Less Judgement, More Support
Motherhood is a lot of things. Joyful. Rewarding. Exciting. Adventurous. Fulfilling. Wonderful. Amazing. It's also challenging. Draining. Tiring. Exhausting.
In anticipation of motherhood, I focused on the positives. I mean, I had already been through hard times so I just knew once my baby arrived, I would have everything in order and things would run smoothly. And I did...for the most part. Motherhood takes multi-tasking to another level. There were a LOT of times where I felt overwhelmed and overly consumed with things I needed and wanted to accomplish for the day, for myself and for my baby.
You mostly hear about Postpartum Depression and rarely about the anxiety piece.
I experienced Postpartum Anxiety. I was: breastfeeding, wanted to exercise but was too tired, hadn't showered in I don't know how long, dinner was about to burn in the oven, baby's clothes needed to be washed, thinking if I was failing at motherhood, my email needed to be checked to see if a job responded to any of my desperate attempts at candidacy, grocery needed to be bought, hubby probably wanted intimate time with me, worried if Solomon was consuming the correct amount of milk, I felt like a stranger in my own body, and to top it off, constantly thought Solomon had to be strapped to my body or right by my side at all times or he would die. It was that night that I cracked. I was so overwhelmed, my thoughts consumed me, I yelled at my husband for not understanding me and I burst into tears...then sobbed...then felt guilty. This type of breakdown happened often. I finally became a mother and now I was being hit with all of this worry, laundry lists of tasks and possibilities. Was I ungrateful? Was I unprepared? Was I comparing my real life to others' picture perfect depiction of motherhood on social media?
I had always taken pride in creating "to-do" lists and feeling accomplished when I marked the tasks off one-by-one. I always seemed to "have it all together". I was the "go-to" person that friends came to for advice, opinion, comfort or encouragement. I was even the oldest sibling in my family with both siblings looking up to me to be successful. During my breakdowns, I felt lost, unaware of who I was, consumed and at the same time, pressured to be this "amazing mom" that I preconceived, mentally.
The fact is, no one prepared me for this. The real after-birth. Yes, that moment was a build up of overwhelming scenarios and thoughts that had come to a head and exploded. Yet, I couldn't control those thoughts. Those thoughts affected my actions, demeanor, and responses towards every thing and everyone; including my husband. He is so patient to have dealt with me at that time and I'm so thankful for him (love you, bae!). He IS a praying man, so God must've given him extra patience just for me.
Any way, I didn't seek professional help (although, next go round, I will). I just cleaned. That's what I do when I get anxious, overwhelmed or angry. I clean the house and play music. I guess the action is supposed to help shift my mental focus? Not sure, but it was a temporary fix. All I knew was I needed mental space, a hug and some understanding. I needed to compartmentalize and get back to being me.
Here's some simple things I've done/practiced that's helped me to refocus:
Breathe. Literally. We can get so caught up in our thoughts and undone tasks that we forget to just pause. Take a second...or 30, and just inhale and exhale. Get in tune with your body and when you feel you need a break...take a seat, sis! I found that focusing on my breaths provide mental clarity and de-escalates a potential feeling of being overwhelmed. I look at a clock and focus on taking slow breaths with my eyes closed.
Drink water and mind your business. Funny and true. Hydrating your body helps to increase mental clarity and decreases feeling groggy. It aids in hair-growth, regularity and helps you keep that glowing complexion. Plus you'll be so busy running to the restroom, you won't have time to focus on those other thoughts.
Receive help. Sometimes people don't know that you're in need of help if you don't say it. You can't do it all. Ask for help when you need it! Take the super-woman cape off and accept help when people offer it to you. It may be simple as a friend visiting to care for your newborn (or toddler) so you can nap. You need that rest. Delegate difficult or time-consuming tasks to others so you can focus on your baby. Utilize resources like Amazon Prime, Instacart, and Jet.com to order groceries and household items to be delivered. This will free you up to be more productive in another way...or to take a nap because no one really "sleeps when the baby sleeps".
Move your body. Thinking back, I "exercised" more than what I thought. Lifting my baby, walking through my house, carrying the carseat, pushing the shopping cart through the grocery store, packing and unpacking the stroller into the car are all forms of exercise....and THAT counts! You're moving, your blood is flowing, and you're lowkey stretching.
We gotta stop being so hard on ourselves. There's no perfect way to go about this. We have to give more grace to our bodies. We must stop judging other moms for how they go about achieving peace. We have to not guilt ourselves for doing the simple things it takes for us to achieve mental clarity and mental health.
Your emotions are valid. It's important that mommas are mentally healthy. We set the tone for the environment we're in. So let's be more kind to one another and give ourselves a break.