When you are pregnant, there is plenty of support out there as well as encouragement to take care of yourself, be it through antenatal classes, prenatal yoga and pilates or health check-ups. But once the baby is born, everybody’s, including of course our own, attention shifts towards the baby. As a result, we tend not to give much thought to our own physical and mental recovery.
So here is a little guidance as to how to look after yourself – this is not about foot massages and haircuts – this is about vital self care and looking after numero uno, so you are well equipped to look after your new baby. Plus some practical tips as to where to find help and support in Shrewsbury.
LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY
Other than a quick six week check up, there are usually no more routine medical appointments to monitor your physical health. So you need to be proactive. It is helpful to see an osteopath, even if you have had a straightforward pregnancy and labour. The pelvis can change position in pregnancy and labour and we need to make sure the body is realigned. If you don’t, it can lead to pain, postural difficulties and even pelvic floor problems. This is an excellent osteopathy practice: www.shrewsburyosteopaths.co.uk
And do go and see a women’s health physio even if you just have very minor concerns about your pelvic floor. She will be able to discuss any incontinence issues as well as assess any damage to the pelvic floor. There is plenty that can be done in terms of exercises to restore the strength of the muscles. Don’t leave it until you are really struggling – think of it as a check up, rather than a last solution. Either see NHS GP for referral or Nuffield Hospital in Shrewsbury has a brilliant women’s health physio – Rachel Bromley
LOOK AFTER YOUR MIND
GPS and Health visitors (rightly) are concerned to look out for symptoms of Post Natal Depression (PND). However even without PND, a new mother’s mental health is fragile and needs to be protected. The new mother is in a period of huge change – possibly the biggest change she has ever encountered. Acceptance of this change does not always come naturally. Yoga breathing practices can really help here. Take five, sit down, close the eyes and reconnect with the breath and the body. Breathe deep and feel yourself calm down. See if you can bring the attention back to the present and not worry too much about the past – the life you had before or the future – which you cannot control. There is nothing quite like motherhood for allowing you to live in the present…
LOOK AFTER THE INSIDE NOT THE OUTSIDE
Culturally, we need a MASSIVE attitude shift in terms of what we expect a new mother to look like and behave like. The goal is not to get back to shape and back to juggling multiple things and numerous social engagements. We need to focus on what is going on internally rather than externally. This means spending time at home, bonding with your new baby, nurturing yourselves, resting, recovering. And not just for the first two weeks. We need to stay at home for far longer and when we do get out and about again, do things slowly.
FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
A support network is absolutely vital, non-negotiable, for a new mother. If family are far away, find this support from other new mothers in the same position, ideally ones who are super local. Throughout history, women have not raised their babies on their own with absent partners, because this is extremely difficult, probably impossible. We need emotional support, encouragement, a friend to help us get out of the house, people to share both the physical and emotional burden, people to enjoy this crazy period of life with. It is a wonderful time to make new friends because you will be sharing with them one some of the most remarkable moments of your life.
In Shrewsbury, try Su Barber’s awesome Monday morning mother’s group. They meet at the Shrewsbury Coffee House most Mondays, and Su is tremendously supportive and a fountain of knowledge.
Also, Button and Bear, the wonderful independent children’s bookshop, has lots of weekly classes and groups for new mothers and babies. Plus there is always a friendly crowd of other mamas in there having a cup of coffee and some awesome cake.
ACCEPT HELP OR ASK FOR HELP
Many of us struggle with asking for or accepting help. In the postnatal period, we need to let go of any awkwardness around this. You will need help – and furthermore, be brave enough to ask for the right kind of help. Often we are more than capable of looking after a newborn baby, furthermore, we don’t necessarily want someone to take the baby off for a walk or even to hold the baby so we can cook, clean etc. Instead, ask for help for yourself – with the laundry, cooking, shopping, with childcare for other children.
Please go easy on yourself. If you eat crap for a while, don’t punish yourself, just choose something different tomorrow. If you don’t make it out of the house, see it as a good thing, a rest day, maybe even exactly what you needed. We often feel under pressure as new mothers, but a lot of the time, we put that pressure upon ourselves.
The postpartum period is pretty full on and many women find they mourn their “old selves”. Find a little time to do something to nurture the soul. Instead of doing the washing, sit down with a notebook and write something, sit in the sun with a cup of tea and some good music on your headphones, get your watercolours out when your baby is asleep. Just ten minutes here and there will help bring you back to yourself.