The walk through postpartum… It’s difficult for everyone, some more than others. The lack of sleep, learning your newborn’s language, the transitions your own body is moving through — it may seem like forever, but mama it is only temporary. Many of us learn intentional self-care and direct communication of our needs through necessity. We reach our breaking point and realize that what we are doing is not working and we need a better method.
It takes longer for so many of us because of the messages we are given in our society. We praise our new mothers for being out and about in early postpartum, or for losing all the baby weight so quickly. The standards we hold ourselves to as new mothers are unrealistic and degrading when we truly understand the depth of the postpartum experience. Self-care equals a glass of wine or a new pair of shoes. Mental health is so often considered taboo that we are never given the proper tools to become resilient adults, and we wonder why our rates of postpartum anxiety and depression are higher than ever… We tend to ignore, fight against or mute our discomforts instead of leaning in and learning what that discomfort tells us. Our bodies are constantly communicating our needs to us, we only need to find the awareness to understand.
The important lessons and tools we have the potential to learn in postpartum are integral to moving through life, especially parenthood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare during our pregnancies. Creating a mindful existence brings our thoughts into an inquisitive state, and when we see the world with curiosity we are less critical of ourselves and others, and we flow more easily with the tides of our lives. Here are a few lessons that I learned as I moved through postpartum.
Give yourself alllll the grace.
So many of us walk out of pregnancy with high expectations. But there is nothing that can prepare us for some of those early postpartum moments. We can only ride the wave and remember that the sleepless nights, the fluctuating hormones, they’re only temporary. Just like our transitions in labor, we must learn to take things one moment, one breath at a time.
Create rituals that bring you sacred pause.
My life before motherhood was very structured. So much so that in early postpartum I fought against the flow of matrescence with everything I had. I wallowed until I realized that continuing on that path wouldn’t make things better. You see, I had never really had to prioritize self care. I was a workaholic before becoming a mother, but I never anticipated the depth of the fact that the most important work I would ever do, raising my daughter, was a never-ending responsibility. Self-care was no longer an option, it was a necessity. It sounds so simple, but when we prioritize the care of our bodies and our minds and create routines and rituals to make these processes special, we set the groundwork for a life of intention and overflowing gratitude.
Prioritize what is truly important to you.
This was a big one for me. As a recovering perfectionist, I still struggle with this… It was so difficult for me to realize that I could not do everything. Breastfeeding was a full time job. My daughter demanded to be worn or held at all times. Yes, I did work my way into finding a flow that worked for me and my family, but I also had to surrender to the fact that it was ok to let things like laundry or dishes wait temporarily and prioritize my self-care. Because if we aren’t functional it affects everyone around us, and if we flourish, so does our family.
Nourish and move your body.
Loving on yourself doesn’t always mean what feels good in the moment. We all know that our comfort foods might mask our feelings temporarily, but making intentional choices about what we put into our bodies can make all the difference in our physical and mental health. When I decided to invest more energy in preparing and eating wholesome foods, I was pleasantly surprised at the immediate affect on my mental health. When I prioritized time to go on a walk around the neighborhood or do some yoga in my basement, my anxiety noticeably decreased and I felt more grounded on a daily basis. “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. I promise if you can commit to one week of prioritizing these things, the difference will be so dramatic you won’t want to stop.
I read somewhere that we all need to meditate for at least 30 minutes per day. If we don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes we should meditate for at least an hour. Again, “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. When I first started meditating I was extremely intimidated. But I found that we have so many tools that simplify the process… in moments where I feel like my mind is too busy to meditate, I reach for guided meditations like this. But I do it daily, no matter what. It is part of my morning and evening rituals because I have noticed a significant difference on many levels. Our lives begin and end with the breath, and when we prioritize time to focus on our breath, quiet our minds, and become aware of our bodies, it creates room for growth and healing on a physical and emotional level. Studies show that meditation reduces inflammation, brings greater levels of self-control, and is anti-aging. There are so many benefits, why wouldn’t we try it?
It takes a village.
The most important thing I want you to know is that we are not meant to do this alone. This was my greatest lesson. Even with the best family support I could have hoped for, there were resources in my community that I was too proud to reach for… I wanted to figure it all out myself. But the truth is that every baby and every postpartum experience is different. We aren’t meant to figure it out by ourselves. It’s impossible, which is why we have so many amazing whole-body focused providers who specialize in postpartum doula support, pelvic floor therapy, chiropractic, lactation, maternal mental health, and so much more… it takes a village to raise a child. And it is ok to need help. We build some incredible relationships when we are able to reach out in our own vulnerability, and we equip ourselves to help others on similar paths.
More than anything, be kind to yourself. All of these life-changing efforts I mentioned above came over time. It was a gradual shift in mindset. Don’t expect to implement these all at once and change your life overnight — that’s not what this is about. Remind yourself that motherhood is a lifelong journey, and the deepest valleys make way for the most breathtaking moments. There is no book, there is no perfect. We don’t magically wake up as the mothers who made raising us look easy. Matrescence is not a mother made, you are becoming…
“The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterward. It is the year of travail — when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of you heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”JOY KUSEK