the little moments give you time to slow down and be mindful, which in this fast paced society we don’t get a lot of time to do. This is a joy of motherhood. For example, when you are feeding your baby take a few deep breaths, focus your attention on what you hear, see, smell, and feel. What sounds is your baby making, how does your baby smell? How does it feel to hold them? Use your five senses to really embrace the moment.
13.Feed Your Body Well
This one can be particularly difficult adjusting to a new schedule, sleep deprivation and the ravenous state of your body if you are lucky enough to be breastfeeding. Good food fuels your body, so make sure you eat and drink high quality ingredients. It’s great for your kid to see you practicing self-care because you model healthy behavior. When your little one starts solids it is also easy to puree up what you are eating, or if you do baby led weaning to feed that baby what you are having.
If you have a partner and your life has gone from 2 to 3 (or more) don’t forget about your partner. The sleepless nights, the moment-by-moment learning can put a strain on the relationship. Remember the reasons that created this little bundle of joy! Eventually your children will grow up and eventually move out (HA who is thinking about this with a new baby, not me!...) anyways the point remains the same that your relationship shouldn’t go on the backburner. Take time for the two of you, which could present itself in a number of different ways, going out for dinner-with or without baby, resuming sex again, cuddling on the couch watching a movie (we took advantage of Stars and Strollers, where the little one could come and we could enjoy movies https://www.cineplex.com/Theatres/StarsAndStrollers).
15.Trust Your Intuition
Listen to yourself, to your gut. Tune that dial into you and your baby and remember there is no “perfect” mother. Do what you are comfortable with and what feels right to you.
16. Journal It
This is a great way to cope with the overwhelming components of becoming a parent. Using an app or a notebook is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head. Also, your forget so much of what’s happened.
17. Get Silly!
Dance/ sing, be goofy! Put on your favorite song, crank the music and sing or dance like no one is watching, well maybe your little one but they are judging you! I do this with my daughter sometimes and she loves it, watching me be silly or dancing around with her in the carrier.
18. Spend time doing nothing!
Sometimes its ok to do nothing but lay in bed enjoy your new baby and your cuddles. Its great for bonding but can also is restful and calming too, especially during the first few months. It’s also a great way to refuse visitors, which is ‘ok’ to do! If you aren’t feeling it be honest.
19. Deep Breathing or Meditation
If you don’t feel like you have the time to meditate or it isn’t your thing, take the time to practice deep breathing. It can be 2 minutes a day that you sit aside to sit in silence and just focus on your breathing. This also helps when becoming frustrated or overwhelmed when dealing with your baby. I know it helps me to practice when I am calm each day and then when my baby is fussy and I leave the room I can take a few deep breaths and come back feeling refreshed. I personally find that it is not productive to try to practice deep breathing when you are already frustrated or overwhelmed if you don’t practice daily.
20. Holding Space For Yourself
So much like deep breathing or meditation, this concept requires setting time aside for yourself each day. Ideally it would be the same time, but I don’t find that possible with the ever-changing schedule. Holding space for yourself requires sitting there and really doing a check-in with yourself. How to you feel physically? Where are you holding tension? Where do you feel pain? How do you feel emotionally? What thoughts are going through you mind? How do you feel? We spend so much time caring for others, checking in on them, this time is for you and to checking in on YOU. You matter too!!
**Caring for your baby is a daily accomplishment, and feeling accomplished is a great feeling, right! . Caring for a baby is an equivalent to a marathon not a sprint, you don’t want to burn yourself out so stay conditioned! Funny I would use a running reference since I hate running.
Why is self- care so difficult?
Putting yourself first is hard, especially since most of use did not learn to practice self-care while growing up. Making emotional health a priority is challenging, new mom or not. If you care for yourself, you will feel less resentful, less stressed and have more energy. It is often our mind chatter or negative self talk that gets in the way of taking time for yourself.
Common thoughts are:
- The demands of others are more important than my needs
- My role is to care for others
- There is no extra time in the day to do anything extra
- It is selfish to do something for myself/ I feel selfish when I do something for myself
- I feel like others will judge me (parents, relatives etc.)
- I feel like people will be angry with me/ I’m afraid people will be angry with me
- I think its healthy to care for everyone else
- Putting a timeline on when you will start caring for yourself again, ex. When my baby is 6 months old I will start to focus on myself again
- The endless “to-do” list
Find time to be compassionate towards yourself, reprogram your self-talk.
If you really struggle with self-care or being compassionate towards yourself I would recommended speaking to a counsellor or other professional.
Try this exercise
Find a quiet place, and close your eyes. Start by focusing on your breathing. Practice slow, deep breathing, focus on your abdomen rising and falling. Take two minutes focusing on your breathing. Its “ok” if other thoughts come in, gently direct your focus back to your breath.
After focusing on your breathing repeat to yourself a statement of self- compassion such as: “ I got this,” “ I am doing a great job,” “I am a great mother,” “taking care of me benefits the baby”
Make the statement using your own words/ language so that it is more believable to you!
This is good to practice even when you are sleep deprived. With a lack of sleep it becomes difficult to manage one's emotions.
Remember on planes you must mask yourself first then your child because “taking care of you benefits the baby.”
Each time you experience thoughts telling you that something else is more important than taking care of you, you are telling yourself that you aren’t important and you are! Your baby needs you! When these thoughts sneak there way in and tell you that you have to make dinner, do laundry, whatever it is that HAS to get done and take priority over your self care. STOP, take a deep breath, tell yourself that you are important and repeat the exercise above. It may feel strange or silly at first, that because a lot of the time we don’t spend focusing on ourselves. Try it for a few days before you judge its value. Ideally you would like to gradually increase the amount of time.
Combining the breathing with ‘holding space’ for yourself is one self- care routine I rely on heavily. It was awkward at first but overtime I realized how much I didn’t listen to myself and wasn’t attuned to my own feelings or thoughts. Try it for a few days before you judge it.
Let me know what you think, I love to hear comments, your self-care techniques (especially if I am missing some) and feedback.
You are all beautiful amazing mothers.
Love to you all.