I remember making a birth plan (written on paper) with my first daughter, Brooklyn. I was so excited to have made a decision on exactly how my labor and delivery was going to go. I know, all you moms out there are LOLing at this right now. I am now, too.
What they tell you and you don’t fully listen to is that nothing will go as planned. Nothing from your labor and delivery to how your relationship with your spouse will be after your new bundle of joy joins your life in the real world. Or maybe some of it did, but the rest didn’t fall in line.
I am often asked how long I plan to breastfeed for or if I planned to have Raegan in the tub as a water birth. No idea and nope. I plan to breastfeed for as long as I can manage it, both emotionally and physically…and Raegan being born in the water was a result of the “let’s try this” approach. I knew from the first time around that making a plan of how things should go will likely end in some disappointment, so I went into this labor with an open mind.
When things don't go as planned you're often left with this gut punch feeling, even though you still had a beautiful, healthy baby. Maybe you ended up with an emergency C-section. This can lead a lot of moms down the road of feeling like a "failure" and that's a whole notha' level of losing a piece of yourself.
The same is true for your own identity and keeping a relationship with your spouse. I remember thinking “eh, not much will change” when I was about to have my second daughter, but boyyy, was I wrong. What I had forgotten about is the actual change that takes place in yourself as a mother after you give birth to or adopt a child. Whether it’s the hormone drop or the sheer magnitude of things you all the sudden have on your to-do list, it’s an emotional roller coaster. Everything you had previously scheduled out is now blown up. Sometimes we forget to feed ourselves, never mind take care of our own mental space. Our bodies are different and we don't feel sexy or wanted.
With each child, you become a new person. Being a mother of one is way different than being a mother of two. You learn and grow with each, and in turn that can change your relationships with people, especially your spouse.
Becoming a new person can be a wonderful and exciting opportunity to grow, but it can also be very hard to adjust to. Having a new baby typically means you are covered in spit up most (if not all) of the day and you have no idea if it’s 8am or 8pm. Real clothes? What are those?
You can get stuck in the day to day of caring for this new baby +/- other children and your spouse, and you may not even know the last time you talked about something other than your baby. This is all good and fine for a little while, but then one day you’ll look in the mirror and realize you don’t recognize the person staring back at you. You’ve become so consumed with this amazing child that you forgot to take care of yourself.
How do we get back on track? How do you feel like a real human being again and not just a milk machine?
First, give yourself TIME. Time to love on that baby more than anything else in the world. Time to lounge around in pajamas and binge watch Netflix while that precious child is sleeping on your chest. Soak it all in. Rest that body that may or may not have given birth, as having a newborn is exhausting on the body either way.
Once you feel that spark of “I’d like to put real clothes on today”, do it immediately! Don’t procrastinate this part because before you know it it's the end of the day and you're realizing you never did and then you’ll feel like a slob kabob all over again. Your normal day-to-day clothes likely won’t fit, so by “real clothes” I’m talking upgrading those pajamas to some nicer athletic wear. Throw on your Fabletics and a cute top to be in that “Did she just come from Yoga class?” look. Hell, maybe you’ll get overzealous and put makeup on too. Girl, just do it. You will feel a ton better.
Then get outside. Lounge in the grass with your kids or go for a walk. Soak up the outside air and just breathe. Take this time to allow your mind to think about new and exciting ways to find an identity outside of being a mom. Is that a new hobby? Do you want to start a side business? You've always wanted to write short stories - is now the time? Maybe you just want to reconnect with your partner. Just take that time to be with your mind.
Now let’s act on that new thought! How can you start a new hobby? Well, skillshare.com is a pretty awesome place to start. Maybe you want to start a side hustle. Reach out to those friends who work from home or are in direct sales. Those gigs can be worked on your own time and schedule and give you an entire new community of friends and support. If you want to reconnect with your partner and feel sexual again, start penciling in weekly date nights. These don’t need to be actually going out to dinner and a movie, they could be watching a movie together on Fridays after the kids are in bed or spending one night a week talking about how you can fill up each other’s “love tanks”. (If you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages, I strongly suggest it.)
Side note, exercising can work wonders for your self esteem and helping to feel sexy again. Trust me, I get the exhaustion and not feeling like you have time. But even 20 minutes a few times a week can change your mentality and the way you look at yourself. After your body has gone through the recommended rest phase of healing that your doctor/midwife suggests, get to exercising! There are SO many different types of exercising that you can try. I HATE cardio and for the longest time I put off exercising in general because I thought that was basically the only type of work out that did anything. Well, I was wrong. I now do Pilates, Yoga, and weight lifting...I don't hate it and it's been amazing for my body!
Lastly, eat WELL. Trust me, I love Doritos as much as the next person, but the physical and mental fatigue that you feel when eating crap and processed food is awful. Once you start eating cleaner you will see a drastic improvement in your mental space. You likely don’t have the time or energy with a new baby to focus on this part, so ask for help. When people want to stop by to see the baby, ask them to bring a healthy meal. People WANT to help. So, take them up on it! Or invest in a meal service like Green Chef. They have Paleo and Keto options and take the load off you having to think about meals for the week.
Keep that little piece of you alive during this exciting new time. Do not forget about you! Because without your tank being filled, those babies can’t be filled up either.