Having a baby. It might not be easy. It might not be how you expected. It might take a swinging knock to your confidence, mentally and physically. But it might, just might, all be worth it.
Here’s the thing. The fourth trimester is brutal. You either know this (oh how you know this) already, or you are blithely looking forward to the coming of your little bundle of joy. In either case, here are a few words of wisdom that I can share with the benefit of a) hindsight and b) helping a LOT of other families through this period. So here we go…
Most of us live our lives at a hundred miles an hour and when we have a baby, we think we can carry on as normal. If you’ve got a chill one, maybe you can, but mostly you need to adapt a bit. That is not a failure, it’s life. The same goes for our recovery. Childbirth is, sure, a natural process, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respect the milestone our body has been through and give it time to heal afterwards. If we have had issues surrounding our body and/or if we’ve been super active before birth we are usually desperate to get back to exercise and ignore the rest the body needs. But resting first, then slowly building the right foundations for pelvic floor health, healing abdominal separation and increasing functional fitness/strength is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
Ask for help.
And when you do, make sure you get some rest or do something nurturing for you. Don’t just use it as a reason for you to go off and do even more laundry. We often feel guilty about not getting stuff done whilst the baby is sleeping (if they ever do) but sometimes a bit of rest or something that will make you feel good about yourself is the best thing you can do. There’s nothing wrong with hiring help either. Admitting you need help is A‑Okay, and maternity nurses, sleep consultants, women’s health physios and doulas can all be worth their weight in gold.
Visitors are lovely and all — who doesn’t need another White Company frilly Babygro — but they can also be oblivious to what you’re going through. The focus is usually on the baby rather than you and you might feel beholden to guests to provide tea, biscuits, cake, a three-course dinner… So set some boundaries to those few visitors you do want to see (make your own tea, please) and say no to energy-sapping ones.
And always, always remember…
You are good enough.
Time and time again I have to remind myself of this, so I always remind other parents too. Most of us are just doing the very best we can with the tools we have, so give yourself a break. Mum-guilt is real and can impact your mental health long-term if you let it. So, try to build your toolkit to give yourself the best chance of being your best you — that means self-care.
But all of these things are at the foundation of self-care, not just number four. I’ve been banging the self-care drum since my own daughter was born. But it really is true; You can’t drink from an empty cup, so you need to fill yours. How are you going to look after others if you aren’t looking after yourself? You are worth looking after.
Clio Wood is the Founder of &Breathe, the award-winning family wellbeing company. &Breathe runs fitness retreats for postnatal, young families and perimenopause and has also created PARENTFOOD, the complete nutrition meal delivery service.