I’m a parent and at first I was trying to survive and get by. If you know my story, I had a traumatic birth experience and was diagnosed with PTSD and PND. You can read about my experiences via my blog.
Something I hear a lot of, Self-Care won’t help me get better, it won’t fix me. The truth is no it won’t but it will help. You can look after the mind by going to therapy but you need to look after your body.
Sleep deprivation can make you quite ill, as I found out. I was told if I do not take time out I will have a break down as I have basically burnt myself out. Being a new parent, you always feel that you have to be super mum. You cannot show a sign of weakness as people will think of you badly. The truth is there is no such thing as the perfect parent and they are lying if they say they never struggled at some point.
When my baby slept I spent all my time making sure the house was well presented in case people judged me.
You know the comments you worry about;
She’s not coping.
something is wrong with her.
I bet she’s depressed.
She’s a bad mum.
She could have made an effort.
poor kid doesn’t stand a chance.
The shocking thing is I have had people say this to me about another mother. I wanted to slap them.
The only time I made an effort with myself was when the health visitor came or when I saw my GP. I was scared they would take her away otherwise.
I did the house work and made sure everything was ready for her when she woke up. I couldn’t sit down. I looked for things to do to keep me busy. I became obsessed with cleaning. Anything to keep my mind busy. So I didn’t have to sit in silence with my thoughts as my only company.
I went to see my counsellor and I broke down. I cried the whole session. I said that I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m tired.
I felt like a bad mother.
I asked her why does everyone else find it easy?
She said to me nobody finds it easy. They may seem like they are in the perfect mum bubble. But the reality is there isn’t one. Admitting you are struggling is okay.
She said I needed to try to find time to relax. Have a cup of tea or sit with a book when she slept. I needed to look after myself not just her or there would come a time when I couldn’t look after her because I didn’t look after myself.
This made me think, she had a point.
I tried this and it was very hard. It is not easy to just sit. It took me months to actually take the time for myself. It wasn’t until she was two that I started going out on my own.
If my husband wasn’t home I’d put her in her bouncer in the bathroom while I had a bath, that was a start.
I would sit and have a cup of tea and read a magazine while she napped.
I came to realise if I didn’t take the time to relax or switch off I would actually have a break down. She was right. I was so low and physically exhausted. Exhausted of crying about being exhausted. I needed to do this not only for myself but for her.
It took me a year and a half to realise and accept that I needed some self-care of my own.
This is what I found worked for me;
– Have a bath with baby in their bouncer if you struggle with someone having them.
– Read a couple of pages of a book before bed so your mind goes elsewhere before you sleep.
– Write a diary or blog or even a poem and have a cup of tea. Get your worries off your mind and on to paper.
– I tried one of those colouring books that was fun.
– I love to draw. I tried it for a bit when I had the time. My mind went elsewhere and it helped with the anxiety.
– I looked forward to seeing my counsellor. I’d go see her to get everything off my chest.
After each session I’d feel like a weight was lifted, at least for that week.
– Go for a walk. Put baby in their pram and breathe in some fresh air.
– Get some sleep. No matter what I did I couldn’t sleep during the day. So I used to put on a box set when my husband was back and I’d watch it for an hour in bed.
– Painting my nails helped. I felt I looked like a different person after having my daughter. I found it hard to accept at first.
– Put some music on and have a dance with your toddler. We love it. It is great Exercise and you have a giggle to. That is until my daughter decided she wanted to dance like Beyoncé.
Buy some flowers to brighten up the house.
The little things help.
I took my daughter to a baby music class when she was 11 months old. I met a friend there who I would now call my closest friend. Someone to text and say help, did your baby do this? Someone to have a cuppa and chat with. An adult conversation for half an hour while they bop to the music with the class teacher. It is amazing.
I hated the thought of going at first. What if they ask about my birth? But it was great. I did have times when I cried in my car because I saw how well other Mum’s coped. Truth is I found out later on that they too had their own struggles.
I tried Pilates and Zumba, it nearly killed me but it was fun for an hour on a week night when hubby got home.
I went to the gym once a week. That’s all I could fit in as I had no one to have her. But it was great to get out for an hour and have a cheeky Costa. Something I looked forward to. Didn’t last long due to finding someone to have her. But at least I got out and built up the trust for someone else to look after her. This was a big step for me back in the day.
I struggled leaving her even if it was with my mum or mother in law, so I made a list. I said to them its for my piece of mind and asked them to picture message or text updates so I wasn’t sat thinking, has she been fed? Has she had a nap? Are they making sure she is breathing!
It really did help.
I guess my message to you is that we need to not only look after our body physically but mentally too. Even the odd minute here and there to close your eyes and take a deep breath, from the toddler that’s hanging off your leg or that boss who won’t stop breathing down your neck. It helps.