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New Mom, Be Gentle With Yourself

I’ve mentioned here on the blog before that I’m addicted to my to-do list. My sense of a good day or a bad day is tied to how much I was able to get done in that day. The problem with this is that many things of value don’t fit onto a to-do list—things like taking the girls to the park or reading them stories or having tickle fights with them.

This to-do list mentality is also problematic in the first few weeks months after giving birth. That time has been given the name of “babymoon” and should be treated as a special break. However, my attitude toward myself is more often “hurry up and heal” so that I can get back to “doing” things like normal.

New Mom, Be Gentle with Yourself

The postpartum period is a particularly vulnerable and delicate time. Your hormones are raging from pregnancy and giving birth. No matter how you gave birth—long labour or short, C-section or not—your body went through a grueling process and needs time to heal. (Sometimes I think women who have C-sections are more aware of this; I didn’t even require stitches after my last two births, so it seems less obvious that my body still needs to heal.) And finally, there’s the sleeplessness and adjusting that comes with having a newborn baby around.

My midwives this time kept repeating their recommendation that women should be on bed rest for at least two weeks after giving birth. My midwives with Sunshine told me that my bleeding would be an indication of whether I was doing too much; if I started bleeding more, I needed to slow down. However, it’s often easier to put on a new pad than to lay down.

Even with my mother-in-law here to help for the first two weeks after Pearl’s birth and friends dropping off meals, I found myself doing too much. I let myself lay around for the first two days, but then I felt like I needed to be up. I snuck in loads of laundry, even when my mother-in-law said she’d do it. I put the ham in the crock pot instead of letting her have free reign in the kitchen. I felt guilty when she had to clean up our garbage after a raccoon got into it.

And when she left two weeks after Pearl’s birth, I decided we’d get right back into routine. For the first week, that went great. Pearl slept during the mornings and I was able to check off the to-do list. For the second week, it began to fall apart. Pearl didn’t sleep as much and I got frustrated that I couldn’t put her down to make supper or help Sunshine with her math. Finally, my friend Anna gave me a pep talk and told me to relax and be gentle with myself.

Since January, I’ve been trying to take things easier. We took an extra week off school after Christmas, and now focus on math, adding other subjects as we have time (or a good day with the baby). We were ahead in science and history, and both girls are reading voraciously, so math is the skill they need the most help with. I’ve gotten them to start helping in the kitchen more. I figure this is a good time for them to learn life skills—like taking care of a baby and a home and even taking care of themselves.

Again and again, I find myself having to check my to-do list mentality and give myself grace. Pearl just turned 3 months old and, to mark this milestone, I found myself thinking once again, “Okay, good, she’s getting older so we can get back into a routine”—in other words, I can get back to being “productive.” Instead, Pearl has had several fussy days that have left me staring at my messy house, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

If you’re like me, I want to say this to you (and myself): be gentle with yourself.

Motherhood is tough. Children are demanding. Babies fuss. Your house will be messy. Your children will misbehave. And you will keep going, and someday (so I’m told) you will look back on these years and remember only the cuteness and the fun, and not the exhaustion and the stress.

So I repeat: until then, be gentle with yourself.

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