Being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a tiny helpless human those first couple of years is the hardest thing many women will ever do in their lives. It’s a process that brings out so many mixed emotions. As amazing and wonderful as it is, it can also be isolating and filled with anxiety. New moms struggle with society’s “perfect mom” stereotypes and a new normal where she is expected to give her all to her family and taking time for herself feels selfish.
Looking back at the first year of motherhood, the most startling realization is that no one prepares the mother for her own mental health issues after childbirth. There are classes for delivering a baby, and caring for a newborn, and breastfeeding coaching, but little if any mention of the 1 in 7 odds that a new mom will have mental health issues. Someone should take that mother-to-be by the hand, look deep into her eyes, and tell her there is a good chance she will feel isolated, anxious, even sad; and that it’s OK to seek help and support.
Mom’s Mental Health Warning Signs
It’s common to have a touch of the “baby blues” the first few weeks as your body unloads a ton of hormones, but beyond that, if you’re feeling any of these warning signs please talk to your family and your doctor immediately:
Sadness, guilt, or anxiety that consumes your waking thoughts
Loss of interest in everyday things or things you used to enjoy
Constant worry about being “good enough”
Trouble sleeping even when the baby is resting
Inability to make decisions
A second stressful or life-altering event takes place during baby’s first year (death, divorce, moving, etc.)
You think about harming yourself
Helping Moms Get To A Good Place Emotionally
There are so many things for new moms to worry about. There is near-constant worry about the baby’s health and happiness, and if you’re a working mom you can add the stress and sadness over going back to work and leaving the baby at home with a caregiver. Caring for an infant is also a full-time job that can leave you feeling isolated and alone even when you have a supportive family around you. Here are a few things a new mother can do to help stay in a good frame of mind during baby’s first year:
Ask family and friends to pitch in. Mom’s feel an unreasonable need to do everything themselves. The truth is, help is out there just waiting for you to ask for it.
Find your tribe. Get together with other new moms who understand exactly what you’re going through. You can do mommy and me meetups, new mom exercise groups, or look for support groups locally.
Let go of perfection. Your house doesn’t need to be spotlessly clean and every day doesn’t have to be full of magic and whimsey. Just do you, momma.
Make time to do things you enjoy. Use your family support to carve out some time each week to do what makes you feel good. Get your hair or nails done, go for a run, or indulge in a fun hobby. Meditation or journaling can also help you sort out your complicated new-mom feelings!
Remember, as much as that little baby is the most important thing in your life, you are the most important thing in that baby’s life. So be good to yourself and being a good mom will follow.