My first masalamommas column was all about the Journey to Baby –the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant. Once I was pregnant, there were countless blogs, websites and books (not to mention friends and family with their endless advice) devoted to having a healthy pregnancy and learning to care for one’s newborn upon his or her arrival.
After giving birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl, I found there was far less information on how a new mom recovers after a baby. I am not just talking physical recovery – although that is a big part of it. I am talking about mental recovery. Giving birth is a huge (sometimes tragic sometimes triumphant) event and recovering – mind body and soul – is an equally significant undertaking.
There is no prescribed course to become acclimated to your new life with baby but that doesn’t mean family and friends won’t try and tell you what to do.
Get back to exercising in six weeks.
Start walking right away.
Go on date nights with your husband.
Make time for yourself.
Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
The comments go on and on. But the reality is, after having a baby, I was just exhausted and had to slowly figure out this new world I was living in. It was like being dumped in a swamp and being asked to run fast. Very fast. At first, I just couldn’t do it but slowly (very slowly) I figured out the answer lied within me. Yes, I wanted my body back. Yes, I wanted to re-ignite a flame and stay connected in my marriage. Yes, I still wanted to pursue my personal passions.
But I couldn’t do all of these things at once. All I knew for certain was that I needed to learn quickly how to care for this new little being that just came into my world. I want to be an amazing mom and I want to give my little baby an amazing life but one step at a time. First I needed to figure out how to give her an amazing day or at the very least an amazingly clean diaper.
The pressure to recover and acclimate to this new world is intense and even overwhelming. We don’t just jump back to our pre-baby selves in 30 days. To acclimate to this new world, I did something controversial. I decided to focus on just two things. Me and the baby. New moms are supposed to prioritize the baby but putting themselves first, or at least second, is seemingly unheard of.
How did I prioritize myself? There were little things like making sure I took a shower each day and put on makeup. For my fellow new moms you know what a luxury that can be.
The bigger things related to time. Even in the first few weeks after having my baby, I carved out an hour a day for myself. I didn’t necessarily go anywhere but I would hand over care giving responsibilities to my husband and spend an hour in my room reading a magazine, trolling Facebook, talking on the phone. If I did go out, I usually just walked around Target or went to my local coffee shop. These precious sixty minutes helped me stay connected to me. They gave me the focus I needed to go back down the stairs, pick up my beautiful baby again and be the mom she needed me to be. I quickly came to learn that a happy me led to more happy things in my life.
I also used my maternity leave to do something I always wanted to do – take an online creative non-fiction writing course. I can hear you all saying “She did what?” Well, yes in the middle of feedings, diaper changes, baby laundry and recovering from giving birth I also took an online class. This was the respite in my otherwise demanding day. Since the course was online I could do it at my own pace. So whenever baby was sleeping, I focused on my class.
You may think where was the time? I somehow made the time because I wanted to do something, in addition to baby, that kept me connected to me. The online writing course was exactly that. Now the book I have always wanted to write is in progress and that makes me happy.
Having this time to do my class or take 30 – 60 minutes a day for myself was a luxury and one that I was lucky enough to be afforded by having a hands on husband who was able to care for the baby. It also helped that my baby slept in nice long chunks during the day which is when I was able to attend to other things.
In every culture focusing on baby is the mom’s key responsibility. American society accepts that in addition to focusing on baby you focus immediately on weight loss and getting your love life in order by going on date nights with your husband. But rarely if ever do you read anything about getting reconnected with yourself. Life changes when you have a baby and in our society the mom often gets left behind. I took the approach of getting my life on track so that I could be a better me and have the energy, drive and enthusiasm to be the best at all the other roles in my life.
Things are by no means perfect in my house. But allowing myself the luxury to keep being me, to check in with myself on a daily basis, to take a pause from baby and husband and remember the person I was pre-baby gave me the ability to keep going with love, patience and enthusiasm.
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