Surviving Motherhood (& Parenthood), from birth onwards....
That title is definitely not meant to be negative about motherhood!
But sometimes, you find that the simplest wisdoms make a very big difference. And then you wish you'd learned them sooner! Here are some useful hints & tips, many of them my owned learned truths!
Breathe! The same slow nasal breathing that helped you to relax and stay calm through your labour will help you get through many other moments of stress. Remember, this too will pass.
Continue your affirmations and relaxation. Keep up the relaxation work you did for your hypnobirthing, and the meditation music too will help to calm and relax you so you can deal better with all the stresses you will encounter.
Motherhood (& parenthood) is not a competition. Don't compare yourself or your child to anyone else, and don't judge yourself or others. Just be, and do your best.
Simplify your life. Consider what's important in your life: what really matters for you during your baby's early days/months/even years?!! Don't waste your precious time and energy keeping up images and dead-end relationships. If you reduce commitments, clutter and obsessions that don't allign with your priorities, you'll have more time for the important things and you'll feel far more relaxed and fulfilled.
Master the art of saying NO! Learn to decline invitations with grace and honesty, without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. If you are tired and your baby unsettled, say it direct and straight: "Thank you for asking me, but I'm sorry, I'm really staying close to home while the baby and I are still working through our routines..." This ties in with the above tip of knowing what is important to you. Good friends will understand completely and be there for you no matter what; they'll be the ones arriving to leave meals on your doorstep when they know you don't want to see anyone!!
Never wash your nipples with soap while breast-feeding! Quite apart from the residue/taste for baby, regular soaps are often drying and will not help keep your nipples moist and conditioned to survive the introduction to breastfeeding!
Take the time to find out how to help your baby latch on REALLY well for breastfeeding. It will save you a whole basketful of pain and problems, and will make breastfeeding so much more enjoyable and satisfying for both of you. See this small video.
Accept help when offered. Be kind to yourself! Be humble too, and allow others to feel good by providing a meal, folding a basket of washing, or picking up some veges for you!
Ask for help when you need it! Really, be kind to yourself! And be humble and accept that Superwoman was a fictional Hollywood heroine!
Look after yourself! You can't take care of the rest of the family if you don't have energy or health. Eat properly, drink enough filtered water, get some fresh air, have a little time out. Your children will also see that it is important to love yourself, in this world where this message is often not the resounding one!
Try to go for a walk each day. Even if the weather is not gorgeous, if your baby and you are appropriately protected, you will feel better for having had some fresh air and space from the home routine. There's a good chance your baby will sleep from the movement and rocking of the pram or sling too, so that will help to soothe your stress and lift your soul.
If you're making one meal, then consider making two! It doesn't really take any more time to add twice the ingredients, but it saves you a whole lot of time on another day or night! Freeze the second meal, or have it the next night - you'll really appreciate it when you can have the evening off cooking!
Visit with a group of other mum friends regularly. This will give you something to look forward to regularly, and can provide support and information sharing, and reassurance that the challenges you face are not unique to you! Your soul will feel lifted every time you meet. Later on, if this network grows together, it can be the base for a shared baby-sitting group. When and if you feel adventurous, Playgroup is a long-established favourite where you can meet other local parents and form friendships and support networks. For me it was a lifeline when I was a new Mum in a new location! For Sunshine Coast viewers, see more at Playgroup Qld...
Trust your instinct and gut. It really is a remnant of the times when survival was more tenuous and instinct was more utilised. Our gut has been known as our 'first brain' for a number of reasons, and trusting its cues has saved many lives in the past! The most powerful instinct in the whole world is that of the mother with her newborn, trust it and allow it to guide you.
Practise free flowing thinking. Allow yourself to go with the flow and not always be stuck in routine and schedules. Creativity gives new energy and going with the moment often leads to small unexpected pleasures and surprises. It also allows you to stop beating yourself up when things don't go quite to plan! Imagine getting off the plane to find out you're in the Whitsundays instead of Hobart? Enjoy the beautiful coast now, and make a note to go to Hobart another time!
Don't have any expectations. By this I mean, never measure yourself or your parenting up against the stories willingly shared by well-meaning friends and family. If your baby isn't sleeping through from week 2, that's fine; this baby is unique and yours! If you don't set yourself up with an expectation, you won't ever be disappointed!
Set small goals or intentions. You will feel wonderful when you achieve them, and simply reset the goal if you didn't make it!
Create a baby-sitter group with trusted mum friends. If there are four of you who meet regularly as trusted friends, when your children are appropriate ages, you could host the kids one in 4 weeks, and each other week have time out, perhaps with your partner.
Have compassion. Most mothers are struggling with challenges, some bigger and some smaller; some cope better and some don't.
I remember once a news story about a baby and toddler left in a shopping trolley outside an Australian police station: turns out the young mother had lost everything in a housing crisis and was desperate and afraid she'd harm her children; in truth, she'd saved their lives by leaving them to be found. Of course there are other avenues of help, but these may not always be obvious in the moment.
Try not to be judgemental about other mothers, just take lessons on board about how you want to be around your own baby and children.