Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a New Mum
I thought I was an optimistic person, and most of us usually are. But that all changed when I became a new mum. Countless nights of reading articles about parenting, the lack of sleep, and the fact that a human life was now entrusted to me made me worry about how everything I did would affect this life I brought into the world. A mother can worry about everything under the sun, from, ‘Am I producing enough breastmilk for this baby?’ to simpler things such as, ‘Am I dressing the baby right?', ‘Is he/she too cold or too hot?’ I remember being scared awake at night, rushing to my baby’s side to check if he was still breathing.
This list is not exhaustive - there can be many other concerns you have on your mind about your new baby. But I know many new mums, like myself, who would write off all these negative and difficult emotions as exhaustion or hormones. But the fact of the matter is that better mental wellbeing starts with dealing with the smallest of negative emotions. Being depressed and detached can happen to any new mum, which is not ideal for the baby or for yourself. Remember that being a mum does not mean that you instantly become unimportant. You in fact have become the most important person to someone else.
Here, I share some truths I firmly believe in that hopefully will kickstart your journey to better mental health as a new mum.
Acknowledge Your Mental Health Matters
Just as the first step to correcting anything is to recognize that there is something wrong, you must acknowledge that your mental health makes a difference. We would only care for something that we deem worthy of our care. If you ever find yourself depressed, or in any pain, something ought to be done about it. Going on needlessly day after day will not end the difficulties you face mentally and results in greater damage eventually. It becomes a lose-lose situation that might put both baby and yourself in danger.
Take Your Time
Take time for everything. I mean, everything. Take time for yourself, to be alone and do something that takes your mind off the things going on around you. Pursue the hobbies you love but have given up because of the lack of time. Take time for your spouse, to go out together some time (without the baby), even if it is as simple as having a meal together. Take time to be with your friends - we gain positive energy being around people we love and people who love us. Take time to be with your family after the baby priorities shift, as our elderly parents will also need our attention from time to time. In this way, you can relax and recharge in a safe environment. I know that it can be unnerving to leave your baby with your parents, your in-laws, or your husband even, but I can assure you that the first step in ‘letting go’ of your baby, is worth it.
Don’t sacrifice everything
Love yourself a little more. Sacrificing everything in your life is not a requirement of motherhood. It does not make you the mum your child needs. Take the time to check-in with yourself and your own needs. ‘Parenting is a sacrifice’ is not a new concept and people sometimes even revere the number of sacrifices they deem other parents make. But the number of sacrifices one makes should not be our benchmark for what a good parent is. It is damaging to simplify parenting as self-sacrifice. It gives our children so much more value to show them that we are taking care of ourselves well.
I recall the moment that I knew I had to take care of myself more: I was suffering a mix of post-natal blues, on top of the stress of trying to do things ‘right’, having issues with breastfeeding, and almost little to no sleep each night.
Then it dawned on me that if we are not able to tend to ourselves and function at our healthiest, there is just so little in our capacity to give to our child. I realised that walking through the journey as a new mum, that there are some truths that we can hold on to that can be life-changing. So, as you hold your new baby in your arms, remember that you matter as much as your baby, in fact even more now that you want to be at your full capacity to give him/her all the best you can give and be.
Take a more proactive approach in loving yourself by looking after yourself today.
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