Motherhood: Self Care isn’t Selfish
The moment a child is born, a mother is born too. She didn’t exist before. The women existed but not the mother. A mother is something completely new. We all imagined what motherhood look like. We had 9 months to do nothing but think right? Imaging that first encounter with our baby. Speculating what kind of mum you are going to be. Vowing all those things you will, and definitely won’t, do as a parent. Pondering what your relationship with your partner, friends and family will look like.
Regardless of how many people you talk to, how many books you read or how much time you spend thinking about it, nothing will ever really prepare you for the rollercoaster ride that is to come. Because let’s face it, motherhood is one hell of a rollercoaster ride.
Motherhood: The physical impact
Let’s firstly reflect on the huge physical demands that are placed on a woman’s body throughout pregnancy and labour. Many women are left to cope with:
- traumatic labour experiences.
- urinary incontinence post birth (1 in 3 women will experience some form of this).
- some degree of symptomatic or asymptomatic pelvic organ prolapse (50% of women who have had children will experience this (Hagen & Stark 2011)).
- pain during sex after childbirth (1 in 10 women will experience this).
These physiological stressors on the body can have a huge impact on our mental health, particularly as there is currently little after care provided to new mums to deal with these issues.
Motherhood: The mental impact
If we then throw sleep deprivation, hormonal and emotional changes into the mix, caring for a new baby can be pretty tough. It can leave you feeling:
- overwhelmed – “why can’t I handle this?”
- isolated – “am I the only one that feels like this?”
- insecure – “I’m failing as a mum”
- a loss of sense of self – “who am I?”
If this resonates with you then I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! Without the right support and without some vital self care it can often feel impossible to cope. But women so often prioritise everything and everyone above themselves and taking care of themselves is at the bottom of the list. We shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to take a little time for ourselves because self care is not selfish it is about survival.
Motherhood: The emotional impact
How many new mums have said any of the following to themselves?:
“I love my baby so much but why am I longing for just a little bit of my old life back?”
“My body is amazing – it just grew and nurtured a new life but why am I so desperate for my old body back?”
“My new life is great and I love being a mum but why do I feel so lost?”
It’s no surprise that the physical and emotional changes we go through in becoming a new mum can have such an impact on our mental wellbeing. Many women are left feeling lost, filled with anxiety and feeling generally pretty down. What’s my best advice for how to alleviate some of these feelings? Exercise!
The power of exercise
Researchers from the University of Birmingham examined data from 13 trials including 1,734 women. Their study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, concludes that exercise – either in group sessions, or individually – is effective in reducing postpartum depressive symptoms.
Exercise is one of the most effective and quickest ways of improving mental health. Prioritising some time for your own health is just as important as prioritising your baby’s health as after all happy mumma = happy bubba.
Consistent exercise will help you to:
- Relieve stress
- Reduce feelings of anxiety
- Clear your head
- Feel more energised
- Regain body confidence
- Feel strong and happy in your body again
- Challenge your body and mind particularly if trying something new
- Find a social outlet and some mental sanity
- Just be you – not a mum, not a wife/partner, not a work colleague – just you!
Exercise and getting back into a regular training regime helped me enormously after the birth of my second daughter and without it I wouldn’t be where I am today and in a career that I absolutely adore. It’s become my mission to help other mums just like me. If you would like to know more about my story and how I can help you, please get in contact.