The transition to motherhood is complex and intense. It brings with it immeasurable joy but it is not without some pain (physical and emotional) and plenty of confusion. And pressure. Lots of pressure: from yourself and from those around you. While it’s not always possible to control the external pressures, you can absolutely work to alleviate the pressure that’s coming from within. Here are a few of the new mom pressures I suggest tossing out ASAP.

 

Getting your body “back”

Here’s a secret: your body never left. It definitely changed, but it’s still there and it’s still yours. No matter how you came to be a mom – whether you gave birth, used a surrogate, or adopted – your body is under some major stress and has changed accordingly. If you gave birth, your body is forever changed; things shifted and stretched in ways that don’t go back to their original. And that is okay. You aren’t the same person you were before the baby. This doesn’t mean that you won’t get back into your pre-baby clothes at some point, if that’s what you’d like to do. It doesn’t mean that you will never feel confident in your new body. I’m just saying that it’s time to give yourself a little grace. You are busy caring for a different little body right now. Nourish your body so you have the energy to do that, but don’t worry so much about “repairing” it. It’s not broken.

 

Doing anything but the bare minimum each day

Do you know what else won’t look quite the same as it did before baby? Your home. There will be more dishes piled in the sink, and they’ll stay there a little longer than they did before. There will be burp cloths, pacifiers, bottles, and tiny socks strewn about. Meals won’t look as elaborate as before. And that is okay. Do the bare minimum: feed yourself and baby, get some rest, and, if the weather allows, spend a few minutes outside even if it’s just sitting on the back steps. Your new “bare minimum” is actually some of the most important work there is. You’ve kept an entirely dependent being thriving for another day. That is no small feat, and you should be proud of your daily accomplishment. Even if you’re a little smelly.

 

Returning to physical intimacy with your partner right away

You may have heard the phrase “touched out” before you became a mom, and had a vague idea of what the person was talking about. But now that you have an adorable, warm, squishy, tiny being who insists on being in physical contact with you for at least 22 hours a day, the phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. Baby snuggles are amazing, but the constant physical contact can leave you drained and craving a bit of personal space. So when your partner wants physical intimacy, you may find yourself torn. Yes, you want to connect with them in the same ways you used to, but you also want some time without being touched. And that is okay. This is a great opportunity to find other ways to maintain intimacy in your relationship. Have an honest conversation with your partner about your need for space and that it doesn’t mean you’ve lost interest or don’t love them. Offer suggestions of other things you can do together. Is it possible to get a babysitter for even just an hour to go get coffee together or run an errand without baby? Or maybe hold hands during your next family walk. These things seem small but they allow you and your partner to reconnect as a couple, without increasing your feeling of touched out-ness.

 

The idea that you don’t matter anymore

Your life has pretty much been put on hold while you turn your attention toward taking care of your new baby. You may be away from work for several weeks or months, or maybe you have left the office behind permanently now. Dinners out with your partner or friends are few and far between – and let’s be honest here, they aren’t happening at all for a while. The shower is staying cleaner than ever because it’s hardly being used. And your makeup is collecting dust. And that is okay. But it can be easy to start to wonder if you even exist anymore as an individual, or if you’ve just become baby’s mom. Let me tell you this loud and clear: you exist and you matter. Now more than ever before. So what to do about it? Grab hold to one very simple, not too time consuming thing you can do solely for yourself each day. I’m talking the basics here. After the birth of my third child, I chose washing my face each night as my thing. It was five minutes alone each evening doing something that I enjoyed and that benefitted only me. My husband looked at me a little funny the first few nights after I implemented this routine, when I would hand him a crying baby while I went off to do something as trivial as washing my face. But I told him I needed that five minutes to feel like I mattered and like I was still myself. He understood, and I haven’t missed a night since. So wash your face, drink a cup of tea alone on the back porch, read five pages of a book, do whatever it takes to connect to yourself every day even if just for a few minutes.

 

Being a new mom is hard, and that is okay. You’re figuring out a whole new world, and a new self. One day this new self will feel like home again. A new, rearranged home, but home nonetheless.

Carolyn Wagner, MA LPC

 

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Carolyn Wagner, MA, LPC is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in maternal mental health, trauma/PTSD, and self-injury in teens. She sees adults and adolescents with a wide variety of needs including anxiety, depression, and body image concerns.

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