One of our favorite phone calls to receive from a member is the announcement that they have welcomed a new addition to their family. Just this past month alone, members of the Liberty HealthShare community welcomed 141 babies! Life is precious, and we truly love supporting our member families as they grow.
There is, of course, a deep joy to be found in the arrival of a baby, but welcoming a new life is also a huge adjustment. No one feels this more so than a new mom. Whether biological or adoptive, moms undergo massive physical, emotional, and psychological changes in the time leading up to the arrival of their children. And that’s all before they even meet their babies and begin the actual work of motherhood.
In the hours and days following the first time they see and hold this new miracle, the good, the bad, and the ugly of motherhood can begin to set in. Two of the most commonly cited obstacles to motherly bliss are sleep deprivation and feeding difficulties, but there are other, more subtle hurdles many moms face. These include the emotional fallout from pregnancy hormones and adjusting to a postpartum body, the mental weight of responsibility for a helpless baby, and the physical pain related to pregnancy, labor, delivery, c-section, or even simply holding and carrying a newborn for nearly 24 hours a day.
Most people understand that this is all normal. Some moms may experience certain problems to a greater or lesser degree, but most reasonable people are aware that it’s an adjustment that is by no means easy. Celebrity culture doesn’t do a good job of representing this realistically and there always will be those who perpetuate impossibly high expectations for new moms, but this is more the exception than the rule.
However, there is one critic who is difficult to silence: a new mom’s own voice of self-doubt, worry, and insecurity. She may look like she’s coping well, but chances are she spends at least some part of her day worrying about what other people think, feeling like she’s doing everything wrong, and wondering if she can actually give her child what he or she needs. That voice can be very loud when mom is alone, awake in the middle of the night trying to feed a baby who doesn’t want to eat or soothe a baby who is fighting sleep.
There are many books and other resources available that address the transition to motherhood and all the pitfalls listed above, but the reality is, many new moms think they will be the exception to the rule prior to the arrival of their little one. If at some point they realize that isn’t true, they might be too exhausted, busy, or overwhelmed by then to access helpful resources. This blog post is by no means an exhaustive resource, but there are a few self-care strategies we recommend for new moms:
- Preempt separation anxiety. Make it a point to get a babysitter early on so you can deal with the emotional impact of leaving the baby for the first time. It doesn’t have to be (and likely can’t be) a long outing, but it’s important to at least try a short separation. It will only get harder the longer you wait. You might think this isn’t necessary if you are a stay-at-home mom who will rarely be away from your child, but realistically, there will be times when you have to be apart. You will never regret helping your child learn a little self-sufficiency and flexibility early on.
- Ask for and accept help. Even if it feels like too much work to explain your baby’s schedule or needs, allow others to help out. The same goes for when someone offers to do something around the house that you believe deep down you can do better or more efficiently. This is a moment when having something done is more important than having it done perfectly. This is especially crucial where your spouse is concerned.
- Get help if you aren't coping well. If at any point you feel despondent, unable to engage with or care for your baby, or like you might hurt yourself or your child, contact your doctor. You may be suffering from postpartum depression. This is nothing to be ashamed of and your physician can help.
- Learn from others...or don't. Spend time with other moms at all phases of the motherhood journey. Ask for their advice if you need it and then - this is important - feel free to take or leave it. Don’t allow feelings of guilt or insecurity to override your gut. Believe it or not, a lot of the time, you actually do know what’s best for your child.
- Take time for yourself. If it has been a while since you thought about what practices are life-giving for you, sit down and make a list. Then set goals for yourself to occasionally fit those things into nap time or another time when you can step away for a bit. Your child will benefit from you making yourself a priority once in a while.
- Rock your new title. Embrace your new job as “mom.” There is a reason so many women deeply desire motherhood. It’s true that most good things in life require sacrifice. Motherhood is no exception, but don’t forget that the rewards are immeasurable.
- Remember who you are. Spend time praying and reading the Bible. When you feel your identity has gotten lost, it is in time with God that you will be reminded of who He says you are. Remember that God made your little one and loves him or her more than you ever could. Trust Him to guide your steps as you learn how to love and guide your child.
Motherhood is messy, beautiful, challenging, and fun. If there is a new mom in your life, consider sharing this with her. Maybe even more importantly, if you aren't a new mom and you've read this far, keep this information in mind as you think about your friends or loved ones who are navigating motherhood. These women are as strong as they seem, but that doesn't mean they can't use an occasional helping hand or reminder that they are capable, especially when they feel like they're doing it wrong.
New mommas, even as you pour love (and blood, sweat, and tears) into your new little one, take time to remember who you are. Even if you tend to doubt this, the woman you are - with your individual quirks, interests, ways of showing love, and talents - is exactly the one your child needs. Congratulations on becoming a mom. You’re doing a great job.