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Welcome to motherhood
No one said that being a mother was an easy job. Its quit simply the hardest job around. The reality of this is often lost on new parents who may understand the words, but will never understand the impact of these words until the day comes. After 48 hours of recovering, the hospital will thrust a helpless newborn into your arms, and trust you with their lives. Many parents get home and look at each other, saying, “now what?”
As if this situation isn’t difficult enough, mix in stress, anxiety or postpartum depression. It can become extremely overwhelming for new mothers. The first few weeks everyone wants to help and meet the new baby, but with time they will all return to their lives leaving mom to balance the needs of the family and herself.
Learning to find a rhythm or routine will come with time, but until it does the stress of not sleeping can compound the worry many mothers feel. Will they make a mistake that can harm the baby? What if something goes wrong? Will I be good enough? These thoughts will cross every mother’s mind at some point. Its important to maintain a strong commitment to taking care of yourself.
This may seem impossible some days, when the baby is demanding attention all the time, when you cant wait to get a full nights sleep, or you are a walking zombie, but even small things can make a huge difference.
Rely on those willing to help out. In the beginning, everyone is going to offer to help with the new baby. Take their help! If grandma wants to play with the baby, use that time to take a nap, take a long bath, or get your nails done. Any small act of self care can be rejuvenating. Many times new mothers experience guilt about not spending every moment with their baby, but if the baby is well cared for then they will enjoy the novelty playing with someone new.
Make sure to exercise. Empirical research shows this helps improve anxiety and depression. Although in the beginning this thought made me laugh, I thought, “how do I do that with a newborn?” There are ways. Take the baby with you and walk, push a stroller, carry them in a sling, or pull them behind you on a bicycle. When the weather is cold find a gym or class that has child care. Many gyms these days provide this service free with your membership. Even yoga studios are offering this service. Another option are mommy and me classes. Here you can exercise and bring the baby with you.
Stay social. Being a new mom can consume your life. You are in a never-ending cycle of cleaning, cooking, feeding, bathing diapers, laundry, and on and on and on. This can quickly lead to isolation, which is known to exacerbate depression and anxiety. Make time to join a baby friendly group such as a breastfeeding mothers group, or a mommy book club. You can make lunch dates with friends, visit relatives, whatever works for you. But make an effort to get out of the house and engage with other people.
Making purposeful efforts to keep yourself healthy and active will go a long way to combating depression, anxiety and stress. It is definitely challenging to do these things when you are consumed with a new baby that relies on you for everything. But remember, if you are at your worst then you are incapable of giving your best. When you think like this, self care becomes an act of giving rather than of taking. If you want to be the best mom to your new baby, then set aside time for yourself. You’ll be less likely to develop anxiety, depression or become over whelmed with stress.
Laundry photo available from Shutterstock
Brennan, M. (2015). Surviving Motherhood. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 28, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/balanced-life/2015/11/surviving-motherhood/