Bringing home baby can be one of the happiest moments in life. It can also be the beginning of some of the hardest. Here are some concrete ways to cope with the transition into motherhood.
First and foremost, postpartum mood disorders are common and nothing to be ashamed of. This post is not attempting to provide the cure for postpartum depression or anxiety and you should always talk to your healthcare provider and keep them informed on persistant and unusal thoughts and feelings that you may be experiencing.
Not everyone will have an extreme case of depressions, but up to 85% of women report experiencing what is known as the baby blues. These intense mood swings that take you from cloud 19 to the dark night of the soul are nothing to shake a stick at. In my experience, these are things that have helped me to move through this phase and enjoy the fleeting moments with my baby.
Here are some treid and true ways to help you adjust to life as a new mom and enjoy the process of doing so.
Make your bed everyday.
My first experience with anxiety was during my first pregnancy. I didn’t realize what it was at the time, but now having cycled through it a few times it is so obvious.
I would get so worked up about any clutter in the house, or if the floors got dirty right after I’d cleaned them. I was so anal about keeping everything pristine, for really no good reason at all.
This didn’t stop when the baby came. If anything my anxiety deepened, but my obsessions shifted from the house to the baby.
I don’t say make your bed everyday so that your house looks nice for unexpected guests or so you have a nice place to take photos of your baby.
I say it because that small act signals to your brain that you can control circumstances outside of yourself.
I say it because the visual of even one neat space in a house that feels chaotic is a piece of serenity for your mind. It is a small and simple way to feel better, and it works.
Try NOT to cook.
Even if you love to cook and it is a meditative practice that brings peace to your everloving soul, avoid cooking as much as possible at least in the beginning.
Whatever shape that takes for your family, don’t have judgement around it, just trust that taking this break is best for you and your baby.
Whether you stock up on freezer meals while you are pregnant, have a meal train set up by friends and family or splurge on takeout more than usual - it is more than ok to allow others to help you meet the basic need of nourishing yourself.
Your body is healing, exhausted and trying to sustain another life, you deserve a break and to be cared for, so let it happen without resistance.
Set clear boundaries.
People love when babies are born. Who can blame them, babies are reminders of the miracle that is life, and we all want a piece of that natural high pie.
New moms though, maybe don’t love people all over their babies so much. New moms, probably want to figure out how to nurse in private. New moms, most likely don’t want Uncle Ned who doesn’t believe in the flu shot to be caressing the new baby’s hand.
If something makes your inner animal instincts flip out, that’s cool and you shouldn’t make this period of time about practicing sitting in discomfort, there will be plenty of chances for that later.
Hire your partner, mom or close friend to be your bouncer. When you are over the visiting hours, give them a signal and let them be in charge of clearing the room.
Send out an email announcement with the baby’s photo and birth details to any potential visitors with clear times that are appropriate for coming by, and with any specific guidelines. It can be as simple as ending the email with something like, "We can’t wait for you to meet Baby! Please be smoke and fragrance free for your visit per doctors request.”
Work on the announcement when those pesky Braxton Hicks are keeping you up and if you start to worry about offending anyone - know that you’ll be worrying less when the situations arise and you’ve made your boundaries crystal clear.
Another more subtle way to set some boundaries is by setting quiet hours on your phone. You can decide when and for how long, but creating a pocket of ping free time in your day makes it easier to get some much needed rest and quiet.
Buy the right clothes!
Baby gear is deserving of it's own post, but all kids gotta wear clothes, so I'm including it here. You can really make life easier with just a few simple clothing selections for your little one.
First, make sure to get some of the kimono style onsies. These make dressing a newborn with a floppy head so much easier and less terrifying.
Next you need to stock up on pajamas with zippers.
Finally, put your baby to bed in a nightgown. Easy diaper access is life changing at 2am, and 3am, 4am, 5am, you get the idea.
Let go of expectations, savor in acceptance.
I spent the beginning days of my firstborns life seeped in anger, blame and jealousy over the birth experience I thought I “should” have had.
For many mothers, breast vs. bottle feeding brings up similar emotions. Perhaps family or work circumstances bring on the shoulds, but whatever is taking you away from sitting in total acceptance of the experience you are in - it is so not worth it.
Babies simply do not keep and there is nothing we can do to stretch those precious moments out any further.
So even if your shoulds sound more like, "I should enjoy this more," or "I should feel differently," your worries are wasting the experience of what is. And when you have a newborn, what is is extremely fleeting.
They won't be tiny for long, so savor in knowing that this too shall pass and all you "should" do is be present.
As with everything in our modern lives, parenthood brings on an onslaught of choices that must be made. Will you have a natural or medicated birth, breast or bottle feed, daycare or at home caregiver, the list is never ending.
However, unlike picking out what you’ll have off of the brunch menu, the choices we make as parents are under tireless scrutiny from all directions. “When you were kids we just…,”
“Well I could never do that,”
“I read a study that said…”
Ultimately you are responsible for your child, you love them the most and you make the decisions, so trust yourself to make the best ones you can and don’t worry about what “everyone else” might think.
Keep parameters around social media.
Instagram felt innocent enough when my daughter was first born, sharing photos of my little cherub, scrolling to pass the many hours breastfeeding, getting “inspired” by other moms, but it slowly spiraled out of control.
You see, it wasn’t just the massive time suck, taking my attention away from what was right in front of me - and most important to me, it was the inevitable mindfuck of seeing the many “highlight reels” of other mothers doing it better than I was. It wasn't helpful and it was hurting my self esteem.
The thing about social media platforms is that they are designed to be addictive, using similar tactics that slot machines and other forms of gambling use. Their goal is to get and keep your attention. Pay attention to how many times a day you pick up your phone and automatically open social media with no real purpose or intention and it might scare you a little.
So if you are struggling to spend less time scrolling, more drastic measures like removing the app from your phone or even temporarily disabling your account mght be helpful.
To make the most of your precious time with your new baby, keep strict parameters around the time you give to being on those platforms and keep the comparison in check.
In the world of mindfulness, multi-tasking is like a four letter word (a really long four letter word) so let me clarify, do it with intention.
I’m not advocating that you try to catch up on phone chats with old college buddies while you change diapers and brew tea, but becoming a mom means juggling some extra balls and sometimes that takes doing several things at once. Time is our most precious resource, so make proper use of it.
Instead of scrolling mindlessly on facebook while you feed the baby, pin some easy meals and stock up on meal plans for when that meal train ends.
Work your way through an audiobook or keep up with a favorite podcast while you fold the massive pile of laundry sure to accumulate.
Pair a mindless task, one that you can do subconsciously, with a task that requires focus and then allow for your attention to be fully encompassed by baby for pockets throughout the day. Creating these meaningful practices make everyday chores so much more purposeful.
So save those catch up calls for your next drive to baby story time, and then once you get there, be fully there.
Enjoy this magical time mama, for while it is impossible to see in the moment exactly how, this phase of life will leave you forever changed in ways that aren’t so easily put into words.
It really does go too fast.