Motherhood; A process of gaining someone but also losing someone – yourself. It’s a time of deep love but also a time of deep exhaustion.
Modern Postpartum is often filled with stress, fear and overwhelm and results in mental, physical, emotional and spiritual depletion. A disconnection from self, who you were and who you are now meant to be. Your mind can get lost in the abyss of baby ‘bliss’, what they’re eating, how much they weigh, how many nappies they are filling, when did they sleep last and when do they need to sleep next. Your body is no longer recognisable, softer belly, stretch marks, stretchy skin and a back that is constantly aching. How do you begin to love a body that no longer feels like yours?
Your energy is dependent on how long the baby has slept the night before and how many coffees you can manage to sip in between managing the house and caring for the baby. You complain of feeling tired but wired at the same time and when it is time for bed, you struggle to fall asleep. Your fluctuating hormones are so imbalanced from the sleep deprivation, stress, overwhelm, lack of time for decent meals, the outcome – horrible mood swings and weight that never shifts.
Your identity – a mother, a cook, a cleaner, a taxi driver, a nanny and a thousand other job descriptions in one, but who are you outside of Motherhood?
That question remains unanswered.
Your spirit – what spirit? You’re a mum, who has time to fill their day with soul-full things?
Your self worth diminishes, if you can’t live up to the expectations that you have to be everything to everyone, you feel like a failure.
You have to do the jobs that an entire village used to do and are told to be quiet when you fail and realise you are only one person.
Does this sound familiar?
Modern Motherhood – exhausting is putting it lightly.
So how do you start feeling like yourself again when you haven’t slept for the last 400 years?
Rebuild your self love
To start feeling like yourself again requires you to first and foremost, realise that you need to prioritise your love for yourself. When you become a Mother, your baby often becomes your number one focus, but when you don’t have enough energy to give anymore, where does that leave you? Nourishing every element of your being is a form of deep self care for yourself and your baby – it’s time for you to retreat, rest and be held.
When you practice consistent, daily self-love, you create a mental environment for positive change. Your life might look a little different when the baby arrives, routines out the window and your priorities might have shifted. What priority shouldn’t change is how often you look after you. What message are you giving your partner or modelling to your children if you don’t ask for this time to look after yourself? You’re saying your needs don’t matter. Knowing that you are worthy of feeling your absolute best is the foundation for starting to feel like yourself again.
Address any underlying nutritional deficiencies
Modern Motherhood is a recipe for Postpartum depletion with women entering Motherhood already depleted from demanding careers and social schedules. Mothers often prioritise their health during their pregnancy for the health of the baby but once the baby arrives, her health is no longer a priority. Her essential nutrients are robbed during pregnancy to keep the baby’s health at optimal level and if she chooses to breastfeed her depletion will continue on a downward spiral if she isn’t replenishing her own nutrient stores. Although the body is very smart and possesses self-healing mechanisms, if we don’t address self sabotage/sacrifice in the form of unhealthy lifestyle habits, unfair expectations from others and ourselves, nutrition, exercise and sleep – we aren’t giving our body the best chance to recover from postpartum depletion. Common signs of postpartum depletion include:
- Poor memory
- Intense fatigue and exhaustion
- Lethargy, insomnia, tired upon waking
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Anxiety or mood swings
- Loss of skin elasticity, dry skin, translucent teeth, easier bruising, white spots on nails
- Digestive issues
- Loss of libido
- Difficulty concentrating
- Falling asleep unintentionally
- Hyper-vigilance (a feeling”tired and wired”)
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to chat with your healthcare provider to do any required tests, improve your food choices and seek a supplementation protocol.
Motherhood can often bring moments of overwhelm and stress so creating a stress management practice is essential. First and foremost recognise what triggers you, is it a certain time of day? What do you need to do to make your days less overwhelming and what can you do to create more calm and ease in this moment? Some examples of stress management are: meditation, taking time to laugh, deep abdominal breathing, finding a support group or moving your body. There are many nurturing practices that allow you to reset your nervous system but it is important to note that what works for one mama may not work for the next. Creating space for yourself to reset and decompress is essential to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system into calming the body down.
Rebuild your emotional wellbeing
Developing connections with like-minded Mamas in the absence of the “village”, and for the purpose of receiving validation, solidarity and support, reaching out to a local Mothers Group/Exercise Class can be beneficial for rebuilding your emotional wellbeing. It is unfortunately very common for friendships to fall apart when a baby arrives, so introducing friendships into your life that can relate to your current situation is important. If you reach a point in Motherhood where you are becoming worried about your mental health, seeing a psychologist, therapist or counsellor is extremely beneficial.
There are a range of benefits of introducing physical activity back into your routine postpartum including rebuilding strength, improved sleep, improved libido, more energy and better posture. Ensure you get a clearance from your GP before you start exercising again after the birth of your baby. You want to avoid exercises that build abdominal pressure or stretch your abdomen too much, particularly if you’re suffering from diastasis recti or experienced any kind of tearing during delivery
Types of exercise that are beneficial in postpartum include:
- Aqua aerobics
- Low impact workouts
- Light-weight training
I know, you’ve heard it all before “sleep when the baby sleeps”. Women often respond “but that’s when I clean, or that’s when I shower, or that’s when I do the laundry”.
You wouldn’t force your baby to stay up all day after a night of broken sleep, so why do it to yourself? Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for good reason, its horrible and the effects are life changing. It can affect your memory, mood, weight gain, libido, balance, concentration, immunity, just to name a few. If you have a catnapper on your hands, call in some help, ask a close friend or relative to come over so you can catch up on your zzz’s until you feel recharged again.
While I am unable to remove the obstacle of wakeful babies, there are many factors that can contribute to a restful sleep.
- a) Limiting exposure to blue light before you go to sleep: Blue lights represses our development of melatonin and interrupts our circadian rhythm
b) Improving your sleep hygiene such as avoiding emotionally stimulating activities, reducing noise, having a warm bath and creating a calm, welcoming environment for sleep
c) Alternative and Meditative Therapies such as acupuncture, yoga nidra and essential oils
d) Supplements (once approved by healthcare practitioner) such as magnesium and Ashwagandha