In our lives before children, we often don’t anticipate the chaos and overwhelm that one tiny human can bring! Without a doubt, the most challenging time I have ever experienced in my motherhood journey was the post-birth period.
As an organised, timely professional this rattled my usual calm and collected self. I suffered bouts of postnatal and antenatal depression with my first two non-sleeping reflux babies. When I was pregnant with my third child, I made a decision to be more deliberate and intentional with my parenting, based on my experience with my first two boys. This has let me be the mother I always desired, non-sleeping reflux baby, and all!
Here are some of the things that you can do to survive the post-birth period:
Own your parenting ability
We need to OWN our parenting abilities, and that we are the perfect mother for our baby. We know how they prefer to be held, where their ticklish spots are, the songs that make them smile and the exact furrows of their faces when they frown. This is the parenting skill that we need to trust – we are the person that knows our baby intimately, and therefore we are the best one to know their needs.
Release yourself from unrealistic expectations
We are often high performers, with equally high expectations of ourselves before we have children and place the same expectations on ourselves pre- and post-birth. The baby will sleep, we will finish xyz project, have endless coffee dates and a spotless house. Our babies never read the memo!
It takes time, and more often than not, trial and error, to work out what works for your baby, and every baby is different – even in the same family. We cannot expect to immediately ‘get it all’. As new parents, like any profession or job, it takes time to learn the ropes.
I was always a classic over-committer, until my third baby came along. Like many new mums I was a tired, dairy machine struggling to keep up with my older children’s school and kindy activities. I learned to start saying ‘no’ or at the very least re-negotiate the level of my involvement.
My first step in setting boundaries as a new mum was to establish some breathing space so that I could rest, clear my head and determine what I had the time, energy and space to do. Once I became clear on what I could realistically manage, it became easier to set my boundaries without feeling guilty for saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’.
The other side of the coin is to know when to say ‘yes’. Offers of meals, running errands, dropping older children home – say yes! I used to think I would be imposing or asking too much of someone if I said yes, but from a practical perspective it’s rarely as much of an impost as we imagine it to be.
People offer because they want to lighten our load and give us a chance to rest occasionally, not because they think we cannot manage. It’s a sign of friendship and a genuine practical offer of support.
Ask for support
This is hard, and I have been guilty of going it alone, particularly with my first two babies. Ban “I’m fine” and “I’m just tired” from your vocabulary – particularly with yourself. Take out a piece of paper and ask yourself “How am I feeling? What do I need?” – write down your answer honestly.
It is normal to feel tired, upset and overwhelmed in the early days – the key is to know what you need to do to resolve these feelings. It may be a nap, a hug, a good cry or some strong emotional support. Reach out to your “no-judgment go-to person” and ask to be supported.
Importantly, if you find these feelings of overwhelm aren’t subsiding talk to your local mother care nurse or GP for some additional professional support.
Lastly, Be kind to yourself!
We are our own harshest critics, and it is easy to get caught up in what’s not working, rather than what is. Motherhood is exciting, joyful, challenging and fulfilling, all in the same day! Take time to savour each day and just enjoy the precious moments with your little one.
About the author: Michelle Keeffe is a mother of three boys and understands the highs, lows and chaos of balancing motherhood, business, study and life. She is a passionate life coach who supports expectant and new mothers in their transition to motherhood and beyond. When she isn’t building Lego or chasing her youngest out the dog door, you can find her at Speed Life Coaching.
Family photo credit: Emotive Images