We all know that motherhood is one of the most transformative experiences that a woman can have. What nobody tells us is that we can destroy our marriage, our health and our well being if we don't make a conscious effort to bounce back after giving birth. I'm not saying to hit the gym the minute after getting home from the hospital. The body needs adequate time to heal. Or don't plan a date night when sleep deprived or trying to control leaky and engorged boobs.
Do take little steps every day to try to go back to that woman who existed before her body became a human milk machine. It's so easy to stay home in sweatpants and watch Ellen while the baby naps but if a woman doesn't fix herself up once in while and leave the house, she can easily fall into a rut.
There will be times when taking a shower will be a distant memory and days when exhaustion has reached a whole new level. If anyone deserves a break, it's a new mom, but don't get too comfortable slacking off. Don't lose touch with friends, relatives or colleagues. Going out for a coffee, without the baby is not a criminal offence. Don't let outings only be grocery shopping or pediatrician visits. Remember those friends who had kids and seemed to disappear off the face the earth? Remember how boring they became? Nobody wants to know how many times your precious angel pooped today.
The first three months can be challenging, so remember that women are stronger than they know. Our mothers have been through the same trials and errors and they managed. Bouncing back is must for moms. The perks are not just for them but for their families as well.
15 Baby Blues
While it's normal to experience mood swings and feel overwhelmed with a new baby, becoming isolated and withdrawn from social and physical activities can lead to postpartum depression. According to Web MD 13% of women are affected by PPD which is triggered by the sudden hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes medication or therapy is required so, before things get to that point, consult with a doctor. There is no shame in asking for help and there is nothing wrong with taking a break from the baby.
In Brooke Shield's personal memoir Down Came The Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, she describes her experience in a very raw and intimate tone. Her melancholy was so severe that she suffered suicidal thoughts and believed that she would never snap out of it. "This was a sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away." Being a celebrity made it even more difficult to publicly announce her mental illness but through the support of her husband, friends and family she sought treatment. Her inspiring battle with a condition that is rarely discussed and often misunderstood has offered hope to so many women who have suffered in silence.
14 The Kids Notice
One of the most heartbreaking things that my child has ever said to me was "mom why are you always mad?" Which I denied, unsuccessfully before realizing I needed to make some changes. Kids hear and see everything. Even infants who can't speak can sense their mother's mood. Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, (Psychological Science) studied the emotion and heart-rate in babies whose mothers were put through stressful tasks. They noted that in addition to increased heart rate, a mother's smell, voice and facial expression could all be influencing factors on your child.
Sometimes babies are so quiet that it's easy for a mom to forget they are there. That's why it is so important to always be conscious of how we speak in front of children. Even our body language can send negative messages to our babies. and Although it could be hilarious to hear a curse word come out of a sweet looking toddler's mouth, we really don't want to set that kind of example.
13 When You Look Good You Feel Good
One of the biggest mistakes new moms make is neglecting their hygiene and beauty rituals. We all know how time is so limited when caring for a baby. Most of us can't exactly spend a day at the spa but five minutes in the shower to shave and exfoliate is doable. Make realistic plans. Everyone has a friend who's good with hair. Open a bottle of wine and invite them over for a blow-dry. There are plenty of aestheticians who make house calls. When my grandmother got too old to take care of her feet, her pedicurist came to her. Ask around or check with your local salon/spa to find out what home services are available in your area.
Also, if a little concealer is not hiding those dark circles under the eyes, due to sleepless nights, watch a make-up tutorial on YouTube. There are so many amazing make-up artists on line. Don't get used to letting yourself go because it will become a habit. When I look at my baby photos, my mother's hair, nails and make-up are always on point. She had three kids, no help and she wore heels. Remember, if you look in the mirror and don't find yourself attractive, it can effect your mood and self-confidence.
12 Visit The Workplace
The last thing on a new mother's mind right now, as she juggles feedings, naps and the million questions that come up every day (Why is my baby's poop black?) is work. Perhaps she doesn't miss her office, but she should make a special guest appearance. Dressing the baby up in a cute outfit (preferably one from a co-worker) and trying to look as good as possible demonstrates viability. Keep the lines of communication open. Remind the boss and colleagues what they're missing (in case they were looking for a permanent replacement).
There may be new programs or procedures that need to be learned. Everyone knows how quickly technology changes. Online training courses and conference calls can even be done from home. Keeping up to date with the office will make the transition so much easier when returning to work. Remember that it's important to stay in the loop if returning to a previous job. After months of Elmo and Dora, the brain can turn into mush. Doesn't it feel good to talk to grown-ups? It's also fun to catch up on office news and gossip.
11 Move It
The benefits of exercise are limitless. Weight-loss, cardiovascular fitness, strengthening and toning muscles, boosting energy, relieving stress and even promoting better sleep. It's not just about losing weight but feeling healthy. Strong is now the new skinny. Don't wait too long to exercise but don't push too hard and cause damage. A new mother needs plenty of care and rest so that she can take good care of her baby. Before resuming a previous work out or starting a new one, consult a health professional.
The list of battle scars is a long one; blood loss, episiotomies, C-sections can really be rough on a new mom so she shouldn't be surprised if she can't train as hard as she used to. Start off slowly and drink plenty of water, especially if breast-feeding. It will be be more difficult but don't be discouraged. Looking at professional athletes and celebrities with personal trainers as role models can be discouraging. It took 9 months to create life, so don't expect to bounce back right away. The body has been through a lot, so remember that mothers are warriors. Being a fit mom is a great role model for kids and husbands will also appreciate it.
10 Sexy Time
The question that all husbands ask (sometimes in the delivery room) is how long does he have to wait before he can "get back on the love train." I just have one word to shut that station down; episiotomy. For most women leaky boobs, hemorrhoids and vaginal stitches will put a long hold on sexy time. Doctors recommend waiting at least six weeks (usually after the post-natal check-up) before "getting back in the saddle" but there are other factors.
Lochia which is vaginal discharge (blood, mucus, uterine tissue) during the postpartum period usually lasts between four to six weeks. Intercourse during this time could also cause infection. Most women can experience pain, dryness and fear of getting pregnant too soon. Feeling, fat, tired or just plain gross is also a libido killer. Just because a woman's body doesn't look and feel like it used to, that doesn't mean she can't kiss and cuddle. It's important for couples to reconnect. It's more important however, for a woman's body to heal properly so that she can go back to how she got knocked up in the first place.
9 Date Night
Some husbands feel neglected when all of their wive's attention is focused their child. And some women feel blah because they're stuck at home all day taking care of a baby. Make time for each other so you don't drift apart. Go out for dinner and don't talk about the baby. Order in and watch Netflix. Do something fun together. Make each other laugh. Don't put pressure on each other to feel like you did before the baby was born. Things are different now. The relationship status has changed from couple to family.
Spouses don't always cheat just for sex. They're usually seeking attention. With all new changes and emotions, it is now more important than ever for partners to stay connected with each other. Communicating, sharing feelings and remembering that parenthood should be a team effort is key. If the relationship becomes too strained, there's always therapy. Sometimes it's helpful to talk to a good friend or family member. Even a member of a religious congregation (rabbi, priest or imam) can offer good advice. Don't wait too long to seek help. Too many times we see couples breaking up right after their baby is born because they couldn't work together and it's sad.
8 Get Cooking
Whether it's painting, cooking or gardening, having a creative outlet is good for the soul. Such hobbies can relax, stimulate or simply give one joy. There's a reason why Martha Stewart is on Forbes list of "The 400 Richest Americans." Often a pregnant woman's focus in on decorating the baby's room and then so much time and energy is spent on choosing the cutest outfits or trendiest toys. This is why it's important for a woman to return to her pre-baby interests before she loses her skills.
Let's face it, steaming and blending carrots can get rather dull. A new mom is already focusing most of her attention on the baby, so why should her hobbies or personal interests have to be centered around the baby as well? Play guitar, read a book that has nothing to do with parenting, try out a new recipe, restore some old furniture. The internet is a fantastic way for women to connect and learn from each other, especially when they are stuck at home. There are so many interesting websites that offer instructions and tutorials for just about anything. Watch "Dragon's Den" or "Shark Tank" and see how many stay at home moms have come up with brilliant money-making ideas.
7 Hang Out
In a lot of countries, new moms are not allowed to leave the house once the baby is born. The 2000 year old practice of "zuo yuezi" or sitting month is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. A woman is confined to her home for 30 days on a restrictive diet (no coffee, raw fruit etc.) to restore balance to her body. It's great to stay home, but there is also a thing called "cabin fever". Postpartum can be an isolating and difficult time, especially since most women work and have a busy social life. This is why it is imperative for new moms to hang out with friends as much as possible.
Women are social creatures who need to feel connected. Going to a mall, meeting friends for lunch or coffee can be very therapeutic. It allows a woman to get back in touch with herself. My son was born at the end of October, so my first big social event was going to my office Christmas party. It felt great to wear something other than yoga pants and drink a glass of wine without having anyone latching on to my body.
6 Mom Of The Year
Being a first time mom can feel like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. We all read a million books but we were never be prepared for all the surprises on this new journey. The moms on TV make it look easy but remember, every single"real" mom has struggled and felt hopeless more than once. Be forgiving. When we set ourselves up for perfection, we will be greatly disappointed. Too often we don't allow ourselves the space and environment to learn and grow.
Although some women make it look so easy, being a mother takes years of practice. And each child is born with their own personalities and temperaments. What works for one baby doesn't necessarily work for another. The internet offers countless blogs and support groups that answer questions or simply allow women to vent their frustrations. Don't get sucked into the mom-shaming. Get real, there's no such thing as a perfect mother.
5 Super Wife
It's funny how all it takes is one little baby to turn someone's whole world upside down. Suddenly every second of every day is centered around feedings, naps and bath time. There was a time when preparing a menu, shopping for food and decorating the house sounded like the perfect Saturday night. Now the thought of hosting a dinner party can invoke a panic attack.
There's nothing wrong with preparing food ahead of time, buying frozen instead of fresh and asking mom for a little help. Heck, call a caterer or make it pot-luck. Pulling off a great party, is not just about the food but the company. Maybe loud music and excessive liquor aren't the only ways to have fun. Everybody loves a good game night, it just may end a little earlier than before. The key is bouncing back to old habits that make everybody happy. Take turns with friends and help each other out when hosting get-togethers.This way no one feels overwhelmed.
4 You Got This
Bob Marley once said "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice." A new mother often experiences doubts, fears and frustrations. She should always trust her instincts because she know her baby best. The key is to focus on her strengths. Too bad there isn't a way to harness that adrenaline rush that comes the second the baby is placed in our arms.
Mothers are the truest warriors. Our bodies are ripped open, we bleed for weeks, we don't sleep, we carry our children long after our arms ache. We will hold them tightly to our sore breasts and we won't rest until they are fed and content. We need to remind ourselves daily, that we are strong and we are capable of so much more.
I remember being criticized by my mother in law because my child was "too thin" even though the paediatrician said he was perfectly healthy. She made me feel incompetent, like I didn't take good enough care of my baby. I knew that she was wrong but it still hurt. We must be more forgiving and encouraging. The mom-shaming really needs to stop.
3 Baby Fat
I know a woman who should lose at least 40 pounds, to be considered "healthy." She claims that it's baby weight but her kids are in college. We all know that the longer one waits to lose post-pregnancy weight, the harder it becomes. It was great to binge on french fries and ice-cream during pregnancy but after the baby's out, that bump is no longer cute.
The sooner a woman adopts healthy eating habits, the sooner she will look and feel better. There's a lot of pressure to drop all the weight as soon as possible but a woman should always consult her doctor and listen to her body. According to "livestrong.com" a nursing mother should consume about 2,300 calories per day. Of course this could vary according to a woman's age, size, lifestyle etc. The first few weeks, the majority of the weight should melt away. If we subtract the weight of the child, the placenta and excess water that could range between 15-25 pounds. Sorry ladies, but the rest is mommy fat.
2 Try Again
Unless she's Michelle Duggar, the last thing on a new mom's mind is having more kids. She can't wait for the baby to sleep through the night, she's wondering how much longer she'll breast-feed and it would be nice to have a glass of wine without feeling guilty, but babies don't stay little forever. Although it can be overwhelming to have children too close in age, there are a lot of perks. The first few years could get a little hectic, but then they'll all grow up together. The key is being organized and taking help wherever you can. The sooner baby#1 gets settled into a routine, the easier it will be to get cracking on #2.
If mom is happy raising an only child, then she should decide which birth control method would be the best fit. There are so many options available now such as vasectomies, female sterilization, the IUD etc. According to Web MD the pill is the most commonly used method of birth control for women between the ages of 15-44. Of course not every option will work for everyone, so it's best to consult with a healthcare professional. As soon as mom feels in control of her body, she can bounce back.
1 Work It
A woman's body is never the same after childbirth. Even after losing most of the weight, her shape is different and her skin is looser. Now that we've accepted this, what is she supposed to wear? Her pre-pregnancy clothes are too tight and her maternity clothes are too loose. Not everyone can afford to buy a new wardrobe but it is important to look presentable. Invest in a good pair of leggings that can be dressed up or down. Get some jeans with lycra, so that they can stretch and new jacket can update any of your looks. We all have that friend who thinks that wearing a fancy blouse with yoga pants is acceptable formal attire.
I know women that continued to wear maternity clothes long after they gave birth. They said they didn't want to spend any money and were planning on losing the weight. Well, like John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Buying a few items that fit properly and update your wardrobe will make you look and feel a whole lot better than your baggy old sweat pants.
Sources: Mayoclinic.org, HuffingtonPost.com, WebMD.com, Livestrong.com