My son was born shortly after Labor Day, 2011 which, now, feels symbolic: it's the time of year when everyone says, "OK, it's time to get down to business again." As soon as he popped out, my partner and I hit the ground running as new parents (as all new parents do). I often think the first year or so felt like one very, very long day. Time moved differently, and I didn't have a solid night's sleep to demarcate one day from another. The things I did for myself in the first year of motherhood were, by and large, small gestures — snatches of personal time and ultimately insignificant rituals. Nevertheless, these were the things that kept me centered and, frankly, me in a time when I easily could have lost myself.
A new mom's postpartum period can be really dicey even under the best of circumstances. The general flood of all kinds of emotions, plus physical recovery, plus the learning curve of having a new baby, plus having to leave (at least some) aspects of your old life (like work) while managing so much change and responsibility (to say nothing of the possibility of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety) is overwhelming and exhausting.
However, something I don't think I've ever heard anyone say but which I nevertheless feel is true, is that the best possible person to manage your life is you. That means that you have to care for yourself and work to maintain some semblance of you. Self-care is not selfish; it's necessary on every level, not just for you but for your new family. This is not something I realized at the time but, looking back, I can see that my attempts at self-care were essential to my enjoyment of motherhood overall, but especially in year one.