It's so hard to feel like yourself after childbirth. Growing and birthing a human is a huge ordeal, and it's over you don't go back to feeling "normal" right away (or honestly ever, really). To matters worse, you have to find time to take care of yourself,while you care for a tiny human, existing only on caffeine and the distant memory of sleep. I am so bad at this, you guys. So, I asked some moms I know to share with me (and you, dear readers) their best tricks to help them feel like themselves when they're postpartum.
It turns out that for a lot of the moms I spoke with, it's the little things that ended up making a difference, which is good, because us new moms generally don't have the time or energy to do much more than we're already doing. Most said they try to prioritize self-care, which honestly made me cringe a little, because I am terrible at self care. However, when I tried some to the little things they recommended, like putting on clean clothes (even just another pair of yoga pants), wearing lipstick, taking a walk, seeing a friend, or taking a shower, I did start to feel better. Little by little, I felt more like me again and not just somebody's mother.
To be honest, I don't think I will ever be the same person I was before I had kids. I have different priorities, a different shaped body, and way less free time and sleep than I used to. But, for the moms I spoke with, part of being OK is cutting yourself some serious slack, realizing that you have to give yourself time to recover, reclaiming old hobbies, and finding new things to make you feel awesome. I am definitely going to give some of these a try. (Well, maybe after I get some damn sleep.)
"Shower and put on a little makeup every day (if you like makeup to begin with, that is). Sleep and sleep some more. When you are cleared to drive, go get a manicure or a haircut and blowout or something all by yourself. Just know that you can take a little time for yourself, and the baby will still love you when you're back."
"Buy a pair of jeans that fits. You're in a weird 'not pregnant' state, but not usually back to normal, yet, either. I could not stand the thought of staying in maternity pants any longer, so I spent the money and bought the jeans. I was a normal human again."
"I got up every day took a quick shower, and picked out an outfit to wear. My mom taught me that — always get dressed — even if it was just a cute clean sweatsuit or another pair of pajamas."
"Getting a massage. It put me in my body in a different way. Also, using candles with a nice scent that wasn't spit-up or Similac, and taking vitamins because my body was and is still healing."
"Maybe I'm weird, but I gave myself permission to wear stretchy pants, or no pants, and stay in bed. With my first child, I showered and put on actual clothes every day, and I was exhausted. With the second two, I showered and then returned to bed, maybe the couch if I was feeling adventurous, and watched crappy TV or read, with the baby next to me in a bassinet. That, and asking for help so I could sleep, got me back on my game faster because I took the time to let my body heal."
"I really love to cook, and I am often sick with nausea and vomiting my entire pregnancies, so getting in the kitchen and going gourmet while my husband wrangles the kids is one way I can feel normal again."
"Getting out of the house. Going for a walk at the mall, even to just window shop. Forcing myself to get out of the house made me feel so much better."
"Find the time to shower everyday, even if it's literally five minutes just to get a quick rinse. On some occasions I even put my baby in a rock 'n' play and brought it into the bathroom with me, and sang or talked to the baby while I showered."
"Get out without the baby. A couple of gins and a gossip with my besties, while dad had some one-on-one bonding time with the wee one was exactly what I needed to zap me out of the newborn haze."
"Still working on it but I'm hiring a babysitter for one morning per week so I can exercise. Mums and bubs classes do not at all seem relaxing to me, and I have twins. I'd rather just try to workout alone."
"Reframe. You are a new person every single day, including when you become a parent. Each and every experience you have changes you, one way or another. You were and are yourself, a changeable creature. Keep doing what you love, don't stress if what you love changes, don't put up with unreasonable expectations."
"So opposite of the way I was before I had kids but as a new mom after a bad night I would wear super dangly earrings or some other dressy thing to make myself feel cute. I was also a regular at a coffee shop with a really tight-knit community, and every morning I would pop the baby in the Moby, walk four blocks to the shop, and then pass the baby off to anyone who would take him. I think I have a photo of one of the baristas holding my baby in one hand and making coffee with the other. I would drink two strong cappuccinos, collect the baby, and walk home."
"Hair. I got a really good, but easy to maintain cut. A small amount of time on my hair and a big pair of sunglasses meant I always looked together. Even two days postpartum in a public toilet, trying to get my insides back in whilst my newborn and 20 month old were strapped in the buggy on the other side of the door, I emerged looking together."
"Painting a picture helped me when my little girl was a few months old and I was still struggling. It was kind of therapeutic and involved me going back to doing something that I loved to do before I had my baby. It helped me get back in touch with myself, and I could deal with being a mum again better afterwards."
"Because of my hyperemesis, I hardly ate during pregnancy, and cooking was out of the question. Being back in the kitchen felt like coming home. It's also been a good excuse to eat brownies on the regular."
"The thing that helped me most was recognizing that I wasn't a perfect self-sacrificing mom that women are pressured to me. I'm a multi-faceted flawed f*ck up of a human being, and that is totally cool. Acknowledging that I am human, that I need to read voraciously to stimulate my mind, buy makeup to make me feel sexy for me (and not to satisfy someone else), that I swear like a sailor, drink a little too much, and need my meds to help level off the anxiety and postpartum depression, helped me revel in the inherent strength behind my imperfections, and, it's ultimately making me a better mom."
"Spanx. I felt like I looked better, and felt more confident, as I recovered from birth."
"Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or new hair color. Get some exercise, even if it's just a gentle walk, it helps you get some endorphins flowing."
"I had my husband do a middle-of-the-night feeding with a bottle, while I slept. I know it's not recommended to skip nursing/pumping sessions early, but my supply was good so that one night didn't affect it. And the six straight hours of sleep I got were priceless. I felt like I could take on the world the next day."
"I had a really, really tough time with this. It was hard to feel like myself when myself had experienced such a major change. The only thing that made me feel happy/normal/separate from my identity as a mom was going back to work (in my case, grad school). I had the baby in May, and then had three months at home, mostly alone, with him. It almost killed me. I didn't feel happy again until I started classes and teaching again in September. I found that I needed to feel productive in a way that was totally separate from parenting in order to feel fulfilled as a human being."
"Nothing, really. My life was different. I was different, but things were also the same. I still watched Lord of the Rings too much, just this time with something gnawing on my boobs. I still ate too spicy food, just this time someone else suffered with me. Before I had kids, I worried about things I find silly, or even weird now. I guess 'feeling like myself' more meant realizing I was still me, and that I really didn't have to do any big gesture to get back to me."
"I did a nude photoshoot. Draping myself in lace and feathers helped me feel like my body belonged to me again."
"Everyday drink lots of water and get dressed. Get out of the house alone once in awhile. Put on an outfit that makes you feel confident, even if you're just staying at home. And always coffee. Also, having something to look forward to, especially since after having a baby the days kind of blur together. For me it was putting a little bit of money away everyday, so I could go by new clothes, once I lost some of the baby weight."
"I got back into my hobbies like crafting, trading card games, and video games. I think it really helped my mental state on even the worst days to go murder some pretend zombies, or kick someone's butt in a card game."
"Reading a book. That was one of the first things I did when I had a chance that helped to bring back control and normalcy that I was doing what I wanted to do, even if it wasn't for as long or I didn't reach as much in one sitting."
"Nothing in the world could have made me feel like myself without Lexapro as the base. I could have put on all the makeup, taken all the showers, and went to every Target within 50 miles, and I still would never have been OK without medicine. Once I got on my life-saving medication, getting a haircut made me feel like a fully formed human again. It was about making a decision that was just for me and just because I wanted to. Plus, I added a little hot pink for good measure."