My advice to any new mom…or even a not so new mom…
I’ve been there- a new mom- 6 times. (Yes- SIX!) Just when you think you have this new mom thing figured out they throw you a new curveball. Maybe your last baby never slept, and the new one is a great sleeper. Maybe you weren’t able to nurse last time and this time you are trying it. The thing is- every baby is different. They have different needs and sensitivities. And as soon as you think you get this baby thing figured out, everything changes, again, it seems. The one thing that all of your children have is you- wonderful you!
In order to take care of your family, you have to take care of yourself.
When I was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer a few years ago, there was this great program. It’s sponsored by the American Cancer Society and it’s called Look Good, Feel Better. It was such a powerful program. The gist of the program is you might feel awful, sick, sleep deprived and ugly- but inside you are still the beautiful you.
Doing small things to improve your appearance can have a dramatic influence on how you feel. It was during treatment that I realized how fabulous it would have been if I had these wise words told to me when I was a new mom. Something as simple as wear earrings. I had a small pair of square cut cubic zirconia earrings I would wear a lot during chemo because I could sleep in them, and it made me look just a little more finished, or that I tried to look put together. This is me going to my last chemo treatment.
Put in that extra effort- every day.
Even if you are going to be at home all day, make that small investment in yourself. I know, intimately, how hard it can be to even get a shower. When your husband/partner/older child/neighbor comes and asks what they can do- go give yourself 10 minutes to shower. So many times when my kids were little and out of sorts I used the wise advice another mother gave me- add water. Are they hungry or thirsty? Maybe they are just completely out of sorts- nothing like a warm bath to calm most babies frayed nerves. The same is true for us, sometimes we just need a bath or shower to wash off the yuck of the day and begin again.
Layer on the pretty.
I find that if I can wear clothes that make me comfortable and sort of resemble appropriate for public, I feel so much better than if I stay in pajamas all day. I already mentioned the earrings. Even if my hair is in a ponytail, but I have on earrings, to me, it looks like I tried and I’m more put together. Don’t forget to spray down those flyaway hairs! Jewelry can have such a powerful impact on feeling finished and pretty. We have these awesome Milk Daze and Chewbead necklaces that can be worn by moms of small children that are resistant to breaking and safe for baby to chew on. That’s a win-win! Mama feels prettier and happier and baby can grab and grope her necklace or bracelet or bangle and safely grab, clasp, gnaw on it. Add a sweater, scarf or jacket. You can take a pair of yoga pants or leggings, and tank top to trendy by adding jewelry and a denim jacket or a cute cardigan. You are so worth it.
Fake it until you make it.
You still might feel totally overwhelmed and crazy tired. Keep it up. Put on your earrings and some lip gloss. Kiss that baby and keep moving. Set a timer for 10 minutes- You don’t have to do it all, do it in chunks. For 10 minutes you can throw your diapers into the wash or fold laundry, take a shower, plan a shopping list. You don’t have to do all the things. Being a parent is incredibly rewarding. I keep remembering my friend Jenni who would say,
“To whom much is given, much is expected.”
What could be more wonderful than being given another baby to love? I would think of that when I would feel totally overwhelmed by way too much laundry or the need to cook, again! Just keep swimming and even if the progress is small, you are in a better place than the day before. And if you can’t shake the funk, ask for help. Postpartum depression is real and nothing to be ashamed of. There is help! You shouldn’t have to suffer.
Make a list of the things you want to get done.
Mommy brain- it’s a real thing. Somehow the hormones of being pregnant or having a new baby mixed with sleep deprivation, it makes you forget what you really wanted to do next. It was best if I was able to, the day before, make a list of what I want to do. Let’s be honest, most days I forgot until halfway through the day. On those days I didn’t start where I was at that point in the day. I went out of my way to write down and cross out the things I had already accomplished. It makes you feel better to see I was able to at least do this or that. To this day I still do that. (truly) Another trick so something doesn’t fall off my radar: I put items in my calendar on my phone right away and add an alert. I can’t even tell you how many times that alert has saved me! I even have alerts for daily things so I don’t forget.
Write it down.
It’s so easy to forget all the things our children do or say. My oldest has a FULL baby book. My second has a mostly full baby book. I didn’t even try with the rest. I do remember when Gus, my third baby first walked. It was on his first birthday. But don’t ask me any other milestones; for any of them! Get a journal and keep it and a pen by where you sit to hold baby most. Write down the first smiles, or rolling over. Note how tired you are or how desperate you are to shower. Write down the funny things your children say.
My old journals are such a treasure to look back on. It’s amazing the things you forget until you read them again. I recommend not making it where you write a whole bunch every day. Make a list- three thorns, three roses. There are days when the roses might be hard to pick out- but it can be as simple as I wore earrings, I emptied the dishwasher, I called a friend, I made it to the grocery store. Other days it will be easy- baby smiled at me the first time, baby said mama, I was able to go for a walk outside with the baby in the stroller, I went to a playgroup, I made it to story time, etc. You’ve got this, mama.