Whenever I talk or write about something personal, I get a little nervous that I might be sharing too much. But as many of you know, I’m very passionate about mental health advocacy and awareness. So, if I have an important message to spread, I’m going to put that before anything else. I’m excited to share this topic, knowing that many moms out there struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety — and don’t get help or get it extremely late. If this post benefits just one person, it’s worth it! Yes, this is targeted to new moms but anyone can take these tips and make them work in their own life.
I truly did not know just how vulnerable new moms are to postpartum depression and anxiety until I experienced it myself with the birth of my first son, Connor. That was 3 years ago. Luckily, I started to feel better a few months after Connor was born, but looking back I wasn’t fully myself for about a year or so. Some would argue that new moms are never “back to normal”, yet find “their new normal”. I could not agree more!
An old saying goes, “experience is everything”. And so it is. I did normal preparations for baby #2, such as thinking about a birth plan, finding a space in my house for the baby, and setting up childcare for Connor and baby #2. However, this time around, I wanted to focus on a “plan” for postpartum. I knew in my heart that this was the most important preparation I could make for myself and my family.
As I thought about my experience with my first son, Connor, I remembered my postpartum not being that great. Of course, I was so in love with my baby, but I walked around like a zombie at times from lack of sleep, as well as having anxiety that I was doing something wrong. My perfectionist personality was 100% back in my life after years of letting that go! I truly felt horrible that I wasn’t being “perfect” at balancing my new identity as a mother, while also trying to focus on my husband, family, friends, and running my business.
This time around I knew something had to change! My second son is almost 3 months old, and while I know I’m not fully “out of the woods” yet with possible postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety (PPA), I have felt great this time around. I know that a lot of PPD and PPA has to do with hormones and the baby’s personality and temperament. So while I do think a lot of my good fortune of having an easier time this time is pure luck, I think there are certain environmental factors that have helped me.
Here are my top 5 tips for surviving postpartum:
- Let go of any expectations. It helped me so much to not put any crazy unrealistic expectations on how I would handle 2 kids at once. I had no idea how my older son would be with a new sibling and I didn’t want to get my hopes up that everything would be smooth sailing. I kept telling myself I would figure it out when I needed to. That really helped me to stay present in the moment.
- Ask for help before you think you will need it. I learned this the hard way 3 years ago! I didn’t ask for anything when I had my first son because I thought it was my job to take care of him. This time around I knew I had to take care of myself first, and if that meant leaving him for a few hours to go do something for me, than that time was time well spent.
- When making decisions, just keep in mind that not everything is going to get done! At the beginning of my maternity leave, I started to delete commitments on my calendar and left blank spaces everywhere. Even though my calendar is full again, I’ve learned how important it is to say “no” when you need to, allowing you to have time for yourself. When you think about the most important values in your life, what comes to mind? My top values are honoring the importance of self-care and devoting time to the relationships I have with the people I love. I try to put that before anything else in my life (and on my calendar!)
- Communicate with your partner. It is so easy to take out all of your negative emotions onto your partner! After all, he or she is the person that loves you no matter what, even at “your worst”. It really helped me to be open and honest with my family about how I was feeling. It didn’t stay bottled up inside, only to explode one day.
- Self-care is priority #1. All of these tips have to do with you taking care of YOU so you can then take care of your family. After all, moms are role models to their kids and we want to show them how self-care is vital in building self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.