My son is now 3 ½ and motherhood feels so natural that it’s hard to believe how uncomfortable I was with the concept as a new mother.
I remember struggling with everything and often failing to leave the house while on maternity leave. I recall feeling like a bad friend who didn’t respond to messages and texts. I hated the way I looked and felt. My house was a mess and I was a bigger mess. The only thing that kept me going was my sweet little babe.
While I wouldn’t trade motherhood for the world, those first weeks were some of the toughest of my entire life. We’re only planning on one child, but if I had it to do all over again, here is what I would tell my postpartum self:
It’s ok to ask for and accept help. This one was so hard for me. In fact, it was so tough that I barely did it. I am very much the type to want a clean house and fully stocked fridge even when life is crazy. So it was almost impossible for me to ask a visiting family member to take the trash out for me. It was difficult to allow my mom to start folding a basket of laundry without her being asked. I wish I had come to terms with the fact that it was ok and that many visitors want to be useful.
Let yourself be taken care of, too. A few weeks after I gave birth, my husband sent me to a day spa for a few hours for a massage, manicure, pedicure and haircut. I felt incredibly guilty even though it was delightful. Looking back, I am shaking my head. OF COURSE I needed some pampering, and it was ok to accept!
It’s ok to tell people to back off (nicely). Our son was a fussy baby who was only completely calm and cuddly for a few hours around dinnertime, the entire period I was on maternity leave. I craved those few wonderful hours, but guess when most guests would come by? I remember being brokenhearted watching everyone else hold my rarely calm newborn. Looking back, I should have politely requested a few nights a week with no visitors.
Remember to feed yourself well. I felt out of whack and was so exhausted that I would often eat whatever I could grab a handful of. Meal prepping breakfast, snacks and lunch would have helped so much.
If something doesn’t go as planned, you are not a failure. My struggle was breastfeeding. Though I made it 8 months, my supply was simply never enough and I had every problem under the sun. I ended up exclusively pumping and supplementing with formula. At the time, I felt like it was the end of the world. Now I know a fed baby is a loved baby. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself.
Get away, even if it’s just for an hour. It is ok to simply need a break. It does not mean you love your baby any less! Whether it is wandering Target or getting your hair trimmed, it’s amazing what a little bit of time alone can do.
It’s ok to space out sometimes. I have never been a tv person. But I was during maternity leave! I’m not saying I recommend endless television, but it’s ok to watch something a little mind numbing when your life is chaotic.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary. We all know what a house with a newborn looks like. Laundry piles, bottle parts and baby equipment everywhere. But if you can, try to keep at least one bedroom calm and neat. You need at least one retreat in your home when life is crazy.
Deactivate social media. For some people, social media is their link to the outside world when a baby arrives. But for me, it was detrimental. While I eventually deactivated Facebook after I had my son, I would tell myself to do it much sooner. If there was ever a time when comparison, unsolicited advice and scare tactics were unnecessary, it was those first few months of motherhood.
Go for more walks. This is one of my favorite memories of my first weeks of being a mom. I would now tell myself to go for more walks. It’s ok to not have it all together. It’s ok if you don’t feel like getting dressed. But walks are amazing, good for your physical and mental health. I remember feeling accomplished if I simply took my baby for a walk around the neighborhood. I needed more of that.
There you have it. I definitely enjoy being a mom and know those rough first weeks were worth it in the end. But if you feel that you are struggling, please take my advice!
If you feel you may be dealing with feelings of postpartum depression, please contact your healthcare provider or call 911 immediately in case of an emergency.