Hey there, new momma!
You’re tired, sleep-deprived, frustrated, and confused–and you think you have the symptoms of Post Partum Depression, just like I did. And while it may be tempting to wallow in your emotions because of how real and raw they are, your baby needs you and can’t wait forever.
Now what? What can you do about it?
Here is my own tried and tested survival guide against the raging hormones and the pileup of emotions to get you through your days with your newborn.
1. HOPE: because this too shall pass.
“This too shall pass” was my lifesaving mantra for the challenges of breastfeeding with an inverted nipple, to the mysterious cry fests, to the poop blunders and to my lingering thoughts that it would last forever.
I clung “forward thinking” because I knew that if I persevered through these hardships, it would be well worth it. I knew it was possible because I had seen in many of my older mom friends who had endured hardships worse than mine and lived to tell their stories. Their advice to me was to always: persevere because it will get better.
It also helped that I didn’t count the days until that time came because counting would just lead to impatience and hopelessness. Yes, do hope! But don’t give hope a timeline. It won’t help to hold unto unrealistic expectations… like getting your post-baby body back immediately after giving birth. Remember too, that each mother’s body, baby, and circumstances are different so don’t compare your progress or regress on other mothers and their babies.
Be reasonable with your hope and be happy with the small successes too because every success leads toward everything getting better.
2. Track your progress and make lists.
There are just six things baby needs to do in a day: bathe, eat, poop, pee, sleep and cuddle. Even if there are just six things to select from, it can still be difficult for the sleep deprived parents of newborns to figure things out.
On a small whiteboard that hung above our headboard, my pragmatic husband wrote the following:
Baby: “Why do I cry?”
1. I pood/peed.
2. I want mommy’s milk.
3. I need to burp.
4. It’s cold. Please fix my swaddle.
5. I need love/cuddles/carrying.
As I discovered, a newborn is impossible to understand without getting to know his routine. At the height of my depression and after repeatedly hammering my husband with “I don’t know what to do anymores” he sat me down and said: “You just have to track everything that goes on with this baby. I know you may be lazy and you think it might not work. But trust me.”
He printed out a Baby Care Log he got from Baby Center. (Here is the Sample Work Sheet and here is the Blank Log Sheet) I wasn’t just logging in my baby’s feeding, diaper changes, sleep, crying and fussiness, I was encouraged to log the activities of my day, my medications, feelings about breastfeeding, emotions, diet and even the status of my relationships.
With the popularity of bullet journaling and the studies on the correlation of making list to one’s work efficiency, I don’t doubt that this is a technique that helps the first time parents get by feeling like they’ve got the whole baby thing down. These logbooks also work as great references for baby’s upcoming doctor’s checkups especially when new parent amnesia kicks in.
3. Declutter (inside and out!).
Every mother has her own way of coping with this new role in her life. This was mine.
There I was, with a copy of Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Art of Tidying Up. I felt like Kondo knew what I was going through and she knew how I could get out of this depression and be a better mom. I was sold to her idea of the connection between the things I owned but can’t let go of to how it was holding me back from who I wanted to become.
I realized that this depression made me so in denial that I was even a mom at all. With Kondo’s words: “The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important (than the sentiments we felt about these objects in the past.)” I set out to embrace motherhood with this book as a personal project.
I heart-wrenchingly started with my clothes because they are my favorite way to show creativity and style. When I faced my closet with the intention of keeping only what sparks joy in my life now that I’m a mother, I was fighting against my high school, college and work me. While decluttering my clothes, I faced the reality of my new motherhood and was able to sift through the worries and thoughts that needed to be reasoned with.
This may not work for you but do find a way to ease yourself into this acceptance because acceptance is the first leap to take mothering head on.
4. Mommy 911: Phone a friend.
A friend who I sat side-by-side with at the OB-gynecologist office and gave birth two weeks ahead of me was my Mommy 911 Hotline. We exchanged many sad, crying emoticons and shared with one another our difficulties in breastfeeding. We talked about everything. We helped each other talk through accepting that we sounded like we had postpartum depression. We also talked about how our husbands were blooming into fatherhood so well and laughed about how we felt like we weren’t blooming in any way at all. We were both new moms so we had each other to talk to even late into the night. There was so much comfort in knowing that I had someone to talk to who wouldn’t belittle my situation because we were both just as confused as the other.
You’re not alone. Sometimes, you need to feel and experience that truth.
Find someone you can trust to listen to all of your new mom woes and triumphs with. It can be your mom, OB-gyn, an older mom friend or a group chat of your trusted mom friends. Have them as your go-to and never forget to thank them with a gracious heart.
Normally, when we pray we ask for help for anything as mundane as finding a missing object to help in something out of our hands as saving a life. New motherhood may feel like you’re desperately reaching for the heavens for strength.
I believe that God is good and He listens with the heart of a Father. I would tell Him everything in my heart, because He knows them even before I uttered them and knows better than anyone how to help me nourish my soul. Apart from everything else that I could physically do for my newborn, my prayer is the only way I know could help her strengthen her soul today.
Whether you’re Christian or not, prayer or even a simple meditation or reflection is worth it to inspire thoughts of humility, gratitude and an optimism you need to get through each long day.
Originally written for Mom Center Philippines
I added some of my personal photos to this post. 😉