I'm a Mom Now, But How Can I Get Back to Being ME?
Here are 7 steps you can take to start feeling more like yourself again after giving birth. Regaining a sense of self can help to lessen symptoms of postpartum anxiety, depression and other maternal mental health concerns..
Written by: Dr. Caren Cooper, Owner and Therapist at Cooper Counseling and Wellness
Becoming a mother is one of the most rewarding experiences a woman can have. However, it can also be a challenging time, especially during the postpartum period. Many women experience physical and emotional changes after giving birth that can affect their mood, energy levels, and sense of self. This can create a space for resentment, depression, isolation and sometimes interferes with the bonding that happens between mothers and their babies. Here are a few steps that women can take to feel more like themselves again after giving birth:
Tip #1 - Be kind to yourself
The first step towards feeling like yourself again is to be kind to yourself. It's essential to recognize that your body has just gone through an incredible transformation, and it will take time to adjust to your new reality. Give yourself permission to rest and take things slow. Don't expect to bounce back to your pre-baby self immediately. Try practicing daily kindness by keeping a Gratitude Journal. In the journal, jot down 'positive praise' about yourself each day (ex. Today I was able to muster up the energy to take a shower; Last night I was proud of myself for asking for help so that I could rest).
Tip #2 - Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for new mothers. However, it's not always easy to get the rest you need with a newborn. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, and don't be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends to take care of the baby, so you can rest. Some moms find it helpful to create a sleep schedule with their partner/family or they utilize the services of a postpartum doula.
"If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me." – Maya Angelou
Tip #3 - Exercise
Exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but can also help improve mood and energy levels. It can be challenging to find time to exercise with a newborn, but even short walks can make a difference. Once cleared by your physician, you can try light exercises (ex. walking in place, yoga, etc.) during tummy time which can also create a cool bonding moment for you and the baby. Additionally, consider joining a postnatal exercise class, which can be a great way to meet other new mothers while getting some exercise.
Tip #4 - Connect with other mothers
Connecting with other mothers who are going through similar experiences can be a great way to feel less alone and more supported. Joining a new mothers' group or attending postnatal classes can be an excellent opportunity to meet other new mothers.
Tip #5 - Practice self-care
Taking care of yourself is essential to feeling like yourself again after giving birth. Make time for activities you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, crafts, or something minimal like taking a relaxing bath. For an idea - while nursing or feeding your baby, read from your favorite book or listen to it via audible if you need your hands free. You can also sing your favorite song to your baby while you are holding them. If you are not able to sleep when baby is asleep, try to engage in crafts or watch your favorite tv show/movie. Also, getting a postnatal massage or treating yourself to a new haircut can also be a great way to practice self-care.
Tip #6 - Eat a healthy diet
Just as with exercising, eating a healthy diet is essential for postpartum recovery and can also help improve mood and energy levels. Aim to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Don't forget to drink plenty of water and avoid foods that can affect your mood, such as caffeine and sugar.
Tip #7 - Seek professional help
If you're struggling to feel like yourself again after giving birth, it's essential to seek professional help. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS) such as postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are common conditions that can affect new mothers. There are treatments available such as specialized maternal mental health therapy to help manage symptoms. Don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider if you're experiencing any concerning symptoms.
Navigating a huge life transition such as becoming a new mother or expanding your family with additional children can be overwhelming and cause you to feel disconnected from self. It's important to remember that feeling like yourself again after giving birth takes time, and it's essential to be patient with yourself. Remember to prioritize self-care, connect with other mothers, and seek professional help if needed. With time, support, and extending yourself grace, you'll hopefully start to feel like yourself again and can enjoy all the joys of motherhood.