Written by Holly from Little Pickle’s Mom
After being diagnosed with antenatal depression during my pregnancy, I knew how important looking after my emotional well being after birth. I desperately didn’t want to reach the excruciating lows I’d experienced in my third trimester. Whilst I know that sometimes mental health problems are unavoidable, I wanted to give myself the best possible chance. From one Mum to another, here are the things I found helped me stay in control and positive in those first whirlwind months of parenthood:
Tips and Advice
1. My Mummy friends
For the last eight months, I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve relied upon and been supported by the wonderful women (and their partners!). Most of whom I met during our antenatal classes. There’s hardly a week gone by when we haven’t arranged a meet-up and having the chance to regularly chew the fat with others in the same situation. It has been invaluable. Thankfully, we’re a group of Mums who all parent differently with a wide mix of births, methods of feeding, weaning styles and sleeping methods. We’re a great advert for how a group of mothers can be non-judgmental, accepting of each other and almost unconditionally supportive.
2. Get outside
Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is drag myself off the sofa, out of my pyjamas and into the fresh air but I can honestly say there’s never been a time when I’ve managed it, and felt worse. On the other hand, if it gets to the end of the day and the front door is still locked, I feel groggy, lazy and frustrated. Going outside for a walk, however long or short, always leaves me feeling refreshed and energised. I may come home to a messy house, but I feel like I can hold my held up high that I ‘did’ something today.
3. Make informed decisions
This is probably a weird one to write about but stay with me… Every day as parents we make countless decisions. Some are the big scary ones (how am I going to feed my baby? At what age am I going to introduce a routine? Should I sleep train my baby?), but there’s millions of tiny decisions we make all the time. It’s easy to feel like someone, somewhere is going to judge you whatever you decide. I’ve found the decisions which I’ve based on reliable information are the ones where I can easily ignore or counter any well-meaning criticisms or contradicting advice. The more assured I am in my own decisions and the reasons behind them, the less I’m negatively affected by those little comments or snubs we all experience from time to time.
4. Step away from social media!
Oh Facebook, you have a lot to answer for. Logically, we all know not everyone’s lives are as picture perfect as their Facebook profiles showcase but we’re not our usual rational selves when post-pregnancy hormones are raging through our bodies. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two days I spent over Christmas without my phone (due to accidentally leaving it at my parents’ house) were the most enjoyable two days I had over the festive period. I love my social media and keeping up to date with my friends, but I also know when it’s good to step away.
5. Be attentive to your own needs and wants
Becoming a parent brings in a huge wave of change, and to start with, I let all my own needs, wants and hobbies fall by the wayside, letting my baby become my only priority. This was fine to begin with whilst my husband was on paternity leave and could cook meals and bring me fluids, but once he was back at work, I’d sometimes go a whole day before realising I’d not eaten anything or even been to the toilet. Not the best recipe for long term health and well being. Now, I’m much better at planning ahead to ensure my needs are met as well as my baby’s.
Quick tips include setting yourself up with a big jug of water or squash in your living space so you’ve always got fluid close to hand. Ensuring there’s easy hand-to-mouth snacks available (bonus points if these are healthy ones) and setting some time aside once a week for your own hobbies or interests. For me, this was going out with my Mum for a little jog half an hour a week whilst my husband enjoyed some precious Father-Son bonding time. It was only a small time in the grand scheme of things, but having a little window of the week where I could enjoy something I’d loved pre-parenthood helped me feel like I wasn’t losing myself or my own identity.
These are the things that have worked for me, but just like babies, no two parents are the same. The most important thing I think we can all do as adults, let alone as parents, is to figure out what makes us tick and allow ourselves time for self-care. It’s not selfish and it’s not a waste of time. It’s just about making sure you’re firing on all cylinders, ready to tackle all the joys, challenges and surprises that parenting chucks at you.