Dear Brand New Mom,
Welcome to a new chapter of your life: motherhood. You are going to be amazed at how different this chapter is from anything else you’ve ever experienced. Nothing could prepare you for this.
This: the absolute euphoria of being in love with your tiny new human. Love like you’ve never experienced or even dreamt of before. Suddenly you understand life, you see the world in a completely new way. From now on, everyone is someone’s child in your eyes. You’ll understand exactly what they mean when they say having a child is having your heart walk around outside your body. The intensity of this love could move mountains.
This, part 2: the hard, hard, hard parts that are sometimes so ridiculous that you almost want to laugh. Almost. You’ll understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. You’ll struggle through questions that seem to be life or death, all the time, like “how in the world do I get this child to actually EAT?” The times you snap at your partner and hope that someday they can forgive you but you’re too tired right now to find the energy to care. You’ll lower your standards for your clothing: is this spit-up from today or yesterday? Today? Ok well that’s acceptable.
I want you to know this: I know that your body is different than before. I know that in all of this chaos, in all of the ups and downs and tears and hormones and confusion and fear and anxiety, you feel like “getting your body back” might be something you can control. You’ll be tempted to diet, to do something extreme, to whip your body into shape.
You love motherhood, but you don’t love your new mom body. I get it. We’ve been brainwashed in this society to believe that getting right back in shape and immediately looking as though we were never pregnant is the only way to be accepted. That there’s something wrong with us otherwise. That we have “no excuses”.
But please mama, please don’t go down this road. You just went through one of the most physically and emotionally demanding times of your life with pregnancy and birth, and your body is now in survival mode as you care for not only yourself but your tiny helpless human.
There’s a better way.
When you wake up each and every morning, groggy from feeding every few hours (or minutes), maybe with a baby still latched on to your breast or reaching for a bottle on the nightstand, just do this:
Promise yourself that today, you will do your best to take care of yourself.
That you will go on that same priority list that you’ve put your baby on. (At the top of the list. Not the bottom. Insert cliche oxygen mask metaphor here because it’s true.)
That you will feed your body as best you can and let the rest go.
That you will get some activity if it is possible, and sleep if it is not.
That you will tell yourself every day “Today I will take care of me so that I can take care of my baby”, whatever that looks like.
In the coming weeks and months, things WILL get better. They won’t be perfect, and there will be challenges, but I promise: BETTER. The tiny human becomes slightly more self-sufficient every day that he or she is alive. He or she WILL eventually sleep all night, and you’ll get your first real night’s sleep (not the first night though, because you’ll be certain that something is wrong and sneak in to check on them every hour). You will begin to feel human again. Your day will start to feel more structured. You’ll figure this all out.
And when you do, you can take your health and fitness to the next level. And the easier it gets, the more you can level up.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals. All I’m saying is to take it one step at a time. This is already hard, you don’t need pressure too.
I also want you to remember that taking care of yourself will almost never look like the mom next door or your sister-in-law or that inspirational lady on Instagram. You might bounce back and figure things out pretty fast. You might not. When your doctor clears you to exercise, you might feel like getting right out there and running again because running is what you need and love. Or, your biggest victory might be getting a shower that day. It’s your own pace and your own journey. Don’t worry about anyone else’s. No one has the same set of circumstances, genetics, baby, experience, life. It’s ok to do you.
Do your best. You got this. You do!
Deanna (veteran mom of 4 whose first baby, pictured above, is about to graduate high school)