Being a new mom is basically an enormous exercise in not putting yourself first. For so many of us, it's the first time you really do have to put someone else's needs before your own. Constantly. However, there comes a point when your newborn might not need to be held every minute, or might not need to be fed every other hour, and you realize you've been running on adrenaline for weeks. That was the case for me, until I experienced a whole bunch of new-mom moments that reminded me why I have to put myself first.
I had waited five years to become a mom, and the moment I did I threw myself into it with everything I had. The instant I met my daughter in the hospital NICU, thoughts of her consumed every inch of my brain. If I wasn't feeding or rocking or holding her, I was thinking about her or Googling the latest baby mystery I had encountered. Honestly, I loved it. I loved that I had a daughter I could pour all of my energy and attention into.
Until, of course, I didn't. Until someone asking me a simple question started to make my skin crawl. Until the thought of repeating myself made me want to lie down on the floor and take a nap for at least a couple of hours. At which point, I realized it was time to give myself a little attention.
I Was Hungry All The Time
I didn't give birth to my daughter (although we did take her home from the hospital, so sometimes it feels like I did), so I really didn't think I should be consuming more calories than I had before I became a mom. However, between missed meals, lack of sleep, and generally worrying about a newborn, you just need extra sustenance as a new mom. I was so focused on feeding my daughter that I forgot I needed to make sure I was feeding myself, too.
I Forgot How To Not Talk About My Kid
There was that early phase of being a mom when I just desperately wanted to talk about her, to shout from the rooftops that I was finally a mom. But then there was the phase that followed, where I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out anything else I could possibly contribute to a conversation than tidbits about my daughter.
I Needed Energy Reserves
There were some days when my daughter was very small that I really wondered if I could get through the day. She was light as a feather, thank goodness, but sometimes getting through the day felt like I'd have to run a marathon. The last thing I wanted to do was exercise, but it turns out that moving my body was exactly what I needed to get clear the fog of being up all night (or at least make me forget temporarily about how much I wanted a nap).
I Started Forgetting Bottles And Formula
This is like the formula-feeding mom's kryptonite. I would start forgetting either the bottles or the formula when I went out and, well, I was in trouble. I knew I needed to make a few small changes when we headed off for an evening at an observatory in a state park an hour away, and arrived with a screaming child, no formula, and no grocery store within 20 miles. It was my ultimate mom-nightmare and despite how many times I'd checked, I really just totally flaked on picking the formula up off the counter. My brain was starting to go on me and I knew I needed several things, starting with no sleep and help.
I Snapped At Everyone
My husband, my mom, and my sister all felt the wrath of my frazzled self when I had a newborn at home. I was especially grumpy if I had to repeat myself or if I was asked what I thought was a silly question someone could have figured the answer to on their own. Saying the same words twice was just so exhausting. At one point, my mom gently reminded me (to avoid more snapping) that I wasn't exactly acting like my normal self and could probably benefit from stepping back for a few hours.
I Couldn't Remember The Last Time I Left The House
When my daughter was about 3 weeks old, it hit me that I hadn't left the house in days, possibly a week. I was home alone with her in the daytime, and when my husband returned home we wanted to spend time together as a family or I would promptly sneak a nap. When I hadn't left the house in over a week, and the four walls of our tiny apartment were starting to feel like they were closing in, it was time for a change. I sucked it up and started packing my daughter into her sling at least a few times a week to get us both some fresh air.
Locking Myself Out Of The House
Of course, one of the first times I left the house with my daughter after deciding I had to put myself first and actually leave the house, I locked us both out. It wasn't exactly the maiden voyage I was hoping for, that's for sure.
I Was Reminded How Much I Loved Using Other Parts Of My Brain
A few months after my daughter was born I picked up my first writing gig since her birth and quickly realized I actually really missed using that side of my brain. I had been so immersed in schedules and napping and bottles for days on end that I had forgotten what it was like to write and work again. Once that side of my brain warmed up, I knew I was going to have to start putting it first every so often.