Lets talk self care for a minute. YOUR SELF CARE MATTERS! You cannot drink from an empty cup. Neither can your babies, or children, or family or friends. We as Mama's give and give, but there is only so long that we can give the best of ourselves before we become empty. And depleted if we do not put ourselves FIRST. Or at least second. Our Western culture has some of the highest rates of perinatal depression. And I feel a big part of this is because our self care, and often others caring for US seems to be right down the bottom of priorities! I know it can be hard to know where to begin, but lets start SIMPLE!
"Take care of the soul that takes care of others" - Mary Davis
1. ASK FOR HELP!
This is both simple in theory, and often the HARDEST part of the plan for many people. We are not a culture that seems to be okay with asking for help. We tend to lean towards the "I'm all good, I got this" responses, even when people offer. Many of us, self included, let this nagging little voice whisper crazy accusations like "What is wrong with you? You should be able to do this?" or "How much of a failure can you be if you can't juggle a tiny baby" or "THEY will think I am not coping if I ask for/accept help". First tip, tell that voice to *#%! OFF. Because we were NEVER meant to Mother alone. Or even with just our partners. This is a new thing in an a modern world that is causing real problem for Mama's. The flow on effect is that problems for Mama's can lead to problems for the bub, the partner relationship, the family, the community. Take a brief look into any traditional culture, or even your own family history going back 100 years or so, and Mothers were supported, embraced, celebrated, and allowed time to rest and repair. Not just self care, but cared for. So asking for help does not make you a failure. It makes you SMART! You are doing what we have done since we began giving birth.
Try this for first simple steps: - Before your partner heads to work, or when they get home, ASK (and it pays to have this conversation earlier and calmly) - ASK for help. ASK for 30 minutes so you can have a shower and quietly moisturize. Or brew and sip your tea. Or curl up and read in peace. Or go for a work. Or soak in a bath of magnesium salts. Aim for 30 minutes. If you get 15-20, you are still winning. If you have older children, ask them to help you, to watch bub, to amuse toddlers. Everything begins with asking!
ASK your family or friends if they are close. Remember - this does not make you a failure. It makes you smart. Begin small and develop small manageable habits. Manageable for you and for your partner/kids. Daily if you can. Set yourself one small allotment of time for you each day to do something that makes you feel good. And work on that becoming your habit. And as these habits become the norm, try adding something else. Time out for a yoga class or a solo walk. EACH WEEK. To manage this - you must ASK!
2. ACCEPT HELP when it is offered to you!
Okay, so I won't harp on too much about this. This is the other end of the see-saw to above. Same deal. It does not make you a failure to need help. People want to be there for you. So when they offer, accept with gratitude. Can you pop over and watch the bub and toddler for an hour while I have a sleep. Next time you cook a meal, I would be so grateful for a freezer meal to help me on the trickier days. Would you mind to come shopping with the kids an I. I would so love to turn a nightmare experience into one with help managing, and a cafe stop after to celebrate the success. People want to help you. Help them by letting them know what you need most.
3. Yoga or pilates to help you repair
Did you know it takes your body TWO YEARS to recover from pregnancy and birth. (Whichever way your bub enters this world) . Focus on repairing your body is important. I refer pretty much EVERY massage client I have to take up pilates or yoga. Pregnant, postpartum, or not. Why? Because building core strength, whoever you are is important to your health. As a Mama, even more so, because you are rebuilding. And at the same time, focus on core strength has fabulous success on rebuilding your pelvic floor strength. If you can get away for yoga time with just you, even better, but I can honestly say most of my closest Mama friends come from the friendships developed in mum's & bubs yoga (and the catch up that followed each week). That's two self care ticks in one easy step.
4. Massage- It is not just a luxury. It is restorative!
Massage is so beneficial to help your body rest and repair. Massage raises endorphins, can help ease anxiety and can help you sleep if you are having trouble. It can also treat your body remedially to help with aches and restricted movements. Seeing a therapist IS NOT just a luxury. It is self care for the physical, the emotional and the mental well being. If you cannot make it to a therapist (or have one come to you), try swapping massages with your partner. You will not get the remedial benefits that trained hands can bring you, but you will gain so many emotional benefits. Both ways. Shared massage will relax you both and connect you. It can still ease stress and anxieties and improve your sleep. (Be sure if you are not up for more than massage that your partner is aware up front (in a nice way) that this is not a free ticket, if you get my drift. Of course maybe you are, but sometimes you just need the simple connections)
As a a trained therapist, both remedial, and NurtureLife® Practitioner (all things pregnancy, labour preparation and postpartum), I am here to support you and advocate massage 100% in your recovery and self care. I have both a clinic room, or if that seems impossible, I can come to you. If you would like to learn more about what I offer, you can check out my services here.
5. Meditation and breath work
Many already do this, others think it a 'hippy' thing. Studies show regular meditation can actually change your brain, much like becoming a mother does. So if we can focus on trying to meditate and find calm, we are adding to all the amazing benefits that our magnificent Baby Brains can create for us.
There are many options for meditation. There are classes, both online and in person. Courses. Books. For those that join us in our five week infant massage program, we offer you the opportunity to a 12 month subscription to the oniine program Headspace for FREE. Or even something as simple as mindfully brewing your pot of tea, pouring it out, holding it in your hands, feeling its warmth as you sip it....even this can be a simple form of meditation.
In this moment, simply try closing your eyes, hand on your belly, and taking 5 deep, slow breaths. Focusing on nothing more than the sound and feel of your breath, the rise and fall of your hand. Just these few seconds can make such a difference to your state of mind, particularly if you are feeling frazzled. Perhaps start here, and make this one of your simple daily ritual. One you can practise many times a day, every day.
6. Reach out to your tribe.
Pick up the phone. Ask someone to come over. Or go to visit them. If you are feeling isolated, where you live, try connecting in a private facebook 'Mum group'. It only takes one Mama to reach out, and another to respond, and that just might be the beginning of the friendship you needed most to make this Mama thing that bit more special, and much more supported - FOR YOU! There are also council Mama groups, baby yoga is fab for meeting others, our 5 Week Baby Massage program is as much about the 'Mama Circle' as it is connecting with your bub.
It only takes one mum to put her hand up and suggest "coffee after?" (Or tea? )
7. Outsource domestic help so you juggle less
So often today Mum's find themselves living away from family or any tangible support. The phone is great for emotionally leaning, but the fact is, we all need help with the practical too. There is no shame in outsourcing help! Hire a cleaner to come in once a week. Zip around and do your bathrooms and vacuum and tidy and tackle whatever jobs you hate the most. Have your groceries delivered. Order in meals - takeaway occasionally is great but can be expensive. There are businesses out there specifically aimed to bring meals into your home. Get your lawns mowed or gardens weeded or clothes ironed for you (unless you just boycott ironing altogether like I do). There is someone out there to help with most tasks.
8. Embrace the holistic help of a doula
Your baby does not need lots of STUFF! Your baby, and children, and partner just need YOU - present and available to them. And to manage that, you need to find ways to nurture YOU. Keep it simple. Ask for help. Rest. Repair. Recover. If you have no local help, consider a postpartum doula to call on for support. Lets go back to looking at history and tradition for a moment, where a 40 day confinement with doula care and sacred tradition is common across cultures across the world. WHY? Because raising a baby, and a new Mother has always been the responsibility of the whole Village, and the doulas have traditionally been the close nit community of Mothers, sisters, aunties, women. Wisdom as old as mankind has seen to this sacred care.
We deserve to be cared for as we learn to Mother our babies. Of course few women today necessarily want to be confined for 40 days, but most would fantasize about a doula coming into their home once or twice a week to support them in whatever way they need, emotional and physical, for as long as they need. And there is a very good chance there is a doula near you, ready to help. It is just about you finding one to suit you, your family and your needs.
As a perinatal doula, I support Mama's from conception through their first year postpartum. I am here to support you, help you find your feet, find your tribe and fall in love with this new amazing, but often amazingly difficult time in your life. I am here to help you so it is more amazing, and less overwhelming and exhausting. Or at the very least, to assure you, you are not alone, nor failing, nor doing anything wrong if you find it hard sometimes. You are just a mum. And NO mum is supposed to do this mum thing alone! What can I do for you? That will depend on what you need on any given day. What can I bring into your home?
- Massage - for you and your baby
- meals prepared
- care for your bub/children so you may shower, sleep, rest
- an ear to listen over a nice tea
- light household duties
- support as learn to have confidence in your role as Mother
-Help building your tribe
-Help making a plan for practical support around your home
-What you need on the day. Lets find a way to make it happen.
If you want to know more, join me at our next 'Preparing for you post partum period' workshop, or if bub has already arrived, lets connect and make a plan for what you need today. Because you deserve to be cared for just as much as your baby does. Xx