Alright guys, I’m going to do it, I’m going to be another #momblogger writing about self care. Honestly, before I was a mom, I didn’t even understand what “self care” meant and I sure as hell didn’t understand why so many moms were talking about it. I mean, it’s not that hard to take care of yourself, right? But at the beginning of this year, I feel like I got hit by a truck in my understanding of it and why self care should be our #1 priority. Yes – I said #1, before baby, before husband, before work, etc. If you aren’t talking care of yourself, ALL of these things suffer. I have felt it first hand.
I am bringing this up because I think a lot of moms read my blog probably think that I have it all together – a good job, a beautiful and healthy baby, a great fiance, a blog with pretty pictures that I am able to keep up even when life gets crazy…but that doesn’t mean that this shit is easy or that the last year has been all fairies and rainbows. In fact I sincerely hope from some of my other heartfelt posts that I don’t come across that way. It wouldn’t be honest of me if I didn’t talk about this part of motherhood.
For the second half of 2016, I was doing okay on the outside, but literally scraping by on the inside. The stress of returning to work and a normal life, only now with a baby, was probably the hardest life transition I have gone through. Having a baby that didn’t (still doesn’t always) sleep through the night and then going to work all day, left me exhausted by 7pm each night. I curbed that exhaustion with an excuse to not exercise and eat cookies every night if I wanted, because.. I (didn’t) GAF. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning because lack of exercise was leaving me even more lethargic, and my body started showing stress in many different ways that I had never experienced before (grinding my teeth, headaches, muscle twitches in random places.) When I ended up seeing a doctor in January for unrelated issues, I brought up my concerns. She is the one who explained to me that stress can present itself in many weird ways and my concern that I had developed a muscular disorder resulting in muscle twitches, was probably just stress.
If all of this sounds concerning to you, it’s because it is. I finally realized at the end of 2016, right around the time I stopped breastfeeding, that I had slowly bottled up a lot of Post-Partum Anxiety (I don’t say Post-Partum Depression, because I don’t think it got to that level) on-set NOT ONLY by life with a baby but stressful work, wedding planning, expectations on this blog, family health issues, and LIFE. I know it wasn’t anxiety caused by baby alone. I have explained this feeling to others as feeling trapped…that’s the best word I have for it. Not depressed, just trapped in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. I had never once felt anxiety before having a child, and suddenly I was consumed by it. Craig asked so many times how he could help, but he was already pulling so much weight and I realized it was my responsibility to start taking care of myself and figure out how to make it better.
I have become extremely passionate about making sure that Moms Matter – once we have baby, we tend to shift the focus there, lose ourselves, and then fall into an anxiety ridden state of no longer having your own life, goals, and significance. Please tell me this isn’t just me, that others have longed for freedom and time to just focus on what YOU want for once.
For me, PPA was not immediate upon the birth of my son like it is for some – it was a gradual decline starting at about 4 months PP until about 10 months PP. Only now can I look back, reflect, and write about these things, because I finally feel that I am coming out on the other side. I was too deep in it before and too STUCK to be able to realize what was happening, how to get out of it, or how to help other Moms. In that same doctor appointment that I referenced before, she gave me a mini therapy session on small steps I could take to relieve some stress and anxiety – I had no choice but to try and take her advice. These are the things that have helped me feel more like myself, defend against PPA and create more energy in my life:
I went from exercising 5-6 days/week before pregnancy, continued exercising until 20 weeks, and then pretty much stopped completely. I started again when Calvin was 8 weeks and felt amazing. Then I went back to work, then I made excuses, then I completely fell off the wagon. Turns out it is the most important wagon of all. Once I got back into a consistent (still not as much as before!) routine, a lot of stress and anxiety subsided, grinding of my teeth lessened, and I just felt overall better about myself and had more energy. If someone is going wrong in your life, I suggest taking some time to get moving and see if that helps.
Do Something you Love for YOU
I’m sure a lot of people in my life have wondered why I haven’t given up blogging when things get busy or I get overwhelmed – I mean it’s just an extra THING that takes up more TIME, right!? WRONG. This blog is what I started when I was pregnant for ME. When I was suddenly unexpectedly pregnant, working in a stressful environment, and newly living 600 miles from all friends and family, I needed an outlet…I needed to create something to focus on outside of the other stressors. I posted on instagram here that this blog started out about ME and trying to inspire others, but the opportunities that have come to me and the people I’ve met have inspired ME and I now write for all of YOU as well. I think everyone needs something of their own to work towards, a creative outlet, a business, a platform, that they can be proud of. I’ll be announcing soon Part II of RwS soon – aka my latest endeavor. What can you do for you?
Find a Strong Relatable Community
ALL Moms want to come across strong, like they are conquering the world, and let’s be honest, we are. Moms often answer with, “good!” when we first ask how it’s going…but if you really sit down and talk to a new mom, a veteran mom, or anyone caring for other humans, they will get real with you. I don’t think we feel like we can really say how we are feeling often enough and we think that everything we are experiencing, everything we are feeling is just “normal” for a new mom. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. I know we can all relate to the tough stuff, and having a community in which you can talk with, helps so much. Just to know that someone else has been through or is going through the same challenge you may be facing is really helpful. So, please reach out to me and we can chat if you feel so inclined – I would love that!
Break Free of Comparison & Social Media Pressure
I read an article recently talking about how parenting now is harder than parenting was 20, 30 years ago because of the insane amount of pressure put on us to do it all, have it all, while looking and feeling amazing. I don’t think that our parents had it easy by any means and can’t say I totally agree with that statement BUT I think social media is the cause of this statement. The only pressure we should feel is from wanting to better ourselves and our family. If you feel that pressure from other moms or what you see on social media is messing with your parenting, I would highly suggest taking a break. Now that is easier said than done – if you’re a blogger or business owner, your success likely is dependent on your social media presence and interacting with others. Find the balance. Set aside time to be 100% engaged with your family and set aside time to be on your phone (after work until Calvin’s bed time I am in 100% family mode.) Remember that REAL life is happening and passing quickly as your scroll through your feeds. Stay in your own lane, know what your goals are, and don’t let someone else’s success or statements bring you down.
If you’ve been here and can relate in any way, I’d love to hear from you – any other suggestions? Like I said, I finally feel like I have broken free from the PPA cycle and can talk about it with other moms. Thanks so much for reading and for all your support along the way.