In those first few weeks after my son's birth, my parents stayed at my house and nurtured me. My mom served me little cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches (cut into triangles), endless cups of tea, and cuddled the baby while I napped and showered and tried to figure out the whole breastfeeding deal. Along with my husband, she was my support network and really proved to me that you can still feel like yourself when you're postpartum, even and especially when you're feeling anything but.
Up to 80% of new moms get the so called "baby blues" and, honestly, is it any wonder? As first-time moms we're adjusting to huge changes in our bodies, our hormones, our work situation, our family dynamics, and in our self image. Those adjustments are occurring when we're sore from labor and delivery, sleep-deprived, and unsure of this new life change. For some women, these normal feelings of slight sadness can intensify and turn into postpartum depression; a more serious but treatable condition that a reported 10% of postpartum women endure.
But for me, and many other moms, the biggest change is that we are now and for ever more, no longer a single unit. We will never be carefree and un-tethered ever again. Sure, motherhood is rewarding far beyond this and makes up for it with every smile and milestone your child reaches, but the crushing weight of responsibility can be (especially in those first few weeks) difficult to bear.
Now that I am few years into this mothering gig, I take the overwhelming responsibility in my stride. Still, occasionally it bites me in the butt and reminds me that my life isn't completely my own anymore. Like this week, for example, when I saw a job opportunity traveling around the world on a sailing boat and almost clicked "apply" before realizing I have a child. However and (contrary to popular belief) despite the little adjustments all parents must make in order to raise another human being, it is possible to still feel like yourself. I promise.
Give Yourself Time
You can't expect everything to go back to normal as soon as you bring your baby home. Your body and mind have been through tremendous changes and will need time to adapt and recover.
I found myself crying over nothing, being inexplicably angry, or worrying for no discernible reason. You just have to give yourself permission to feel all those feelings in order to come out the other side. (However, if you suspect you may be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, get help as soon as possible.)
Accept Things Will Change
It's difficult to let go of certain aspects of your life in order to begin a new chapter. Trust me; I'm a Taurus and I hate change of any kind.
However, when you become a parent you have to accept that a good number of areas of your life will experience upheavals and changes will be needed. Stubbornly trying to hold on to your old life will only make the transition harder.
Don't Do "Mom Things" Just Because
Just as some things will need to change, others don't need to. You're not required to reinvent your whole personality just because you've made the live choice to become a mom. If you despise crafts, then joining a mom and baby craft circle is not for you. If yoga is totally not your bag, don't sign up for mommy and me yoga classes.
I initially tried to tone down my dark sense of humor and reliance on sarcasm, thinking it was "inappropriate" as a parent. I quickly realized that was what made me, well me, and without it I was like a robot.
Ask For Help
If you feel continued sadness, anger, or a disconnection from your baby get help immediately. Motherhood isn't synonymous with suffering, and you deserve to feel at your best.
Even if you are just navigating the normal changes that accompany new motherhood, get some help to manage baby related tasks, housework, cooking, and the general business of raising a baby. There's absolutely no reason why you should be "doing it all," alone.
Parenting is hard work, especially at the beginning. As soon as you are feeling ready, take the day off. Get your partner or family to help with the baby and get out of the house and do something that makes you feel normal.
I was exclusively breastfeeding my son so I couldn't escape for longer than a couple of hours, but I did so regularly. I went swimming, took long walks, mooched around the shops and got my nails done.
Seeing friends and reminding yourself of the woman you were before you became a mom is so important. I found it a great self-esteem boost to take the opportunity to get dressed up, do my hair and makeup, and wear real clothes again.
Get Some Fresh Air
My baby was born in January and I live in the 7th coldest capital city in the world, so I hear all your excuses and veto every single one. Bundle baby up and get out of the house. It makes such a difference to your overall wellbeing and mental clarity to get some fresh air, exercise, and be out in the real world again.
I did some of my best postpartum thinking while pushing my baby in his stroller through the snow.
Find Intamacy With Your Partner
You may not feel able to have sex for a while after delivery, with most health professionals suggesting you wait a minimum of 6 weeks after giving birth (and many women feeling they need a little longer than that to recover fully).
Still, there are many ways to reconnect and find intimacy with your partner without having sex. Try to go on dates without the baby, snuggle up on the couch, give each other a massage, or just enjoy making out as if you guys were teenagers again.
When you are deep in the trenches of new motherhood, it can sometimes feel like you'll never be yourself again. You will, I promise. Maybe you'll even find that being a mom will reveal an even better, new, and improved version of you.