In truth, having a baby is a massive upheaval. To your body, to your lifestyle, and also to your sense of self. When you have a baby it’s not just the baby that’s born, it’s your identity as a mother. And, yes, that’s still true if it’s not your first baby. Matrescence, or the process of becoming a mother is a chemical and sociological process we’ll look at more in a future blog.
In this blog we’ll get real about life with a newborn. And what you can do to look after yourself. Because the old adage that you can’t pour from an empty cup is true. It’s not just that you deserve to look after yourself as a treat. You are a human too, that doesn’t stop when you become a mother. And that means you have needs that need to be met too. Here’s my top two recommendations.
1. Lower your expectations
This isn’t so much a practical tip, more of a mindset one. But it’s absolutely foundational. The world of new motherhood can be a whirlwind. It can feel competitive - with lots of advice and must dos coming from friends, family, social media gurus. And the number one piece of advice I can give you is to try and shake off most of it.
You’ll have people telling you to shower everyday, because it’ll help you feel better. To ensure you have nutritious foods. To wear make-up so you feel like yourself. To read to your baby everyday.
My recommendation is to only do the things that feel right. To stop comparing yourself to others. If your friend is up, dressed and out of the house by 9am everyday, it doesn’t mean she’s got it together more than you. She might be doing that because it’s what she needs to feel okay. She might be doing it because life genuinely is a breeze in the baby department. But the point is, you do what’s right for you. If you’re in your dressing gown all day watching daytime TV, who cares?
This time, more than any other in your life, is a time to give up external expectations. To forget the ‘shoulds’. Housework isn’t important. Preparing food from scratch isn’t important. If your pre-schooler has a bit more time in front of CBeebies than usual, that’s fine. Focus on keeping you and your baby safe. That’s enough. It really is.
2. Be proactive in asking for support
Unfortunately our society no longer rallies around new parents. Ideally you’d have an army of friends and family looking after you while you look after your baby. These days we’re a lot more compartmentalised, separated out into our nuclear family units. And the time allowed for paternity leave is pathetic.
But just as this time is one to truly let go of keeping on top of the housework, or other expectations about what we ‘should’ be doing, it’s also the time to be brave in asking for help.
I don’t know your circumstances so I don’t know who you’ve got in your circle. I do know that often friends and family are waiting for an invite to get involved - they just need a bit of direction. This is not the time to be coy if people ask how you’re doing. Be honest. And be specific about how they can help. For example:
“Thanks so much for asking. I’d love a bit of company and a hot meal sometime if you don’t mind?”
“Would you mind holding her for 15 minutes while I go and have a shower/bit of fresh air?”
“That pile of washing up is really getting to me and I can’t put him down right now. Would it be ok if we chat in the kitchen and you help me clear it?”
If you don’t have people around you, I highly recommend joining an online parenting group. In York, both York Mumbler and York Natural Nurturing Network are friendly, helpful parenting groups hosted by Facebook. Parents often ask for help on there, whether it’s about meeting up and getting some adult company, passing on outgrown clothes, or recommendations for soothing grouchy babies.
The other important thing to do, wherever possible, is to take time for yourself. Ideally without your baby, if possible. To remind yourself you exist as a human in your own right, and have your own needs.
Post-natal massage is perfect for this. It gives you a space where you can leave all the demands at the door and be nurtured yourself. Importantly, it gently soothes your body, increasing blood flow and ‘happy hormones’ and helping you heal after the stresses of pregnancy and childbirth.
If you’re reading this and wondering what to ask for from friends and family after your baby’s born, put a postnatal massage on your list. Your future self will thank you.
And if you’ve recently had a baby and feel like the wheels are coming off, I really hope you read this, then 1. lower your expectations and 2. reach out for support. And then, 3. book yourself a massage! You more than deserve it!
To ask any questions about pregnancy or postnatal massage or book your session, simply contact me here.