Few experiences in life are as transformative as that of becoming a mother. From a very young age, many women have certain plans and expectations for building their families and what motherhood will look like. Added to that are the societal images of the new mother as a blissful, nurturing being who easily makes room for a new baby in her life. Medical providers tend to focus most of the attention on the physical changes of pregnancy and the act of giving birth with little room left to consider postpartum emotional adjustment.
When our only cultural messages and personal expectations about motherhood are filled with joy and ease, the stress and fatigue of new motherhood can feel all the more confusing. The truth is, women often experience an emotional rollercoaster ranging from wonderful to terrible and everything in between.
The desperation of holding a crying baby during yet another sleepless night or heaving your wounded body through the day is counterbalanced by the utter contentment of cradling a sleeping baby on your chest or the joy of witnessing the first genuine smile your baby bestows. Despite the obvious challenge of navigating these emotional ups and downs, new moms are sent home from the hospital with very little in the way of emotional support.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your emotional health after having a baby. Here are three ideas:
There is a reason why the adage “Laughter is the best medicine,” has remained so popular. Laughing releases endorphins, promotes a sense of well-being, relaxes us, and reduces pain. Maybe your baby is having a particularly fussy day. She’s teething or gassy or tired. When it starts to feel overwhelming, turn to humor. Whether it’s a rerun of your favorite comedy on- line, reading jokes, or a recording of your favorite comedian, having something at the ready that will make you laugh is priceless on a rough day.
On some days, laughter will feel like an unattainable goal. You might be craving a feeling of being nurtured instead. At those times, listen to your instincts and find a way to soothe yourself. Options include taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, using a face mask, applying lotion, curling up in a warm blanket, drinking tea, and reading a book or magazine. Be that warm maternal presence for yourself just as you are for your baby.
o Get fresh air.
Spending time outdoors provides more access to oxygen, with a multitude of benefits for our lungs, brains, and digestive systems. You might experience a boost in energy, mood, and concentration. In addition to those physical advantages is the emotional impact of a change of scenery. This can be especially helpful when the house itself is causing you stress, whether it’s from the pile of laundry waiting to be folded or the baby announcements you still have not gotten around to mailing. So put baby in a stroller and go outside!
By Amber Parker, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist
HELPING MOMS HEAL THEIR
MINDS AND BODIES AFTER CHILDBIRTH
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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.