Motherhood is seriously the best! More than I could have ever imagined. It’s a serious change though. The best description I’ve heard regarding the stage of life immediately after having a baby is “the fog of motherhood”. It perfectly describes the way I felt as I made my way through new motherhood. I’m here on the other side of it (mostly) to tell you that it does lift and your world will balance out again in it’s own way.
To me, “the fog of motherhood” was many things. Sometimes I felt like a zombie because of sleep deprivation. Sometimes I was so hyper focused on the baby, I couldn’t devote my attention to anything else. Hanging out with friends was different because I couldn’t split my attention between them and the baby. Breastfeeding was so mentally and emotionally consuming at times that I would forget to use the restroom, feed, and hydrate myself. I could barely remember to give my animals food and water. All of this on top of being very sore and weak after labor. “The fog” was thick.
Immediately after having our daughter, I didn’t feel like myself at all…and rightfully so! I fully expected hormonal shifts and some sort of physical recovery. I expected that my body would look very different, especially in the early weeks after giving birth. My expectations were reasonable and I was mentally prepared for a lot of it. There are just some things you can’t quite grasp, though, until you’re in the thick of it. During the early months, I think I had some degree of postpartum depression or anxiety. It was mild though. I think most of us go through it to some degree. Always, always reach out for help if you need it. Hindsight is 20/20 and there are some things that I have learned from my experience that I hope can help a few others.
Don’t let yourself become a hermit.
I get it! It’s so easy to just stay at home where you have a little more control. For me, going out brought up anxiety about how and where I was going to breastfeed. I still had no idea what I was doing and was very self-conscious. Then there was the diaper bag. What if I forgot something? What if the baby wont stop crying and we end up having to leave and go back home? Not the end of the world, but as a hormonal, new mother, these things mattered a lot to me!
Not only that, but it seemed like my conversational skills temporarily slipped away from me. My brain wouldn’t let me tear my attention away from anything other than this crazy experience of new motherhood. When I was with friends, I struggled to contribute to conversations in a meaningful way. We are our own biggest critics, so I’m sure I’m remembering it to be a little worse than it was. But, nevertheless, this is how I felt. It made me feel self-conscious and awkward. Holing myself up at home though was not the solution.
I knew I would have to deal with and figure all these things out eventually and of course, I did! Everything got easier the more I did it. Choosing to get out of the house for church, shopping, or gatherings with friends ended up being a great way to help me gain confidence. It’s also great to just be around other adults for a change!
Take care of yourself, too!
Did I mention I sometimes forgot to pee and feed myself?? My daughter was one of those babies who wouldn’t let you put her down EVER. For the first 4 months of her life it felt like I was holding her constantly. Wraps and carriers are awesome for this, by the way! Between that, breastfeeding, and exhaustion, I neglected myself. If I could go back with the mental clarity I have now, I would have set the baby down, crying or not, to grab a bite or use the bathroom. A few minutes of crying isn’t going to hurt her and it can help mom to feel a little refreshed when she comes back.
My husband and I joked that I would feed the baby and he would feed me. It’s weird but it was true! He helped by bringing me snacks and water while I was stuck on the couch feeding our daughter. Try to have some quick, healthy snacks in the house. Nothing that requires too much effort to make. Before the baby comes, you might think about assembling some freezer meals. There will be times when you just can’t stop and prepare a meal. Going out to eat is fine, but it’s not as healthy as home cooked most of the time. It was a relief to have those meals to fall back on when things got a little crazy.
Finding time to exercise
Aside from attending to my basic needs, at some point I knew I needed to find time to exercise. Exercising has always been a mood booster. But how do I fit it in and what do I do? I was heavy into yoga and running before I got pregnant. I ran two half-marathons in the previous 18 months and continued running up until week 34 of my pregnancy.
After birth, I did as my midwife instructed, and did as little as possible for a few weeks. I slowly increased my activity to mild house cleaning and walking. Then I attempted to run 7 weeks after giving birth. I jogged a few steps, felt like my organs were violently bouncing around inside of me, and decided to stop. It was still too early for me.
Not everyone fits the cookie cutter assumption that you will magically get back to everything after 6 weeks. That was a hard pill to swallow but I’m glad I listened to my body. Exercising before your body is ready can do more harm than good. I’m not going to go into detail about what exercises you should and shouldn’t do. I’m not an expert but I did do some research regarding diastasis recti and pelvic floor improvement. I highly recommend you do the same. This is a program I have used and I’ve been really satisfied with the results!
Once you feel ready, carve out some time for exercise. This might mean that the only time you have to do a little yoga is after baby goes to bed. It may mean buying or borrowing a running stroller so you can exercise with baby. You may need to designate certain days of the week when your husband needs to make himself available to take the baby while you workout. Whatever plan you come up with, prioritize yourself during that time.
Buy some new clothes!
Even getting new clothes can rejuvenate! Go shopping by yourself if you can. Get a coffee and buy a few new outfits that make you feel great! I struggled with weight and body image but decided to embrace it and found styles that flattered me … and yes, they were in a bigger size than what I was used to. It didn’t matter though. What mattered was that it put a smile on my face and made me feel good. It’s also amazing how a good, supportive bra will make you look and feel. Those nursing bras are functional but that’s about it. I was so glad to not have to use those anymore.
Make time for your relationship.
When you’re in the thick of this parenting thing, it’s easy to unintentionally set your relationship with your husband aside. It’s going to happen to an extent because babies demand so much from us. Just be aware that it’s a potential pitfall. Your child needs to see mom and dad modeling a healthy, loving relationship, so make time for each other. Watch a movie together after baby is asleep. Go on a family walk and catch up on conversation. Hire a babysitter if you can and go on a date. We didn’t go on a date until our daughter was 4 months old. It was wonderful and rejuvenating for our relationship!
Find your tribe.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, go on Facebook and find some mom groups to be a part of. There are support groups for everything! Working moms, stay at home moms, breastfeeding, formula feeding, baby wearing, baby led weaning, traditional weaning, cloth diapering, running moms … the list is endless. Ask questions, maybe help other moms when they have questions, and share experiences. Find local groups like La Leche League and go to the meetings. It’s a little daunting to connect with new people, but it’s worth it hear that other moms are going through similar experiences. It makes you feel more normal.
I hope some of this helps. These are the things that stand out in my mind when I think back to this time in my life. Just know that you’re not alone and what you’re feeling is normal. Keep the lines of communication open with loved ones so they can help you. Most of all, be gracious and understanding of yourself. Allow yourself to move through this phase of your life at your own pace. I’m here to tell you that it’s normal and things will get better. It won’t look the same as before the baby arrived, but you will get used to your new routine and you’ll love it! You will get the hang of this mothering thing in your own way.