My second piece for Alternatively Healthy and it was surprisingly easy to write...I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing. I've had some lovely feedback about this piece, so I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments...
When I was pregnant, all the focus seemed to be on the birth, the baby or how big my bump was. I wish someone had made me a cuppa, sat me down and whispered these secrets into my ear. Would have made post-baby life and especially that first year a lot easier.
1.FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS NOT THE RULES
Books can be great for guidance and ideas. But it’s time to stop reading them if they are causing you more stress than benefit. Same goes for Dr Google.
When I interviewed transformational coach Nicky Clinch for The Motherkind Podcast, she told me everything changed when she finally threw out the books and started listening to herself. Every baby and child is different, with its own neurology, so tune into your baby and follow your instincts of what you think he/she needs. I promise you 99% of the time you’ll be right (and the 1% you won’t be far off).
I wish I’d practised more learning to access and follow my instincts before Jessie came along. It’s a skill that needs focus – it requires getting quiet inside and learning to dim the outside noise to dial up your own inner voice. I wrote a piece on how to do it here.
2. IT PROBABLY WON’T LOOK HOW YOU PLANNED
If one thing is for certain, it’s that nothing is.
If you’re anything like me you might have daydreamed about what sort of mum you’d be. I was all about the natural parenting; breastfeeding for at least a year and I never really considered it might not work out that way. It turned out for my daughter and I breastfeeding wasn’t easy and despite that, I forced myself to continue, putting way too much pressure on myself to meet my own expectations. Looking back I wish I’d accepted reality exactly as it was and been grateful for the option of bottle feeding. Letting go of how it ‘should’ be is incredibly freeing and will allow you to surrender to the experience rather than fighting it.
3. GET COMFORTABLE ACCEPTING AND ASKING FOR HELP
This was a huge one for me, I had some strong limiting beliefs I needed to work through before I became a mum such as ‘asking for help is weak’, ‘asking for help means I’m not coping’. Luckily, by the time Jessie came along I was able to clearly state what help I needed and accept it graciously. For the first month, I asked every visitor to bring a meal – it meant I didn’t have to cook for a month (heaven) and my friends and family also appreciated knowing what to bring to help out. WIN WIN.
4 .LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS LOOKING AFTER YOUR BABY
When Jessie was born I was overwhelmed with the heady mix of love and responsibility – I focussed all my time, energy and effort on her and pretty much forgot about me. It’s so easy to do but slowly my lack of self-care started to tell – I found myself becoming increasingly anxious, irritable and stuck back in my well-trodden thought patterns of perfectionism, judgment and self-criticism. I realised I had to find a way of looking after both of us. Looking after my wellbeing isn’t selfish or a luxury, it’s a necessity if I’m going to be the best mum I can be. I now believe it’s selfish for me not to look after myself, as if I’m not feeling good, everyone in the family is affected. I wrote a longer post about how to juggle self-care with being a mum here.
5. DO 50% LESS THAN YOU WANT TO
Before becoming a mum life was full on, busy and jam-packed with activity. One of the greatest challenges I found in becoming a mum was slowing down, savoring the quiet afternoons of nothingness and reframing what I viewed to be a successful day (for me it was getting showered and one activity). Often our rushing and busyness can be a coping mechanism or a way of avoiding ourselves. Embrace this opportunity of becoming a mum to get to know yourself and your baby better, it will be way more beneficial to you both than spending those early days in a haze of activity.
6. ALL YOUR FEARS AND ANXIETIES WILL RISE TO THE SURFACE
Despite being 10 years into my personal healing journey when I had Jessie, the experience of loving this little human so much bought all my tendencies for fear and anxiety up to the surface. My fearful mind went into overdrive – what if she stops breathing? What if she’s got an undetected disease? And so it went on. It was a sign how much I loved her, and therefore totally natural that my fearful mind would kick in – the trick is to detach from it, so you don’t become a quivering wreck by the end of week one. The best way I’ve found to do that is meditation (see next point).
7. MEDITATION IS MUMS NEW SECRET WEAPON
Despite being a regular meditator pre-baby, the change in routine and sleep deprivation meant I just wasn’t doing it enough. This meant I struggled to detach from my crazy thinking, which with a new baby was not ideal! Mediation is a life-changing tool and I think every mum should meditate because we need it the most! Download an app such as Calm or Headspace and find 10 mins a day to practice. During feeding is a great time, especially in the middle of the night when it can be so tempting to jump on our phones (which will then make falling back to sleep so much harder.)
8. DON’T GET STUCK IN COMPARE + DESPAIR
Ah good old social media, such a quick way to beat ourselves up and a helpful reminder that everyone else has it sorted and I’m doing.it.all.wrong. Or maybe that’s just me?! When I had Jessie I made myself a new rule, if I was struggling or feeling vulnerable in any way then I wouldn’t go on social media. Whilst there is lots of support and positivity online, when I’m in that space my mind is like a guided missile seeking out further evidence that I’m shit. So I avoided it all together and it was game changer. Then the next day when I was feeling better, I could enjoy a good ol’ scroll which felt nourishing and uplifting. Remember no two parents are the same, we all do it differently and you are doing it perfectly imperfectly for you and your baby.
9. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Having a baby is one of the most amazing, awe-inspiring, life-changing events that will ever happen to you. It’s also incredibly hard. I work with so many mums who struggle with feeling not good enough, guilty, have a loud inner-critic and speak to themselves like their own worst enemy. We’re so kind our friends and family, so please extend that same kindness to yourself, you are doing the best you can one day at a time. Practice applying the same tenderness, understanding and love you feel for your child onto you too.
10. PRIORITISE SLEEP OVER EVERYTHING ELSE
Ah, sleep. The new mum’s nemesis. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique – it’s incredibly hard to function when you’re exhausted. It’s an obvious one but sleep whenever you can and if you can’t sleep at least try to relax, there are great guided meditations out there (check out YouTube for free ones). Even though Jessie is now 2 I still try to get in bed by 9pm every night, even if that means the house is a mess and the washing isn’t done. Sleep is my number one priority.