It’s hard to believe that six weeks have passed since I met my beautiful rainbow baby. My last blog post featured Miss I’s arrival into the world after a fast and furious labour. If you missed her birth story you can read it here and here. The moments and hours after her birth were magical. When she was placed on my chest and we lay skin-to-skin, my heart swelled to the point of explosion. I soaked up her newborn smell and gazed in amazement as she slowly but surely made her way over to my breast and began gentle sucking. Isn’t it incredible the way babies instinctively know how to find the breast? We lay together like this for a few hours and I resisted separation. But I was a meconium-covered mess, so eventually I agreed to a shower. And how good that shower felt!…
If there’s one thing that no pregnancy guide or baby book can prepare you for, it’s the shell shock you feel in those first few weeks of bringing your new baby home. Becoming a mum is life-changing!
Of course, we are told this but you can’t truly comprehend it until you experience it for yourself. New motherhood is a rocky ride! There is no induction. No manual. No training. You have to learn on the job! In fact, if the responsibilities and conditions were outlined in a job ad, I am not sure it would receive many applicants! And yet, many of us keep going back for more….
As a first-time mother you devote all your time and energy to your newborn baby. It’s a steep learning curve and being responsible for a little baby is all consuming. I’ve been reflecting on those early days of new motherhood. I remember when Mr NASD and I prepared to leave the maternity hospital with Miss A. She was sound asleep in her capsule and I was a mixed bundle of excitement and apprehension. When we got to the exit I remember thinking, “Are they really going to let us leave here with this baby?” I half expected an alarm to go off and security to come and take the baby off us. I mean, we weren’t experienced or responsible enough to care for a tiny baby, were we?
As it turned out, no alarm went off and no one paid us any attention as we left the hospital, and began our very slow and cautious drive home from the hospital. When we arrived back at our inner city home (because the ‘burbs hadn’t come calling yet) I remember staring at our tiny person in utter disbelief. We were home. We were parents. We had a baby. Officially we were grown ups!
Any day now I will be returning to newborn land, where days are characterised by (what seem to be) endless feeds, nappy changes and an unrelenting sleep fog. I remember those days well. And I am staring down the barrel of them again, after a four-year hiatus.
New motherhood brings so many changes. And I am not just talking about leaking boobs, a merciless fatigue and a weak pelvic floor! Amid the wild celebrations and emotional vertigo, there can be some intense emotional pressures and challenges. You hear it’s tough, often tiring and sometimes tedious (sometimes?), but you can’t really understand it until you’re living it.
For me, I found the physical changes easier to adjust to. I’m not saying I enjoyed living in a perpetual state of fatigue for 12 months, but I was able to cope with it. What I found more challenging, and less discussed, was the sense that as I had become a mum, I had lost a sense of my “self”. Having worked in a corporate environment in a role that involved travel, responsibility, decisions and change, I suddenly found myself alone at home spending a lot of time on the floor. I struggled with the monotony of motherhood; the lack of interaction, adult conversation, the “buzz” of an office. The soundtrack of the Wiggles played on an endless loop in my head and I tired easily over conversations about poo, sleep and milk.
By far the most difficult adjustment for me was the way motherhood altered my sense of space. In short, it destroyed it. My “Velcro” baby was so attached to me that I couldn’t be apart from her. I wanted to be needed, but I needed some space too. But it can feel impossible to keep a sense of your self when there is a person whose very purpose is to need you. I couldn’t reconcile these conflicting needs and so I gave myself entirely to motherhood.
I am sure my experience is true of many first-time mums. If only I knew then what I know now. Sacrificing yourself entirely for your baby does not make you a better mum. It makes you an exhausted mum and can compromise your health. I now know that my role as a mother is important but it doesn’t exclusively define me.
New resources are being developed all the time to assist mums with the transition to new motherhood, like Bupa’s mummatters. mummatters is a mobile tool that is designed to help women who are pregnant, or just had a baby, look after their emotional wellbeing. It emphasises the importance of ‘me’ time and encourages you to regularly ‘check-in’ with how you’re feeling, which is so important at this time. And if more help is ever needed, mummatters can help you find it.
Becoming a mother is life-changing. Literally overnight you become responsible for an extension of yourself; you become a lifeline. The good news is lifelines are available to you too. As I approach motherhood for the fourth time I feel so relaxed about it. I know that in order to be a happy mum, I must give back to myself to. And the mummatters app is a fabulous way for me to stay on top of my emotional health and wellbeing.
How did you find the transition to new motherhood? Did you feel like it altered your sense of self? What was the hardest adjustment for you?
*This post was brought to you by Bupa.
It’s no secret this has been a tough year for me. Here, on my blog, I celebrate the ups and the downs, the wins and the woes, the good days and the tough days. As we all know – motherhood is not all dandelions and daisy chains. It is hard work and I like to present motherhood in its entirety. Mostly I don’t airbrush it or filter it through a lens.
Recently it took me to have a mini breakdown to acknowledge I needed that thing mothers struggle to ask for – HELP! So many things led to this point: a difficult pregnancy, our ongoing struggle to find a house, financial pressures, being forced to move out of our rental at 38 weeks pregnant, a serious iron deficiency, and the list goes on. I felt completely overwhelmed.
Like many mums I prioritised everyone and everything else around me, neglecting my own wellbeing. I knew I was sinking but I felt if I could just stay afloat a little longer, everything would be OK. Well the problem with this theory is that there’s a limit to how long you can stay afloat without running out of puff. And I ran out of puff and broke down. My chest felt tight and my shoulders were heavy constantly. I put it down to my iron levels, but when an iron infusion failed to have any impact I knew it had to be more than that. My load was too heavy and I needed help to ease it.
One of the most liberating things you can do for yourself is to admit to yourself, and others, that you need help. I have learnt there is no shame in admitting you are having a tough time and not coping. The chances are people will rally around you to help. Here are three simple measures you can put in place to ease the pressures and stress of motherhood.
3 ways to ease the stress of motherhood:
1. Accept help
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Realising that you need help and accepting it can help make you a better mother and wife/partner as your stress levels decrease and your ability to cope with everything that life throws at you increases.
Over the next few weeks friends and family rallied to help me. People cooked for me, took care of school and kinder drop offs and had my kids for play dates. Everyone was only too happy to help. My husband talked to his boss about working some flexible hours so he could help out with the school runs and life became infinitely easier.
2. Learn to say no
No, it’s such a powerful word isn’t it? It’s strange: given that “no” is one of the first words we learn as kids – why do we have such trouble saying it as adults? Women are people pleasers, so it’s fairly common for them to over commit to things when they would rather not.
I can relate. I am a serial people pleaser, so I tend to say “Yes” when I often mean “No.” But overextending ourselves to others can deplete us of vital energy and space if we are not obligated to ourselves. It’s OK to say no to things. In fact, it’s absolutely essential that you do.
3. Create a village
We are all familiar with the expression “It takes a village to raise a child.” The problem is many of us don’t have family living close by and the village is hard to create. But you can gather supporters around you and tools to help you manage your load. How lucky are we that we can turn online for support? I have found some excellent digital resources. Online support groups have helped me feel less alone when I experienced the grief of miscarriage and there are some great web tools available to new mums.
Bupa’s mummatters is an excellent resource for anyone who is currently pregnant or has had a baby in the past 12 months. Of course, you can use mummatters if you have a child older than 1 year, as you may still find it useful. Regularly maintaining your emotional wellbeing is important. I let mine slide recently and I don’t want to let it happen again. And that’s what I love about the mummatters tool. mummatters can help you get a better sense of how you’re going. And, if more support is ever needed, mummatters can help you find it. It is also free and easy to use, private and confidential and designed by experts. Big ticks!
You can create a village in many ways – through friends, mothers’ groups, online support groups, and turning to online tools. Bottom line: help is at hand, you just need to build a network of support to ease your load and stay on top of your health and emotional wellbeing.
Do you have any other tips for easing your load?
*Disclosure: This is the second in a series of mental health posts brought to you by Bupa.
School holidays. Two words that are likely to incite excitement and dread in equal measure. The upside of the school break is that our kids get a much-needed break from the busy days of school. And let’s not forget about the parents who get much-needed respite from making lunch boxes and the endless school drop offs, pick ups, readers and extra curricular activities!
But, often our fantasy of such a break and the reality of the break are diametrically opposed. When my kids were little I wrote this post about my attempts to keep them entertained with my sanity in tact. I managed to entertain them, but the sanity part is debatable! Now they are a bit older, I look forward to the holidays with a fair degree of enthusiasm. The school term is so harried and I welcome the down time and slow parenting. But, after weeks of anticipation, four days of bliss, the “Mum, I’m booooored” line will inevitably echo around the family walls.
So, for many of us (honest) mums, the school holidays comes with a certain amount of dread. How will we keep the kids entertained for two entire weeks with our sanity and bank balances in tact? I like to mix up the holidays with a good balance of slow, at-home days, and activities outside the home. Here are my top tips for keeping the little ones entertained:…
Well, it’s official. I am now 40!
I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to this day, but now that is it here I am feeling A-OK about it. It’s only a number after all, but the number terrified me for a while. I suppose it’s because I don’t actually feel forty. I kind of don’t think I look forty, either, but a healthy dose of self-delusion could be at play. Certainly I’ve aged A LOT since I had kids, and the lines around me eyes are evidence of this past decade, but then again, a lot has happened in the past ten years.
My 30’s were good, really good. I got engaged on my 30th birthday and married the love of my life six months later. In our early years of marriage we travelled to some incredible countries including India (for our honeymoon), Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Italy and Slovenia! Our Eastern Europe trip was terrific fun. We were footloose and fancy free and we ate, drank and drove our way across some of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. We were deliriously happy as we had officially decided to start trying for a baby. Oh, so daily “siestas” were also a highlight of our holiday!
At 31 we were expecting our first baby, Miss A, who arrived shortly before my 32nd birthday. I have never been happier in my life than in the year that followed her birth. Life was everything I wanted it to be and I enjoyed motherhood immensely. At 33, we welcomed Miss J into our family and our lives and life got a little “busier.” She was not a good sleeper, and an unsettled baby and I found juggling a newborn with toddler difficult and draining. Which in hindsight makes my decision to go for a third rather “questionable”. But I’ve always been an impatient person so three under three seemed like a perfectly reasonable predicament, er I mean, situation!
Mis H arrived eager and ready to join the family when I was 35. She walked fast, talked fast, and waited for no one and nothing. Life was MANIC!!! I can’t really comment on the next few years as, quite frankly, they are a blur. For some odd reason I thought it would be a good idea to start a blog (because life wasn’t really busy enough, right?) and so you can read about those early times here and here. I honestly don’t know how I survived the first couple of years after Miss H was born. Having three preschoolers at home for three consecutive year is utter madness. I wouldn’t recommend it, but now that I am through it, I am very happy my girls are so close in age.
So although our lives are no longer filled with adventurous travel, hip bars, independent cinemas and urban restaurants, we are very happy. I feel like life has settled into a nice rhythm and I can’t really ask for more in life. Except a home, to own. But we’re working on that one 🙂
I feel confident my 40’s are going to be fabulous. Instead of resisting this age, I am now embracing it with full gusto. It begins today and I intend to celebrate my four decades with great enthusiasm. I officially launch my “Festival of Forty” today. I’ve got some fun things planned for the next few weeks and I am going to share my celebrations with you all.
Be sure to pop back here in a few days as I’ll have something very special to share with you….
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!
I am ready for “life to begin”. I think 40 is going to be fun!
Thanks for following and sharing a little bit of my world with me.