Part 1 of a 3-Part Series
Your story of becoming a mother is the sum of your unique circumstances, and no other woman has ever experienced motherhood in exactly the same way that you have. At the same time, becoming a mother is part of a nearly universal story of creating and nurturing new life.
Some of the universal truths of motherhood are familiar. Each and every mother the world over has sheltered a growing child within her body. Each mother has birthed her child into the outside world. Each mother has experienced growth, contraction, and shifts in her own body. And, with a brand new babe in arms, each mother has made decisions about how to best care for her child.
Here is another universal truth of new motherhood: good self-care is good newborn care.
On the surface, that may feel contrary to everything you know about being a new mom. We know about changing diapers and feeding baby around the clock. We know about being tired. We know about finding love in our hearts that we may never have imagined possible. We know about finding a way to safely thread little hands through sleeves, even when those fragile fingers insist on spreading out like the legs of a starfish just when you reach the tightest part of the cuff. We know about pressing our entire adult weight into a carseat base to make sure it is installed safely. Where is the self-care in this list of responsibilities – this list of caring for others?
Self-care is easy to overlook in those first, crazed days with a newborn.
But remember this – parenting is a journey of a lifetime. You cannot hold your breath and get through it. The road is simply too long. So, whether your baby is a hope for your future, will be joining you soon, or has already been born, THIS is the perfect moment for you to think about what you need as a new mom.
Self-care does not have to be expensive or time-consuming.
Some days self-care may mean giving yourself permission to stay in your jammies and eat comfort food. Other days it may mean finding a way to have a conversation with another adult or letting go of everything except playing with your child. For me, self-care often means remembering to drink water and taking a few moments to breathe well. One of my best friends uses the moment of applying mascara to say to herself, “I am taking care of me.” Simple acts like these cost no money and take virtually no time. Far more than the act itself, the significance comes from remembering that YOU are important. If doing your best for your family is important to you, then it is important that you care for yourself. Because when you have a healthy self, you have a lot more to give to everyone you care about.
I challenge you to make yourself a list.
If you can actually put your list on paper, that is the best. If you really commit to your list in your own mind, that is
the next-best thing. On your list, include three or more simple things that you could do to honor and care for yourself. Can you make at least one of those things happen every single day? If you tell someone you love about your list, will you be more likely to follow through with making those things happen for yourself?
It is easy for man new moms to make excuses for not taking care of themselves. In the same time, and with the same amount of energy that it would take to make those excuses, consider making an act of courage. Summon the courage to really look at what you need to sustain you, and then take small steps toward making those things happen. By finding the courage to care for yourself, you will ultimately find the strength to be the person and the parent you want to be.
Becky Potter, CD(DONA), CCBE
President, Colorado Doulas Association