What no-one tells you before you have a baby. Dealing with the loneliness and a sense of overwhelm... 4 key things that will help you!
The Parents Guide team are all Illawarra mums and in total, we have 8 kids ranging from age 1 to age 12. Between our experiences and families, we are very well acquainted with the overwhelming range of emotions that come with caring for newborns and babies.
So we interviewed local expert, Briony Goodsell from The Nesting Place about what can really help us cope. Briony works with with pregnant women and couples to support them practically and emotionally during pregnancy, birth and those first few crazy months of new born! Briony is passionate about supporting mums-to-be and smoothing the path for new mothers.
Her are her 4 key tips to dealing with the inevitable stresses and strains that come with motherhood. Thank you Briony for sharing your insights, here
Loneliness, and feeling overwhelmed in new motherhood is maybe not acknowledged enough as we are so focused on the birth...
During my first pregnancy, like many other women, I spent a lot of time preparing for my labour and birth. I read endless books and watched as many birth documentaries and shows as I could get my hands on.
I practiced prenatal yoga, had regular massages, attended private birthing classes, drank raspberry leaf tea and terrible tasting herbal mixes. I was completely focused on preparing for labour and birth!
In fact, a lot of pregnant women I meet are so fixated on birth, even terrified, forgetting all about the weeks and months afterwards. But birth is only just the beginning, being a mama is a lifelong experience.
For the first few days after my daughter was born, I was totally blissed out and high on endorphins. I felt stronger and prouder of myself than I'd ever felt before, I thought if I could do this, I could do anything!
And then after a few more days, the reality of life with a newborn hit home. Why didn't anyone tell me about this part?
Or maybe they did, but being in my blissed out, birth-focused state I didn't want to listen. I fell to earth with a thud in those early weeks postpartum. I was totally unprepared for the changes that came with being a new mama. I had no confidence in trusting my own intuition. I was having a lot of breastfeeding challenges. I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed.
I went on to experience another two transitions into new motherhood after the birth of each of my sons (that’s right, you go through the physical, mental and emotional changes every time you have a baby). If only I had known even a small amount of what I now know, before I became a mama. I’ve spent the past 10 years supporting other women, just like you, as they journey along the path of pregnancy and new motherhood.
I really want to encourage as many mamas-to-be as I can to think beyond their labour and birth, BEFORE they have their baby. 😊
Here are my top 4 tips for preparing for new motherhood or helping you cope if you are already there:
1. Be gentle on yourself.
You’ve gone through 9 months of pregnancy, given birth and are looking after a newborn whilst experiencing a very limited amount of sleep! You’re also learning to breastfeed, recovering physically and adjusting to having a little person that relies on you for their every need. You need to give yourself time. Time to rest, time to heal, time to adjust to your new role.
For most of us, this is our first experience in caring for a newborn. Allow yourself at least the first 6 weeks post birth to rest as much as possible, to reduce your social commitments and resist an urge to ‘get things done’ when your baby sleeps.
2. Learn to say no (and YES!)
Learn to say no to whatever is going to deplete your energy during this time (any to too many visitors, events or tasks). Yours and your baby’s wellbeing must come first. Because when a baby is born, so is a mama, and this transition period needs to be acknowledged as a time for rest, recovery and nourishment.
With some planning ahead, you can put out your 'call for support' in the lead up to having your baby, so that people that care about you can respond with offers of help. These support networks may not be as readily available in today’s busy world, but it is possible to create your own. By creating a ‘village’ you will reduce your chances of feeling isolated, alone, overwhelmed or anxious.
You will have a support network there to turn to when you need it and you will benefit from the wisdom and experience of other's that have travelled the path before you and the reassurance in knowing those that are journeying it alongside you. Traditional cultures that have postpartum support and rest practices in place have the lowest rates of Postnatal Depression and find breastfeeding easier.
Trust me when I say, the last thing you will feel up to doing with a new baby is grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or even walking the dog. Now is the time to accept help and say YES, even though you are a strong, independent women...now’s the time to let others help and care for you.
3. Create a postpartum plan
Creating a postpartum plan will allow you and your partner to discuss changes that will occur once you become new parents, and it will give you the opportunity to put plans into place to make your transition into new motherhood much smoother. Putting together a postpartum plan is a good starting point in setting up some support for new parenthood. Think about who you have around you that would be willing and able to help out.
Here are some examples:
• Have you got family around that can and are willing to help (e.g. cooking, housework, errands, looking after you)?
• Do you have trusted caregivers that can support you e.g GP, counsellor, doula etc.?
• Can you join a Mother's Group to join once your baby is born?
• Are you going to do some birth and parenting classes, if so where (can you meet some other like-minded parents to be)?
• Are there and prenatal or postnatal activities/exercise groups you can join?
• Is there a local ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) you can join?
• What support services are there in your local area for postpartum?
• Can you look at outsourcing some of your tasks for the early days postpartum e.g. hire a cleaner, get someone to help with dog walking etc.
• Are there some online forums that you can connect with other like-minded women (ones in your particular area are great too)?
• What are the contact numbers for people that can help you if you feel like you aren't coping? These are just a few things to think about that can help you begin to create your modern-day support 'village'.
4. Find your tribe
These days, we are seemingly more connected, yet more isolated than we have ever been before. With today's technology, we are able to easily connect with people all over the world, all with just the touch of a finger. Yet we are all so busy 'connecting' online, that our face-to-face relationships are suffering. Social media makes it easy to construct a perfect online life, which can be far from reality.
This can then place additional pressures on people to live up to the perceived lives of others, and make us feel inadequate in our own lives. The impact of this is never more so than when we are feeling vulnerable, which is often how we feel at times in new motherhood. Nothing will ever be able to replace the way having a heartfelt connection with another person makes us feel.
I won't ever forget how much better things seemed when I was a new mama and I got together with a group of other likeminded mamas, just being able to talk, be vulnerable and relate to others going through similar experiences. This basic human interaction can make the world of difference, not feeling alone, being able to be real with others, it’s so important in our motherhood journey.
So take a deep breath mama, be gentle on yourself, reach out for help, plan ahead and find your tribe.
Because motherhood isn’t a road to be travelled alone. I’ll leave you to reflect on this beautiful quote on newborn mothers:
“A newborn mother is a recently born mother whose strength is asking for help. She acknowledges that the birth of a mother is more intense than childbirth and that she is as sensitive and vulnerable as her baby. Her heart is wide open and her needs are high. As she nourishes herself, she nourishes her children.” – Julia Jones
With our thanks to Briony Goodsell for sharing her words, expertise and experience and for partnering with Parents Guide to write this article.
The Nesting Place - Nurturing women through pregnancy, birth & new motherhood - you can contact Briony on:
0403 006 723