I remember a phone call with my mom a couple weeks after Joaquin was born. “Do you have the baby blues?” She asked, “because it’s okay to feel sad sometimes.” It was so liberating to hear her say that. She explained how tough it is to be a mom, how isolating it can be, especially in the beginning when there seems to be little reward for all your efforts to keep this little being happy and healthy. (P.S. Everything changes when you finally get some smiles and giggles!)
No one talks about the fact that becoming a new mom can be, quite frankly, depressing. After all, it’s supposed to be all rainbows and unicorns with newborns. Right?
Well let’s see… your body was just stretched (and likely torn/cut, sorry TMI) in ways you never imagined, you probably dropped 20 pounds in a matter of days, your hormones have gone on a roller coaster ride, you’re lucky if you get a solid 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time, and this little parasite (I mean, adorable little baby) is crying for you nonstop to be fed, changed, or rocked in a figure 8 motion while bouncing up and down All. Day. And. All. Night.
Not to mention you’ve just sacrificed (albeit temporarily) all the other things that mattered to you – going out with friends, having a clean house, being a well-respected career woman, going shopping, having adult conversations…
I think it’s safe to say you’re going through a tough time. (And if you’re one of those people reading this thinking your baby was a complete angel and you loved every minute of maternity leave, you suck.)
Here are some things I wish someone had told me right away:
- It’s okay to say no to people who want to visit during those first few weeks. Sometimes the last thing you want to think about is entertaining.
- Take a hot shower every single day. Breast milk, formula, poop, pee, spit up, sweat, tears… You’re likely covered in one or all of the above. So even if your baby screams the minute you lay him/her down, bring the bassinet into the bathroom, and let the baby cry for even just 5-10 minutes while you go to your mental happy place and let the hot water wash away the stress. Hot water dilates your blood vessels and gets your blood flowing, so it literally helps you detox. Plus, for those first few weeks, it’ll feel like the most luxurious indulgence compared to everything outside of that shower.
- Put on your makeup every morning, or at least wash your face. Just keep up your normal routine. Yeah, you’re on maternity leave and will probably not see another human being besides your babe all day, but it really makes a difference in how you feel about yourself.
- You can drink regular coffee even if you’re breastfeeding. And if you’re like me, you’re going to need it. It’ll be one of the few things you can retain as your “me” time, even if you are chugging it ice cold. (1-2 cups per day is completely fine. Beyond that, switch to decaf.)
- You do not need to “pump and dump” your breast milk (aka liquid gold) if you’ve had a glass of wine. You just have to wait an hour per drink before feeding.
- Go outside and get a breath of fresh air every day. Even if it’s subzero out, ask your better half, your sister, neighbor or friend to watch your kiddo for 20 minutes so you can take some deep breaths, clear your head, and feel what it’s like to walk with your arms swinging freely. And if it’s not subzero, take the little one for a stroll. Fresh air is so important!
- Schedule dates with your partner. It’s so easy to take each other for granted during this trying time — you both feel short changed. Hire a sitter and go out for a nice meal together. It’s so important to remember that you’re a team and that you were actually a loving couple before you started having kids (who’s idea was that anyway?).
- It’s okay to cry. I cried daily that first week post-partum. Couldn’t tell you why, but sometimes you just need to let it out.
- Reach out for help when you need it. Postpartum depression is real, and it’s dangerous. I suffered from relatively minor ups and downs, but some women have it much worse. The hormone dump that occurs post-delivery (and even in cases of miscarriage) is serious. If you feel like you’re in over your head, reach out to a friend or doctor immediately.
These things may seem trivial, but they’re good for your wellbeing and, ultimately, your kiddo’s wellbeing.