When you’ve just had a baby, whether it is your first or fourth, you are vulnerable, emotional, exhausted and a myriad of emotions in between. Your whole world has changed in an instant and you are playing a game of catch up to understand your new reality. But, as Sara Keli explains, now is the time to ditch the expectations and worry to focus on being kind to yourself.
You lie there on the hospital bed with this new person in your arms. You only met hours ago but it was love at first sight. The most instant rush of emotions you have ever felt. Or maybe it wasn’t like that at all. Maybe it felt different and you were overwhelmed, unsure. Whatever you are feeling is ok. There is no right or wrong.
And then you make your way to your hospital room where you are spending the first night or few with your baby. Aside from the odd nurse or doctor coming in to check on you and your baby, you are alone. Exhausted. Emotional. Alone. But you are never really alone. You are a mum now and part of the most wonderful community who can help hold you up and walk the motherhood road alongside you.
You manage to go to the toilet and do that first poo. That’s one milestone ticked off. Your body is sore from labour, birth and carrying a baby around inside of you for nine months. You look down at your body and it doesn’t look at all like what you thought it would. Your stomach, which just yesterday was firm and rounded, is now saggy and bloated. But it’s beautiful. Your body has just created new life. How can something so miraculous ever be expected to go back to “ordinary”?
When it’s time to go home, you sit on the edge of the hospital bed and wonder how you are going to manage at home without a midwife to help you with your breastfeeding and no-one to bring you three meals a day, plus snacks. And how do you even get a baby into a car seat?! You’ve got this. You are stronger than you know and together, with your baby, you will make it, one day at a time.
You arrive home and the flow of visitors start. Some come with gifts, maybe food for your freezer. Some help with the washing or the vacuuming or holding the baby while you shower. Others just come to hold the baby and stay longer than they are welcome. This is your home and your baby. Don’t ever feel bad asking someone to leave or saying no. It’s ok to protect your space, physically and mentally.
Then, just as you are getting used to the stream of visitors, they stop coming. You are alone again. Just you and your baby in your own little bubble. But this time it is different to when you were in the hospital. Now you need to get on with life. Grocery shopping, cleaning the house, work, playgroup, nap times, feeding times… Every day you are collecting new knowledge about your baby. You are now the ultimate juggler. Some days the balls drop, but you pick them up and start again the next day.
You have bad days and you have good days. We all do. Some days you don’t shower or change out of your pyjamas and others you wash your hair, put on your makeup and spend the day adventuring with your baby. Some days you can handle it when they won’t go down for their nap and others you need to close the door and stand in the hallway taking deep breaths before you go back in to try again.
If there is one thing you can do to survive and thrive in these early days it is to be kind to yourself. Think of what you have just done. You have created, grown and birthed new life. Every day you are sustaining that new person and helping them grow and learn in the world.
Don’t put expectations on yourself for how you should feel, what you should do and who you should be. Celebrate what you have created and achieved. Watch the changes in your body with awe at what it is capable of. Ask for help when you need it and accept it when it is offered. Don’t feel like you are alone because even if you are in a room by yourself, wondering if you are doing the right thing, there are mothers all over the world wondering exactly the same thing. And you are all amazing, just the way you are.
If you need more support in your motherhood journey, there is help available. Other than speaking to your GP or Early Childhood Nurse the below resources are a great place to start to get you the help you need.
PANDA – Support for postnatal and antenatal depression and anxiety. 1300 726 306 or www.panda.org.au
Tresillian – Early childhood concerns including sleep and settling, breastfeeding and nutrition. 1300 272 736 or www.tresillian.org.au
Australian Breastfeeding Association – Assistance and resources for breastfeeding mothers. 1800 686 268 or www.breastfeeding.asn.au
Sara Keli is the Editor of Kid Magazine. When she isn’t writing, designing or creating, you can find her enjoying the sunshine on her back deck with her two daughters or escaping into a good book.
Image: Deanna Gaynor, dimages.com.au