I swear I read everything and anything about what to expect when you are expecting. Ok that’s not 100% true. 😛 But I am a reader and I sure did read numerous books. However, very little actually prepared me for the REALITY of having a baby. And nothing prepared me for how to go from surviving to thriving after baby. Oh sure, the books prepped me on the stuff that you should buy to be ready, such as having a crib or clothes or an incredible wrap if you love baby-wearing as much as I have. But, I sure did miss the books and articles that tell you just how much a baby poops. Oh my stars. The poop. Out the diaper, up the back, down the legs, in the clothes, on the feet. No one prepared me for that. Or what about the spit up. Goodness gracious. The projectile vomiting that goes everywhere. All over you. All over your cute, not baby proofed furniture and cute flooring and rug. And the smell. Or for that matter. The laundry. The never-ending-constant-piles-washing-machine-always-running amounts of laundry. None of my professional experience, none of my years of babysitting and nannying, not one book prepped my heart for the all-consuming life that I had just stepped into. Who can relate?!
Moreover, nothing prepared me for how my soul and my heart would feel now that there was a baby living in my house. What I am talking about is caring for your soul after a baby. See there is an incredible change that takes place now that you have your baby. If you are like me, that change was upside-down, inside-out, the biggest change I have ever known. From the busyness and demands of my job, to worrying about how to keep this sweet soul alive I was now consumed with everything from feeding to counting wet diapers to worrying do I wake the baby or let the baby sleep. And oh my stars. The opinions. Everyone. I mean everyone has an opinion on what you should do. Put that baby on a schedule. Never put that baby on a schedule. Wake that baby if it has been more than three hours. Never wake a sleeping baby. Don’t let the baby sleep in your bed cause you know….SIDS. Don’t let the baby sleep in a crib cause you know….SIDS. Don’t let the baby sleep in a car seat…cause they will suffocate and die. Well ok. Now I’m totally exhausted and there is no where for baby to sleep. I cried a lot. I sure didn’t want to be bad mom. Failing my kid was not high on my “mom goals”. But, I felt alone. Isolated. Around me people seemed to have it together, so it didn’t feel safe to express what was going on inside my heart. The weight of every decision I made felt wrong, and I was constantly disappointing someone. The mother. The in-laws. The best friend. The parenting expert. Even the baby. And the partner. Everywhere I looked women had it together. They would show up places fully made up with a cute, sleeping baby dressed in the latest fashionable baby wear, and here I was. Drowning. Hadn’t showered in days. Worn out from juggling the raging war in my head over how to parent and feeling like an absolute and total failure. Is this you?!
I’m here to tell you there is hope. For me, I had to learn to self-care. This was totally new to me. My entire life I have taken care of other people. Whether it was siblings in my home, serving my friends or professionally where I loved on teenagers. People are part of my love language so naturally I worry about everyone else before thinking of myself. However, today I want to talk to you about moving from surviving to thriving after Baby. These are in not in order of importance because they are all incredibly important and I would argue equally important.
Get some sun! I know this is hard. You want to hibernate and want to isolate. You are drowning in a sea of poop and bottles and laundry and never enough hours in the day. If you are already back at work you are lucky to see the sun before you even get home. I get it. But you must get outside. Low Vitamin D can lead to low moods and lower cognitive function. According to Mayo Clinic, even 10 minutes of exposure will prevent deficiency. Maintaining a healthy Vitamin D level (best if you can get it naturally from the sun!) has so many benefits! Not to mention getting outside is good for baby to get those same Vitamin D benefits. Smelling the outdoors, hearing the outdoor sounds, feeling the wind whistle through your fingertips or the sun on your face or the leaves rustling around you, nothing can replace the way the outdoor can engage your senses and help you feel alive.
2. Do Activity
Do activity. Every single day for 30 min. This can be something as simple as pushing your baby in a stroller around the block (OUTSIDE – see #1 🙂 ) or as aggressive as taking me time at a gym and running on the treadmill, going for a swim or doing a relaxing yoga class. But do not just sit every single day on your couch. You need to love you, your body, and some sort of movement every day is great for the heart, great for a healthy mood and avoiding depression, and a myriad of other health benefits.
3. Remember Who You Are
Do something you love. Gosh for me this was it. Having a baby became this overwhelming, amazing, but intense way of living. With my first, I came home with a NICU baby. Talk about 0 to 100. So worried to bring this little one home, he was so fragile, and had health issues. Days seem to drag by. The fatigue and lack of sleep was so intense. And somewhere along the way of caring for this new bundle 24/7 I just stopped living almost. My hobbies, my interests, my passions all took a backseat to this new all-consuming life. I had to learn that my new role as a mom was just one part of who I am. Not just a mom; I am still a friend and a daughter and a missionary (I was still gainfully employed in that season), and a wife. I was still a woman who loved to read, loved to sew, loved to scrapbook, loved to socialize with people. All those things are still important, so I had to figure out a way to incorporate all that into my life and my job as mama and parent.
4. Prioritize Your Partner
Cultivate time with your spouse/partner. I alluded to this above, but here I want to flat out say it. Your kids are important. No doubt. Super important. They have crazy needs. All the time needs. Even now that my oldest is 4, I still find he has so many needs. While there are some things he can do, such as get dressed or use the bathroom, he still needs a lot of assistance, direction, attention, and cuddles from me. However, he will likely be in my home maybe only 14 more years (I pray for more than that!) and after that time, if my kids fly the coup, I will still have my partner.
So where do you prioritize your partner while you have the baby and kids? I know it’s so hard to remember you have that partner believe me. You are tired, soooo touched out, feeling as if you have nothing left to give, but I promise you this is so critical to have a thriving household. Where the couple is happy and healthy, the kids are happy and healthy!
5. Accept help.
Accepting help is super hard for me. But accepting the blessing of someone who offered to clean my home. Bring us meals. Do our laundry. If you are like me, love to take on all the challenges of the world, allowing someone to help, admitting you NEED help and cannot do it all can feel like defeat, can make you feel like a failure. Let me tell you – you are NOT. It is a sign of STRENGTH, not weakness, to ask and receive help. It really does take a village!
If you are introverted and overwhelmed by people, I know its hard to ask for help for a totally different reason. Someone coming in to your home, to your space, asking questions about your life, gosh that can feel so draining. But again, allow people to help. If the introvert in you feels overwhelmed, allow them to play with your baby while you go soak in the tub and have some alone spa time. It would make my heart happy to hold someone’s baby for an hour! I know you have a friend like me who would love to come help.
6. Appreciate other Women
Do not compare! Realize there is no perfect parent and no mom who really has it all together. I had to step through this lie. There are definitely people who are better at maintaining an outward appearance. I have also learned that there are people who are thriving in this parenting journey and do it well, and I am so thankful for them because it is from these women where I have learned most of these tips. Many of them were gracious enough to let me see behind the curtain where they were vulnerable and transparent and confessed it is impossible to have it all together. It is why as women and moms we need to show each other an incredible amount of grace.
Focus on your unique journey. Do not look to the left or right by way of where you feel inadequate, but notice around you how much each woman you know adds to your journey. Each woman in your life has the ability to enhance and contribute positively to you, if you will allow them to do so.
7. Check Hormones
It doesn’t hurt to get your hormone levels checked. I had a complete hormone panel run by my midwife after birth and found that I was not comfortable with my progesterone levels, even though the tests said my range was normal. I did some digging and found some research from the National Library of Medicine here and Dan Pursuer’s book here that suggested my ranges were not normal. In fact, most women he saw had levels near 0, when ideally you want your number to be much closer to 10 ng/ML – especially to protect against breast cancer and uterine cancer.
- Estradiol >50 pg/mL
- Progesterone >10 ng/ml (but >20 ng/ml (to prevent Breast CA)
- Testosterone >50 ng/ml,
- DHEA 200-300 ug/dL
- Thyroid Free T3 app. 3.0 vs 4.0 pg/mL
- IGF-1 270-310 ng/mL
- This info came from Dr. Pursuer’s handout found here.
It might be worth looking into and getting tested and comparing your info to this info. For me, I add in this natural progesterone cream, which you can buy here, and it has been a game changer for maintaining balanced emotions, uplifting my spirits, as well as supporting mild mood changes, cramps, and edema associated with a normal menstrual cycle.
8. YOU ARE ENOUGH!
Know it is going to be ok. It really is. Your love and concern for your baby is going to SHINE through. You are doing enough. Give your self GRACE. In fact, right now, go give yourself a hug and a pat-on-the-back. Parenting is hard stuff. And if you care this much, then you are doing it RIGHT.
As I was writing I had a longer list, but I think this list is the top reasons without overwhelming and with giving good practical advice and sharing parts of my story. I really am praying for every woman out there today who is just barely holding on. If that is you and you are looking for some hope, some thread, some thing to get through the day, I pray that you have been encouraged and I will be praying that you will move from just surviving to thriving. I am going to leave you with this beautiful quote by the amazing Maya Angelou, whose writing is so beautiful and full of timeless truths.
I want to hear from you. What did you struggle with most in the transition to motherhood? Which parts of this resonated with you? What changes do you need to implement right now to move from surviving to thriving?