(Jun. 22, 2017) It's pretty hard to write blog posts nowadays because I rarely have a quiet moment with both of my hands free. Our baby girl Isabelle is 8 months now, and I mostly hold her while she's sleeping. She'll sleep without me holding her (for about 15 minutes or so), but when I'm holding her, she'll sleep 2-3 hours. So basically, that's where we're at and I'm okay with it. I enjoy holding her, but I do miss writing and certain other things, so I thought I would write in small doses when I get a chance, just like I do with painting. Both painting and writing have always been really good outlets for me.
I've been wanting to share how I'm managing my self care since having a new baby, since I know how important it is to make sure that I'm OK so that I can take care of her. Isabelle is my 3rd baby, so I have done this before, but it has been challenging nonetheless. She was my first baby born by C section, my first colicky baby, and my first baby to dislike riding in her car seat and stroller. She's quite sensitive, this little one. Luckily we are past most of the above by now, but all the crying is not forgotten. I am quite sensitive too, and it did have an impact on my nervous system despite my attempts to stay positive. I wanted so much to comfort her, and was at a loss at times on how to calm her. With my other babies, a boob in the mouth was all it would take, and this time it didn't work that way. She didn't liked to be rocked either. So often we would hand her back and forth, walking her up and down the hallway, playing nursery rhyme songs, giving her gas drops, putting warm washcloths on her tummy, ....basically just trial and error until she was calm enough to fall asleep.
When we did try and go somewhere, she would scream and cry and make this coughing noise until I would stop the car and hold her. She cried when I took her for walks in the stroller, so we would hurry back home. She seemed to enjoy when I would baby-wear her, so I often wore my wrap around the house, as I painted, which was something I could do with her while standing. Luckily, Shawn took care of Olivia and everything else in those early months because all I could do was take care of the baby and myself. This brings me to what I wanted to share, how I've managed to make sure I'm OK while taking care of Isabelle. In case there's any other mamas out there who might find it helpful.
First of all, it's all about priorities. I used to find it hard to prioritize my own self care, but I've learned the hard way over the years that its vital for me to nurture myself so that I have energy for who and what matters most. Being proactive in this area is so important for my well being because I can easily give to the point of having nothing left, feel overwhelmed, and find myself resentful and exhausted. When I've neglected myself, I've suffered with health problems, unhealthy relationships, anxiety, and depression. So when Isabelle was born, I put certain practices in place that would help me be consistently mindful of my well being. (Side note: despite proactive self care, mental health issues can arise. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, I encourage you to reach out and seek help.) I've found the following to be helpful while navigating new mommyhood (again):
I took a shower everyday. For the first 2 weeks, Shawn helped me with this because it's difficult to walk around post C section. When he went back to work, I would put Isabelle in her bouncer in the bathroom with me, and peek out of the shower curtain often. This was rarely seamless. I would have to rush, and most of the time was unable to get dressed because she would be crying so much. I was quickly back in my robe, but at least I was clean. Over time, I was able to put on her nursery rhyme songs to get a few more minutes, and now I bathe with the shower curtain open while she plays with toys. Looking back, I remember how stressful it was trying to make it through something so basic, but I did it everyday regardless because it made me feel normal. It was one of the small ways I took care of myself in those early days in order to still feel like my own person.
I ate regular meals, including snacks, took postnatal vitamins, and stayed hydrated. Skipping meals for me is not an option. I need to eat, and find breastfeeding hunger to be super immediate. When Isabelle was first born, we did a lot of pizza ordering. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a lot of time to cook or shop. But, I eat 3 meals a day, plus snacks. I drink lots of water. I limit caffeine and alcohol, and I take vitamins everyday. These little rituals bring a structure of self care to my everyday, and bring me a sense of peace to know I am at least meeting my basic needs.
This post is getting super long, but those were the essentials early on. After a few months, I was able to include stretching, painting, and monthly massages, but it's still a balancing act. I need to be very careful to not take too much on, and to consistently nurture myself as I nurture Isabelle. I also say lots of prayers and remind myself that the baby season doesn't last long and I am so blessed to experience it once again. And so I will enjoy the snuggles, all of the firsts, and give all of the love to my little family and remember to take good care of me along the way.