Being right in the thick of new baby adjustment with my darling 7-week old, checking in on my emotional state, along with my community of new mamas is fresh on my mind. So let’s have a little heart-to-heart and keep it real, shall we?
As a mama of many, I am still struck by what an emotional adjustment life is with a new baby. Even though, by baby number 8, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect, the combination of hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and the changes in family roles becomes a big old wave to ride out. All while caring for a sweet baby who is completely dependent on you, 24/7!
And just when you feel like you are getting a handle on things-the little voices of guilt try to creep in! For me-it may be a hint that what I am capable of doing is somehow not enough. Or it may be negative thoughts about my “not-quite-back-to-normal” body and the clothes that don’t quite fit yet. Unfair irritability towards my husband and kids, and tears that seem to rise up out of nowhere seem to be part of the package some days too.
Though normal and very real feelings, there are things I have learned to do to both accept this season of adjustment, while increasing my ability to cope. And remember, I’m in the midst of it all still. I’ll be taking my own advice here too!
1) Accept that these changes are normal and nothing to be ashamed of! None of us want to come across as weak or incapable-but I believe being honest is quite the opposite. Some women jump into life after a baby full-swing, feeling empowered and energetic very early after having a baby. I’ve been in this camp with some of my newborns-and have appreciated it in the moment. But for some, entering all of life’s demands too fast & too soon can prolong the adjustment period and can cause depression or anxiety months down the road. By then, the support systems are often gone, emotional health is assumed, and it can be much harder to reach out and get the help that is needed. I like to go slow…being authentic with what I am feeling and experiencing, while making sure I make the changes I need to in order to not become overwhelmed with daily life tasks.
2) Rest as much as possible. Lack of sleep is one of the biggest factors in an unsettled mood. I know that sometimes, especially with a baby that is up a lot at night, this can be a very hard reality to change. However, I have realized that I must make this a priority or I, and consequently my family-will really suffer. Go to bed early, nap in the day, sleep in if you can, call a friend or family member to snuggle the baby or watch the toddler. There is always a way to make sleep a priority, if you can…just do it!
3) Let some things go. It may be for a week or two, or it may be for months that certain jobs, responsibilities or even desires need to be filed for a season, guilt-free. The house may not be as clean, papers may not be as organized, and projects may have to be put aside. Believe me, I know this is not an easy thing to do. I love being on top of my game, and hate feeling like I’m not! To feel well, I need to change what the game looks like for a time-then I can rest in that.
4) Be open & authentic with your feelings. We all have people in our lives that would love to do nothing more than to be a real friend to us in a time of need. This is a blessing and a gift to accept with open arms! I believe God always gives what we need-if we’ll only just receive it! And it may come in unexpected packages. Reaching out frees up others to do the same.
5) Take care of your body. The practical choices to promote good overall health really does help. Drinking lots of purified water, reducing or eliminating caffeine, making healthy food choices & taking good quality supplements, spending time outdoors everyday, being around others who make me laugh, and making a little time for exercise are all simple choices that make a big difference in my overall mood each day.
6) Do all that you can to enjoy your new baby. For me, wearing my baby as much as possible helps us bond, reduces crying, and comforts him in the fussy times . There are a variety of carriers to try…my favorites are my slings* and my Ergo*. Sit down to feed your baby-and resist the urge to multitask. Though I do occasionally check emails or read while nursing, I know that this is my special time to marvel in the cuteness of this wee creation!
Here’s a simple way to remember what we need for ourselves in order to be well:
S= Sleep & Rest
T= Time for Yourself
How have you taken care of your emotional health after having a baby?
Note: Post-partum depression or anxiety occurs in about 1 out of 6 women. Do not hesitate to call your local crisis line, post-partum support group or a friend right away if you are experiencing desperate feelings of sadness, or feelings of harming yourself or your baby. It is possible to get help and you don’t need to suffer alone!