It’s Okay to Not be Okay
Well, first of all, I kind of misled you. Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned mom, you’re going to lose your shit, from time to time. What you do need to know, is that its’ okay to not be okay! Speaking from a new mom’s perspective, motherhood is just plain hard. When you add military life to the mix, you might as well send me to the loony bin. As much as it’s rewarding and the joy your little ones bring you, some days, you just want to hide in the bathroom and drink your coffee before it gets cold. I’m here to tell you as chaotic as it can be in those moments of stress and being overwhelmed, there are some ways to help you from going crazy.
As I write this, I am laughing because I know firsthand, how difficult it can be to find time to sleep, especially in the newborn stage. From week one till about three months, my daughter had colic. On top of colic, she also struggled with reflux for about the first six months of her life. The colic and reflux resulted in her crying for hours and hours on end. Cue the sleep deprivation! My husband and I had to take turns at being on “baby duty” just so we could try to squeeze in some sleep. Not to mention, in the first two weeks of her birth, we were in the process of moving. Picture this: an air mattress with a rock n’ play beside it and a sleeping bag, upstairs, in an empty room. I had to wear earphones and blast white noise to drown out the crying when it was my turn to try and get some sleep. Man, that was rough! So, I know firsthand, its’ easier said than done, but any chance you get in the newborn stage, try to sleep. Forget those dishes because it isn’t as important as your well-being!
#2 Schedule “Me time”
Oh, I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of giving yourself a break! You AND your spouse need your own “me time”. For my husband and I, we each take a few hours on the weekend to go out and doing something by ourselves. Examples of what you could do include getting your nails done, window shopping, reading a book at a coffee shop, go for a walk, etc. If you want to use that time to nap, DO IT! Have your significant other take the baby out for an hour or two while you catch up on some sleep. My husband likes to go play golf, rugby or play nerdy games at the game store. I find taking time for ourselves is not only important for us individually but for our marriage. Parenting in general is not easy but in the early months, its’ especially trying, so remember to give yourself a break!
#3 Ask for Help
Whether you have a supportive spouse or if you’re a single parent, ask for help! The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child” and with that, I concur. Please, don’t try to be Super Mom and do everything yourself because it will break you down. I remember people brought us food whenever my daughter was born and I was forever grateful! A week after I had Madeline, the packers came to pack up our belongings, so we were without any proper furniture. One of my neighbors came to my rescue, and let me borrow a rocking chair, for the time being! I was also blessed my mom flew out to help us with the transition of parenthood. She cleaned, folded laundry, did dishes, made food, held my crying daughter so I could shower, and for that I am so thankful.
People are going to ask you if they can help, so instead of saying, “Oh, it’s okay, don’t worry about it!”, please say yes! Ask them to do your dishes or fold that stack of laundry, do not feel guilty!!! You are not there to entertain them. They are there to help you!Remember that “me time”? Ask someone to watch your little one while you get away for an hour or two. It makes all the difference in the world to get a break and recharge!
Exercise is medicine for the body! You don’t have to be a gym rat or in excellent physical condition to get started. After having a child, you most likely will not be in the best shape of your life (which is totally normal and to be expected), so take it slow! I highly recommend finding a gym that provides childcare. There are also many mom groups/businesses that offer child-friendly classes. I feel so much better after I workout and am just all around more happy!
#5 Find mom-friends
You can only talk about the color of your baby’s poop or how often they eat, to your spouse, for so long. Sometimes, it’s just easier to talk to a fellow mom friend. A mom friend understands what you’re going through and can also give you advice (if you want it). Mom friends can get together for play dates and bond over how often you had to re-heat that coffee and change your blouse, that morning. We just get each other, its’ that simple.
#6 Be Kind to Yourself
You are not the same woman you were before you gave birth. You feel different and may even look different. I’m here to remind you that all of that is normal and not to beat yourself up! Realize the miracle you created and the process your body went through to bring your baby into the world. Embrace those stretch marks. Don’t try to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans, right away. In fact, I highly suggest shopping for some outfits that fit you and your new body. About six months after I gave birth, I still wasn’t quite fitting in my old jeans, so I went out and bought a new pair. There is nothing worse on your confidence than trying to squeeze into clothes that are too tight. Who says you have to be a certain size or weight? That number is just that, a number. So I got my new jeans and I felt great because I wasn’t feeling the pressure (I put on myself) to fit into my old clothes right away. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit back into those jeans, just know it will probably take time but if it never happens, that’s okay, too. Remember you’re a different person now. Your body is different but it is beautiful! Be kind to yourself!
#7 Don’t Doubt Yourself
In the beginning stages of motherhood, I often found myself questioning, “Am I doing something wrong?”. This doubt is somewhat normal but do not let it control your thoughts. In the beginning, I would obsess over what I was doing or if my husband “wasn’t doing something correctly” when in reality, I was just being a paranoid, controlling new mom (also totally normal!). As they say, “there is more than one way to cook a chicken”, meaning there is more than one way to put a baby to sleep, to change their diaper, to feed them, etc. Don’t obsess over everything being perfect, because, motherhood is far from it! Let people take over for your sometimes, even when you are screaming inside because they aren’t changing the baby “right” (this was me). I soon realized that sometimes babies just cry. It doesn’t mean I’m doing something “wrong”. In those early “colic” days, when I was going crazy from the constant crying, I would say to myself “This is temporary”. I would take a deep breath and repeat this mantra and it would significantly calm me down.
I hope these few tips on staying sane during that first year of motherhood are of some help to you, if not, just a reminder! Take care of yourself, physically and emotionally, and you will make it through! Also, remember, it’s okay to lose it sometimes. I still do. However, these tips have significantly helped tone down my crazy! Ha! God bless Mamas! What is something you do to help yourself from losing it?