*guest post from Samantha Huggins, a CHB certified intuitive birth doula
Imagine sitting up in your bed nursing your babe at 3 am. Quietly looking out the window, while your partner sleeps blissfully next to you. Your baby coos and finally drifts off to sleep. You gently place your sweet little baby in the bassinet next to the bed, simultaneously saying a prayer for a successful transfer. It worked! Now your eyes close. Dreams enter. And then, not five minutes later, baby cries and you do it all over again. Sound familiar?
How about this one? Home alone with your darling baby. You offer a bottle. Baby, with a full belly, spits up between your breasts all the way down to your elastic waistband and you realize that you are desperate for the shower that feels so far away.
I could create a million of these scenarios with a million variables. Older siblings, twins, single parents, visiting family, social pressures, public places, you name it.
As a parent, doula, educator and lactation support person, I hear and see new parents regularly with their shoulders hovering somewhere around ear height. If not fully at the end of their rope, they are darn close to it. And why? My guess is because we are constantly hammered with the idea that babies are more precious than their parents are. It’s simple really. We will suffer so our children don’t have to. Makes sense, right? They are just babies after all.
But by setting ourselves up in this way, we all suffer, babies too. In the short term and the long. And, you know what, we know this. We know that if we are going to take care of others we have to take care of ourselves as well. We know this because on airplanes, every single time the flight attendant tells us we have to put our own mask on first. It’s hard though, right? I mean, how can we put our mask on when we can’t even find it?
Thanks to the internet and social media we have even greater access to ideals, pressures, buzzwords and catchphrases. A perfect example is the conversation around authenticity and self-care for new parents. As a new parent, you have authenticity nailed. No problem there. You are absolutely stewing in your authentic selves. But what about the self-care part? What can you do? And when? And what does it even mean????
Self-care doesn’t mean achieving the perfect insta-ideal of getting in some yoga, a workout or meditation while your kids play or sleep perfectly next to you. (Unless magically this works out for you)
It means finding something that you can do 80% of the time, that also fits into the unpredictable lifestyle of a new parent. I have no idea what self-care is specifically going to look like for you, because I don’t know you and or what’s going on in your life today, but I can throw out a few suggestions that I make in my classes and clinics that seem to help, even if just for a few minutes. They don’t cost anything, they can be done anywhere and it doesn’t matter what your kid is doing. And I am doing this because I love you and you need to be loved and you need to hear that you are worth it and you deserve it. YOU DO!
PAUSE – Slow your roll, gang. And be honest with yourself about what your needs are. For a minute. For one minute. Sit down.
BREATHE – nothing fancy. Every day, I take a deep breath in the middle of the storm. Through my nose and out my mouth or nose, whatever feels good in that moment. A big loud breath. It makes me feel good and alive. It also helps the people around me to breathe too. Sometimes we are all just holding our breath.
SET A BOUNDARY – maybe it’s that you are only accepting calls between 10am-4pm because the witching hour is approaching and you need to make dinner. It’s really hard to talk on the phone while you’re soothing a baby and feeding a toddler and stirring noodles. Maybe it’s creating a boundary with your parents who are visiting, that if the door is closed to your bedroom you don’t need help right now and to just let you be.
HONOR YOUR LIMIT – if you are at the end of your rope, honor it. Sometimes we have to push on anyway, but by acknowledging that we have reached it we can get some ideas for healthy boundaries that we can set up tomorrow and that can get us through the right now.
ASK FOR HELP – don’t you roll your eyes at me! I see you.
NOURISH YOURSELF – I don’t care if it’s with tater tots or a glass of water but you need to eat and drink (and sleep whenever you can)
COMMUNICATE – please. This is so important. Tell someone how you are doing. We want to hear. And it feels good to know that you aren’t alone. The blues are real and depression can be crippling. There are many resources out there. The healing starts with telling just one person who listens.
CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE – Phrases like “just a sec” or “real fast” don’t cut it when you know you need real time for something. For example if you plan on washing and conditioning your hair today, showering “real fast” puts expectations on you that you might not be able to meet and now you are needlessly rushing.
I wish you well, dear parents. You will get sleep again. You will eat a good lunch with a friend. But in the meantime, be kind to yourself. Take the breaks, however small. Take the breaths. Drink if you are thirsty. Eat if you are hungry. You and your whole family will benefit!