Apart from the usual challenges that come with taking care of a newborn, I know that many moms are terrified of the P word: Postpartum.
It’s not always easy for a mom to recover from the ordeal that is childbirth. Yes, there is the physical aspect of your body needing to heal very well, since it has been stressed to the most painful point whether you go through a normal or cesarean delivery. But what we sometimes overlook is that there is the mental aspect of getting into the groove of being a mother to a newborn. This does not come quickly to some moms, as they experience dealing with postpartum depression that is further aggravated by hormones.
All moms are different, so there is no surefire way of determining how well you will cope with life after you give birth. However, there are some things that you can do to have a better mindset and hopefully keep up with the changes that this time will bring.
Take care of yourself.
You’re probably wondering how on earth you will do this when the first few weeks of a newborn’s life are full of sleepless nights and changes and feedings! The thing is, you have to remember that your body has been through a lot. Experts estimate that the postpartum recovery period takes about six weeks. In this time, you will deal with vaginal or abdominal soreness, sore nipples, leaky breasts and more. Alleviating these symptoms will go a long way in making sure that you’re able to tend to the needs of your baby better. They can be simple things like eating healthy, applying a warm compress to achy breasts, taking hot showers, and getting massages. Enlist your partner, your parents, your family to help out with things at home so your body can have time to adjust.
Do things that make you happy.
You should be allowed to expose yourself to things that put you in a good mood. Whether it’s binge-watching a favorite show, going to a concert, or having a quiet spa afternoon, any form of self-care that makes you feel more like yourself is allowed. Having a glass of wine once in a while is fine, as long as you wait two to three hours before breastfeeding. You shouldn’t ever have to feel like a bad mother for wanting a bit of time to yourself so that you can be better for your child. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Just get out of the house and get some fresh air.
Be okay with using a few shortcuts.
Nobody’s expecting you to whip up a feast for your family if you have been exhausted from being up all night. Have a stack of takeout or delivery menus on hand in case you need to order something for dinner quickly. Have some postpartum-friendly clothing so that you won’t feel like you need to bounce back quickly to fit into your old jeans. Breezy and comfortable cotton underwear and clothing are best. You might also want to start living in yoga pants! You can ask for help from a friend or family members to help with other chores, or watching your older kid/s for a few hours.
Be conscious of your emotions, and seek help if necessary.
Postpartum depression is actually pretty common if you think about it: some sources say that about one in four women will experience it. If you feel depressed, hopeless, sad, or incredibly anxious for more than two weeks straight, speak to your doctor. I know there’s so much stigma about dealing with postpartum depression and it’s not going to be easy to acknowledge that you have it, but the truth is it’s never your fault. It’s not because you love your baby less. Most of the time, postpartum depression can be chalked up to hormones going haywire. Getting a professional’s help can put you on the right path back to feeling like yourself again.
I felt depressed after giving birth to Zion. I was young and I was figuring everything out. I was also doubting myself if I was being a good enough mom despite all the effort, love, and sleepless nights I was giving my baby. To cap it off, I hated my body post pregnancy. I just put so much pressure on myself. I wish I had accepted myself more, and I wish I knew everything I felt was normal and that everything will be okay.
Right now, I still look a few months pregnant after giving birth to Kai, and I’m fine with my belly. It took me nine beautiful months to grow my healthy baby, so I know it’ll take time before I get my body back. That’s totally fine. There are definitely harder days wherein I feel overwhelmed with the day to day tasks that come with being a mother of two, a partner, and someone who’s in charge of the house, the staff… the list goes on. I feel anxious sometimes. And then I just remind myself to take a step back, breathe, and remember that I am blessed with my family and with my life. I remind myself that it’s okay to feel those emotions. Meditation helps me a lot.
Find moms who just get it.
Once you have a baby, you’ll find yourself relating more and more to your mommy friends who have gone through the same thing. They will be able to relate to you when you have stories on soothing a fussy baby. They will also be able to give you some advice on how to deal with the little trivialities of infant care. If you find yourself falling into a deeper state of postpartum depression, they can be your support system while you can find your way into a healthier state of mind.
Put down your phone.
As much as I love using social media to stay connected, it can be the bane of a new mom’s existence. All the shiny, perfect photos of other moms will make her wonder if she’s doing something wrong or if she can be better at it. For the sake of your own sanity, remember that those photos on social media often don’t show the bigger picture, only the part people are comfortable sharing. So stop scrolling through your feed late into the night, and put your focus on the most important: your family and yourself.
I really admire moms who have emerged from dealing with postpartum with more wisdom. I also respect those who have learned to rise above their postpartum depression and find themselves again. No two mothers will ever have the same journey, but it’s really important that we support each other and make each other feel that they are not alone. These early weeks are just the beginning of an incredible adventure. There’s so much more to look forward to!