Perfection is having the baby I was growing for 40 (more or less) weeks inside my body finally out of my body, ready for kisses and snuggles. Still, and as wonderful as those initial newborn moments were, there were also times when I hesitated to ask for anything that I needed. At a time when all eyes were on my newborn and I was expected to act accordingly, there were things I needed as a new mom, I was just, sadly, too afraid to ask for them.
It was almost like now that I was a mom my wants and needs were besides the point. They needed to be put on hold for the sake of this new life I was now responsible for. After all, isn’t that we're always told mothers do for their children? Sacrifice anything and everything without so much as batting an eye? Now, this wasn’t something I was conscious of thinking and/or believing before (or even after, to be honest) I became a parent. In fact, I don’t think I really became aware of this thought at all until I was two kids in to this parenting gig. That’s a hell of a long time to be afraid to ask for what you need!
The thing is, friends, I don’t think my experience is all that uncommon. Moms always seem to be forgetting themselves. Is it because we are all afraid to ask for help, or is it that we don’t think there’s time to get our needs met with everything else we have to do? Regardless of the reasons why, I was actually afraid to ask for these things as a new mom, and you might be, too:
I honestly thought a mom spending time by herself right after she's had a baby means maybe that new mom just isn’t cut out for this whole parenting thing after all. Maybe new mom is, OMG, a bad mom!
(Hint: new mom is not a bad mom for wanting alone time.)
During the first few weeks after my first baby was born I really wanted adult snuggles. In fact, I needed a grown up's tender, warm embrace and a solid cradle. I kind of wanted to be a baby again, if I’m being honest, but I was way too afraid to ask for that.
A Glass Of Wine
I now know that a glass of wine is going to be just fine for a breastfeeding mom and the new infant. I definitely had anxiety about asking for a glass of wine as a new mom, though. Would people judge me? Was I supposed to want a glass of wine? Would it seep into my breast milk and make my newborn drunk? (Spoiler alert: a glass of wine will not make your baby drunk.) Did wanting a glass of wine mean I wasn’t as attentive or reverent about my child as I should have been?
Luckily, my mother-in-law visited a week after my first child was born and she brought a nice, light chardonnay for us to share. Now that I think about it, maybe she had similar anxieties after she had my partner and she didn’t want me to have to ask. Daw! Thanks, Ma!
Permission To Cry
I felt so guilty for wanting to cry after my first child was born. This need to cry was likely baby blues, though. As someone who has struggled with major depression my whole life, I knew how I was feeling definitely did not warrant the title of postpartum depression. But, suffice it to say, until my third child I didn’t really feel I could ask for the time or space to just cry.
This seems so silly when I think about it now. I wish I'd given myself that permission to cry. Pregnancy and childbirth were two of the hardest, enlightening, devastating, and most transformative experiences of my life. Of course I needed the physical and emotional release of a good cry.
More Time Off From Work
There is a double-edged sword for working moms in the United States. I felt it with each pregnancy in different ways. With my first child I really wanted to stay with them more than six weeks. I was still bleeding when I had to go back to work. I was devastated leaving my sweet new human so soon. Still, I was afraid to ask for more time off work because I didn’t want to lose my job. Besides, we couldn’t even afford the six weeks of unpaid leave I already took.
With all the hype about new parents’ sleep deprivation you’d think I would’ve been totally fine asking for more sleep from my partner or friends who may have been willing to watch the baby. After all, everybody knows new parents need naps! But I was really scared, you guys. Especially when my baby reached the point (around 5-6 months) where other parents claimed their infants were sleeping through the night. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong and, if I’m honest, didn’t really want to out myself to anyone but my partner and pediatrician.
I should’ve asked for all those naps. My firstborn is almost 8-years-old and they still sleep much less than the average human cub. Turns out sleeping difficulty is a common problem for infants and children who are later diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. In other words, I should’ve asked for more naps.
Now that I am a seasoned, veteran mom of eight years I know that I have to put on my own oxygen mask before I help my kids put theirs on. I know regular self-care (including asking for things) is essential to mom’s ongoing sanity and ability to parent. So I will ask for, and if necessary, demand the things I need. My mental health is that important.