I often get pushback when I say this, but I think you are just as important as your child. I know that little babe is helpless and needs constant care, but sometimes you still need to come first. As they say on airplanes, put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.This is often really difficult for women. Societal expectations raise us to put ourselves after others and we are taught to be caregivers. Any deviation from this can make many women feel guilty or selfish. This is amplified into your identity postpartum. Our society tells women that caring for yourself is selfish and being a good mom is about selflessness. This is dangerous rhetoric. You’re a woman with many interests, but now your thoughts and conversations mostly center around your baby’s growth and milestones. Your identity becomes Mom.
Although this is wonderful and your children add richness to your life, it’s important to keep your needs and recovery at the forefront. As an added bonus, you will do a better job caring for your children if you are healthy, rested, pain-free, and emotionally present.
Please take a moment to (without judgement) think through your recent days: did you treat yourself as a priority? Did you feel guilty taking a shower? Eating a sandwich? It’s natural biologically to tense and run over when your baby starts crying. I understand, but is someone watching out for you too? Have you caught your breath enough to think about how you’re feeling? Are you in a state of hyper-vigilance all the time?
Sometimes I am working with a client on her scar and all of a sudden, she starts crying. The intensity or even trauma of birth can be overwhelming, but there’s rarely time to process it. You are immediately a mom, with a new life and new priorities. So, you may put any grief, fear, or anxiety you had about the birth in a lockbox. Seeing a pelvic floor PT is often the first time a woman starts processing these emotions, when the scar brings them bubbling up.
It is also natural to feel some grief for the loss of the person you were. You feel different, you look different, you are different. Someone is constantly needing you and you no longer have time to yourself. Women often experience guilt about these thoughts, especially if you expected to feel only gratitude and all encompassing love. But having a baby is like throwing a bomb into your life. Even if it was an absolutely desired and sought after event, you are still picking up the pieces. Please be gentle and kind to yourself during the process. Prioritizing your physical and emotional recovery is an important, but often neglected, part of the postpartum experience.
Compassion and care for others requires self compassion and self care. As the great Ru Paul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”