Welcome to the club! And, just in case you are not in total bliss during every moment of your new adventure, I want to say this...
New motherhood can feel really, really hard. If you are at all like me, or like many of my new mom friends, mixed in with the adorable-baby Facebook posts there is a swirl of emotions. Anger, sadness, overwhelm, anxiety, insecurity. I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this. Wanting to run away, even just for a few hours or a night, to escape the incredible responsibility, or the crying, or the being-needed at all hours. Moments-hours-days of pride, joy, delight, and moments-hours-days of exhaustion, irritability, and crying (you, that is).
Nothing is truly wrong with you. Nothing is truly wrong with your spouse or partner or your baby. The postpartum time (the entire first year) is a crazy storm of hormones and demands a lot from your body and psyche. And, you are doing this intense thing without the multilayered tribe of support that we were all designed to be held by as we navigate motherhood.
You have permission to experience a full range of emotions and to know that you are fundamentally okay on the deepest level possible. You also have permission to ask for support, to care for yourself as you care for your new baby, and to surrender to receiving even the kinds of help you think you “shouldn’t need.”
Support comes in many forms, and you may utilize one or all at any given time ~ getting help from a friend or family member so that you can have a moment to yourself to shower / nap / eat / stare at the wall, taking a walk outside / getting sunshine on your skin, exercising, going to a new mom group or mommy-and-me yoga (mostly for the connection with other moms), talking to a therapist you trust (and/or connecting with one who is sensitive to the nuances of perinatal challenges), taking mood-supporting herbs or medication (and yes, you can take Zoloft and continue breastfeeding), allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel, drinking tons of water, eating lots of protein and good quality fats and carbohydrates that don’t give you a sugar crash, and resting, resting, resting.
If the above list feels overwhelming, yeah, I feel you (“WTF, I can’t even brush my teeth!” you might be saying). Ask yourself this: What ONE THING would support me the most today? Or, what tiny increment or baby step can I take today TOWARDS receiving the help I need? Maybe you send a text that is a bit more honest and real to a mom friend you trust. Maybe you call that neighbor who has offered to watch your baby but you’ve felt too awkward to ask until now. Maybe you put an alarm in your phone to remind you about the mom group that you keep forgetting.
Tomorrow, ask the same question: What tiny step towards wellbeing can I take today?
There is a cultural understanding that a teenager is super frustrating to parent, and that having a toddler is a hair-pulling phase too. But babies? Oh, babies are perfect. Innocent. Pure. Miracles. And they are. Plus, many moms worked very, very hard to have their babies, making it through IVF, miscarriages, and even stillbirth. Even so, you have permission to experience a full spectrum of emotions as a mom.
Becoming a mother is an enormous rite of passage, and an enormous ever unfolding process of transformation. I am here, one year in, and it has required many elements of support to get me to this place of feeling so deeply in love with my child and patient and delighted and only sometimes do I blow a fuse or hit a wall of anxiety, instead of doing that many times a day. I still doubt myself as a mother sometimes and I still feel moments of rattled-angry-overwhelm, but I don’t spend entire days crying anymore, trying to navigate out of a chasm of anxieties that has no end, despite my very best efforts.
For me, medication was the help I resisted the most ~ for crying out loud, I gave birth unmedicated, but couldn’t manage motherhood unmedicated? Well, shit. Once I finally surrendered, it was a relief ~ my body and mind really needed that buffer of serotonin. Now, when I’m having an off moment or day, I run through a list of my major self-care moves ~ did I take my Zoloft? have I exercised? do I need time alone? am I hungry? do I need to reach out to another mom? ~ and the solution becomes clearer.
I send you love and celebration and telepathic support as you navigate however new-motherhood is feeling for you, and please reach out to me anytime. I am here to listen and embrace you exactly as you are.
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Adrian Jonas is a mother, writer, wife, Registered Nurse, world traveler, creator of rituals, embracer of darkness and light, and lover of self-care.
During the month of February, she is offering a Love Fest of quick, guided moments of self care, which she is calling Mindful Momma Moments ~ get a taste and subscribe on her Mothership Connections Blog