Having a baby is not a joke.
When a tiny human is born, your whole world can turn upside down. For some women, life after a baby falls back into places easily.
For some strange reason, they get back into shape quickly and easily. They show up with makeup on their faces, nice hair and pretty and tight clothes. And their babies look happy and healthy.
Those are superwomen (or at least that's how we feel about them).
Apparently I'm not one of them.
Look at me and my son.
He was 7 months old in the picture. And I can tell you, I looked 10 times better than I was when Ethan was 2 or 3 months old.
I was wearing my husband's shirt because nothing else fit me. There was a hole in the shirt. I saw it but I didn’t care. Because I couldn’t be picky.
My mom made me a wrap dress because I didn't have time to find something that fits.
The house was a mess. Never had time to clean it or declutter it.
I was around 20 pounds more than my normal weight. I lost weight fast after having my son but ended up gaining back because I tried to triple my food in the hope of increasing my milk supply.
I had good reasons for everything I did or how I became. I'm sure many moms can relate.
Reasons a new mom couldn’t focus on herself - speaking from my own experience
I never slept enough. More accurately, I was exhausted
My son had a tilted head, which is called infant torticollis. To treat it, plenty of physical therapy (which I called workout) is required. And the most effective time is during his sleep.
I got up 3 to 4 hours every night to do that workout for him. On some rough nights, he didn’t fall back to sleep right away, I had to stay up extra to wait until he fell asleep then massage his neck.
Plenty of naps during the day still doesn’t cut it for me. Especially when my son had catnaps.
Lack of sleep causes low milk supply. I need to increase food intake to fight that.
I lost my baby weight relatively fast. But clogged milk ducts, lack of sleep reduced my milk supply big time.
I tried everything I could, including triple my food intake. If you are not slapped by the same combo, you can try some certain foods, they really helped me a lot.
I had a C-section. It was painful for me to do my normal exercise
The classic excuse for all new moms. If a mom has a C-section, it takes at least 6 months for her to be able to do exercises again.
However, this should not have stopped you from doing a quick stretching or warm-up, which does you no harm.
I needed to pump my milk often to prevent clogged milk ducts
As a way to prevent clogged milk ducts and increase milk supply, I followed a pumping schedule. In the first few months, normally every 3 hours day and night, no matter if I breastfeed my son between the sets or not.
I had to do house chore and cooked
I received some big help from my mom in the first 2 months, then we were on our own. My husband and I, dealing with an infant, house chores, and everything else.
Yes. You know how it is. Maybe you are doing it.
We went through some serious financial issues at the time. With so many unexpected bills and layoffs, I didn’t know how we managed to get out of that mess.
But when we were back then, I felt like my life was down in the toilet.
Now when everything of these is behind me, I wish I had made some changes.
I didn't realize I was miserable because I was too tired, stressed out to even notice my feelings.
But now I realize I have a choice. Sometimes I cannot change a certain thing right away, but I can change the way I react to it and the way I feel.
I know it well. I even wrote about it many times. But the chaos of being a new mom overwhelms everything else, numbs my feelings, and wipes me off my feet.
So if you're feeling miserable, if you are down, if you are not doing all the things that you are supposed to do, I can feel you.
I have been there. I know exactly how it feels.
I know that your little one is your top priority right now and everything else comes after, but your baby needs you to be strong physically and mentally.
Your baby needs you to be happy, more than he needs a bottle of milk or a fresh diaper.
So it's OK to feel down. It's OK to feel numb. It's OK to feel miserable. But it's also OK to take care of yourself.
Here are some few under-5-minutes quick self-care tips that you can start right away from this very moment along with other more time-consuming tips, so that you can start following the right direction.
Self-care tip 1: Set a self-care target
I don’t like leaving my son, I don’t like going out without him, feeling my breasts getting tighter and heavier, knowing that he might be hungry for breast milk while I’m not around.
That’s why I want to be around him as much as possible.
That leaves me no time for me. But in reality, I can always sneak in 5 minutes here and there.
And that’s everything you will need too.
If you also want to be around your baby as much as you can, if you feel guilty if you leave his side, then set a target of 5 minutes a day to take care of yourself.
The first week: 5 minutes a day. The second week: 10 minutes a day.
Each week you can add in 5 more minutes or just keep the same amount of time as the previous week. Make it your priority, because your baby needs you.
Self-care tip 2: Breathing exercise
I don’t remember where I’ve heard of this breathing exercise, but it works well for me to calm me down and reduce my anxiety.
Lay down on the bed or sit up comfortably. Close your eyes the whole time.
As you breathe in, count from 1 to 4. Then hold your breath for 4 counts. And exhales in 4 counts.
You can do this as many times during the day as you want.
Self-care tip 3: 5 minutes warm-up and stretching
You can sneak 5 minutes warm-up and stretch even when you are cooking, or making the puree. You don’t even have to follow a specific move, just do whatever you want, to get that bone pop.
Self-care tip 4: 5 minutes journal
Journaling is a great way to remind yourself of the importance of life. It is a way to connect with your higher self and appreciate all the beauty you have around you.
Even if life is hard right now, there are still plenty of things you are thankful for.
Keep your journal short and concise, you can journal in 5 minutes before or after sleep, or you can just aim to write down 3 things that you are grateful for on that day.
Here’s what I wrote one day.
“I am grateful that Ethan’s neck is getting better. He can turn right a little bit today.”
“I am grateful that my husband went to work and came back home safe and sound.”
“I am grateful that Ethan behaved so well today even though he is still a little sick.”
Self-care tip 5: Listen to one uplifting song or a short powerful podcast
If you only have 5 minutes for yourself and you want to be motivated, listen to one of your favorite songs or a short podcast. Those things can encourage you, make you believe in bigger things, and give you something amazing to think about.
Self-care tip 6: Sing to yourself
You probably remember many nursery songs now. As you turn them on for your baby so often that they gradually replace all the other adult songs in your brain.
But when you are rewinding and recharging your energy, unless you really like those nursery songs better, sing a special song just to you.
Self-care tip 7: 3 minutes of self-appreciation
Do you know that you are an amazing mom who is doing the best that she can to be a great mother?
Do you know that you are the perfect mom for your baby?
Do you know that no matter how other people think, no one else in the world could ever do everything you are doing?
You are amazing. Because you are a mom. Remember it and learn to appreciate yourself.
Self-care tip 8: Read uplifting books and quotes
Books and quotes can inspire, motivate, educate and encourage people. Just make sure you select the right ones.
Some great books you can read are:
Self-care tip 9: Give yourself a sweet street once in a while
Almost everyone has a sweet tooth. You might want to lose your baby weight and stay healthy and all, but remember you are a mom. Your mental health is even more important.
When you feel low and you need some sweet treats to lift yourself up, do it.
Self-care tip 10: Plan to keep going toward your dream
With a tiny human, the sun and universe seems to move around him. Nothing else matters more. Including your dream.
You might have to put your dream off and still don't know when you will get back to it.
But it's OK too.
You are just taking some time, because now you have a little angel with you.
However, do make some plans to get back to your dream. 1 hour or 2 hours a week is enough to remind yourself what to do.
Self-care tip 11: Believe in yourself
There are many different experiences and books about how to raise a baby. And those books are not always consistent.
Many times you are confused and wondering what advice you should follow.
You should equip yourself with knowledge and be open to take advice from other people, but you are the only one who does the action. Trust yourself. Your mommy instinct will know what is the best for your baby.
Self-care tip 12: Take plenty of naps with your baby whenever you can
This might be the easiest self care tips. You just let go everything else and crash on bed when your baby sleeps.
An overwhelmed mom is not what your baby needs and wants. Rest when you have the chance.
Self-care tip 13: Ask for help
There is nothing bad if you don't know how to take care of your baby, or you don't feel well, or when your mood is down.
Watch out for postpartum depression. Ask for help when you need it. Share your thoughts with others.
Self-care tip 14: Share work with your partner
You shouldn't try to do everything yourself. Share things with your partner. Give him a chance to be involved.
Even though your partner works full time, he is still the daddy and has the same responsibility as you. Ask for his help when you need it.
Self-care tip 15: Eat healthy food
Good food for a good mood. This still stands true for new moms.
Eating healthy food doesn't only improve your mood but also increase your milk quality.
Your baby needs you to be healthy and happy, more than he needs milk or sleep.
In the middle of the chaos, it's nice to find some time to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Now my son is 16.5 months, and not a single day goes by that I don't wonder how fast he grows.
More than often during the night, he still wakes up crying if I'm not in the room with him. I still have to hold my pee for hours during the night just because I can’t get up without waking him up.
While I am writing this, my son is sleeping next to me. I can hear him snoring a little bit, and smell his scent any time I want to.
I mean, damn, what a life!
I love everything about him. I know that one day he will suddenly stop waking up during the night, one day he might tell me that he wants his own room, one day he might run away from me whenever I try to kiss him in front of other people.
And I surely will miss all of this so damn much.
Everything, no matter how good or how bad it is, will pass. I hope you know how priceless this current moment is and cherish every bit of it.
You are a mom. Your babies are perfect. Both of you guys are doing very well.
Trust your instinct.