From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my priorities quickly shifted. I immersed myself in books that educated me on what to expect in caring for a new baby. And though I felt prepared for our little one, I could have used a little more wisdom in taking care of myself -- from preparing myself for the emotional jolt of bringing my baby home from the hospital to combating the baby blues and dealing with "mommy brain." Indeed, the level of self-sacrifice required in pregnancy is just a prequel to caring for yourself as a new mama; and after giving birth, nurturing ourselves needs to become our foremost priority.
So to help nurture your physical, spiritual and emotional selves, here are four tips that will help you put self-care on your to-do list and guide you through your daily pursuit of balance.
1. Plan Ahead. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Before baby, I found freedom in flying by the seat of my coat tails. Unfortunately, the outside world makes little concession for hormonal, flustered mamas. Thus, planning is essential! If you have difficulty keeping your commitments, are frequently losing things or have trouble making decisions, you may be experiencing mommy brain. Write everything down, keep a working to do list, and schedule everything 30 minutes in advance. I say, “if the appointment isn’t in my Google calendar, it doesn’t exist.”
You can also do yourself a favor by planning for the unexpected. Prepare healthy meals and snacks the night before so you can grab and go. Keep your diaper bag and car stocked with mommy and baby essentials. I inherently panicked when my baby had her first public diaper blowout. Yet, having a pre-prepared bag on deck (which included a spare change of clothing for myself) was a major win in my role as a new mom.
2. Ground Your Energy. While it’s important to never leave the house without moisturizer, lip gloss and mascara, self-care begins from the inside out. Create a safe place to feed your dreams and purge negative energy. Journaling is a great way to express your thoughts and release pent up emotions.
Once your baby is on somewhat of a schedule, set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes early. While this isn’t always possible, you’ll thank yourself on the days you can. During this time, meditate or pray, say your affirmations, take a shower, make your coffee, and set your intentions for the day. Find solace in simple things such as lighting a candle or taking a bath. Furthermore, getting a dose of fresh air and keeping flowers on deck does wonders for lifting your spirits.
3. Be patient with yourself. Society puts far too much pressure on new moms to snap back into shape and into our previous commitments. But jumping back into rigorous exercise or social commitments can lead to burnouts. So give yourself a year or two to settle into motherhood. We want so badly to hold onto to the woman we once were. The reality is, we’ve evolved into a new and improved life-bringing force.
With that, I still battle the anxiety that comes with measuring up to my old self. There are some days I just don’t have the energy to work out. On my hardest days, I allow caring for myself and being present for my husband and baby to be enough.
4. Learn to be your own best friend. Once the baby arrives, people forget new mamas need love too! We must learn to give ourselves the attention we seek. So affirm your strength and beauty daily. Everyone has a unique postpartum experience. Honor yours, and resist the urge to compare it. Embrace everything about the new woman you are becoming. Be honest and communicate your new limitations, and don’t be afraid to slow down and set boundaries. Saying no is really saying yes to your peace of mind. Go easy on yourself. Finally, if no one’s told you lately, sit quietly with your eyes closed and your hand over your heart and simply say, “I’m proud of you.”
Shea Edwards is a native of Richmond, VA currently living in Los Angeles, with her husband and 11 month old daughter Lulu where she enjoys swimming, thrifting, traveling and deep belly laughter. She is an ordained minister, trained actress, writer and host. Shea hopes to one day live in a quaint town with her very own rose garden and swimming pool.