Maternal Mental Health
By Natalie Meddings
October sees a huge focus on maternal mental health, something we at YogaBirth are very passionate about raising awareness of. For new mums, a mixture of hormone fluctuations and sleep deprivation can leave you feeling far from yourself, but please don’t worry. As Natalie Meddings writes, motherhood is a quest, not a test.
In the first days with a new baby, there’s a tonne of adjustment to make. You’ll feel joy, but also exhaustion, probably a bit of overwhelm at times too. It’s all normal. The problem is it might not feel normal.
‘I was shocked by how winded I felt in those first weeks with my baby, ‘ says Sian. ‘Some days I felt knocked for six and my main problem was worrying that I shouldn’t be feeling that way. When you’re pregnant and all excited about having a baby, that’s not how you imagine it. And it’s certainly not what you see…out in the world, on tv, or even when you go to meet-ups with other mums. It looks like it should all be lovely, or like everyone else seems to be coping and together. When I found myself feeling completely done in, in tears with tiredness or whatever, I’d think ‘is this normal?’ Why aren’t I coping?’ You can really convince yourself that everyone else is finding it breeze when of course they’re not. But how are you supposed to know what is normal? How do you gauge it?’
First Time Mums
If you’ve not had a baby before, feeling under confident is natural. It’s also necessary. When we are unsure, we are awake – vigilant and sensitive. This is exactly how your baby needs you to be: listening well, responding instinctively, free and open to learn how they tick and who they are.
What they don’t need is you to be wracked with self-doubt. It may be common for a mother to think being in her pyjamas all day is wrong; or that if feeding is fraught, she is failing; or that her baby should be sleeping at specific time. But it doesn’t mean that worrying is warranted. No mother should feel she is getting it wrong. Yet experts and baby ‘manuals’ can make you feel like you are, like there is a right way to ‘run’ your baby and that it’s your job to nail it.
Let the feelings pass
Anxiety is expensive. Insecurity saps energy so take a moment to consider if any self-blame or shame (yes, mothers really are made to feel this) you are feeling is valid or useful. When a spasm of doubt strikes and you find yourself questioning yourself or wondering if there’s a better way your baby could be – consider if that imagined ideal bears any connection to your baby, or the relationship you are building with them.
Instead have a cup of tea, a bit of a cry, or if you can, a nap with your baby. Let the feeling pass, because all those ‘shoulds’ you’ve got washing around can do serious damage to your instinct. It’ll have been obvious within minutes that your baby is utterly unique so why would one-size-fits-all advice from a self-appointed childcare guru or an NCT whatsapp group be of any use?
Motherhood isn’t a test
Motherhood isn’t a test – it’s a quest. Some days are satisfying, some suffocating. Sometimes you’ll feel frazzled, at others euphoric. This is the territory so give yourself a break. I’ve yet to see a mother and baby not find equilibrium in their own good time.
To find out more about YogaBirth’s postnatal classes, head to our postnatal classes page.