Siiiggghhh. Mommin’ is hard. Being pregnant is hard. Birth is hard. Postpartum is hard. It’s all hard. But doing all of the above during a Global Pandemic? That is HARD HARD.
The Fourth Trimester, as it’s often referred to, is the 12-week period following the birth of a baby where new moms experience a huge shift in lifestyle and routine. I had my little baby 12 weeks ago, so I’ve spent the last three months in that sweet spot of newborn bliss, coupled with not knowing what day it is or how long it’s been since I’ve slept. It’s beautiful, it’s exhausting, it’s confusing, it’s lonely.
Postpartum is incredibly challenging for most moms and can take quite a toll on our mental health, especially when it coincides with a global lockdown and the dark days of winter. Finding ways to protect my mental health has been crucial during this uniquely challenging experience.
First and foremost, I prioritize moving my body in a way that brings me joy. I came across this phrase recently, and I love it so much. There is a lot of pressure to “workout” and “be active,” especially after you’ve had a baby, but I do not and will not allow society to bully me into demanding my body look like what it did before I had my baby.
However, I know that doing something good for my body is also good for my mind. Some days, it brings me joy to do an intense workout. Some days, it brings me joy to do yoga. Some days, it brings me joy to skip a traditional workout in favor of being productive around the house. However you chose to move your body, make sure you are happy to do it!
Secondly, I’ve learned to be bold enough to admit when I can’t handle something. Taking on too much is the downfall of many new moms, and we always feel like we need to handle it all on our own. That’s a dangerous ride. Reclaim your sanity (and your time) and just say “no” when you cannot add something to your plate.
Along with this comes asking for help. When I came home after having my son, I was in pain like you wouldn’t believe. And yet, had my parents not forced themselves into my home to cook and clean and run errands for me, I would have done it all myself instead of admitting I needed help and asking for it. Why must we make ourselves miserable to avoid asking for assistance from people who would love to give it? They say “it takes a village,” and I’m so glad I finally learned to lean on mine. The best part is that now I know exactly how to insist on helping others when the time comes.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is to lower my expectations. I am normally the person that needs everything to be perfect, go according to plan, and to be prepared for what is coming. Ha! That’s all gone out the window and surprisingly, I’m rolling with it.
When my friend Facetimes me but I haven’t showered or slept in days: eh, roll with it- I need the conversation! When my dad stops by unexpectedly, but the house is an embarrassing mess: eh, roll with it- it was nice to see him! When my husband unloads the dishwasher for me, but puts everything in the wrong place: eh, roll with it- at least I don’t have to do it now! All of these things used to get to me, but honestly, life is so much simpler and enjoyable when we lower our expectations and just roll with it.
The last way I protect my mental health during postpartum isolation is by staying in communication with my people, which keeps loneliness at bay. I text my best friend every day. Most of the day, every day. It’s the easiest, least intrusive form of communication. She had a baby two weeks after me, so our schedules are both crazy. But we find sanity in talking about everything from college memories to baby poop.
I also find joy in seeing my niece and nephew on FaceTime frequently. I call them randomly just so they can giggle at seeing their baby cousin on the phone. When the weather permits, I like to go for a walk with a girlfriend. No frills, just a lap around the neighborhood while catching up on life.
I also use social media to stay connected. I love seeing what everyone else is up to, seeing their kids grow, hearing about their promotions or funny stories about their days. All of these things keep me connected to a network of people, whether my closest friends or casual acquaintances, which keeps me actively involved in something other than diapers and spit up. If I start closing myself off and quit reaching out for that communication, I see an immediate impact on my mental health. Staying socially connected, even from afar, is absolutely mandatory for me.
The challenges of being a new mom are so hard. We often feel a little lost, lonely, and spread too thin… and the isolation of this pandemic can multiply the effects. Finding ways to focus on what I need for myself and from others is the only way I can take control during a time when so much feels like it’s out of my control. I remind myself that without restoring balance in myself, I cannot give to my family freely. And goodness knows, they need me!
What do you do to focus on postpartum mental health? Did any of these points resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you! Connect with me at instagram.com/talesoftheyales.
Kelly Yale is a long-time resident of Fishers (she’s lived here since she was 12!) who lives on the east side of the city. She loves hiking in parks, cooking and trying new restaurants, visiting the Fishers Farmers’ Market, and spending time with her family. Wife and daughter of small business owners, she’s passionate about local businesses and loves exploring shops around the City. She is vegetarian and tries to avoid plastic and waste as much as possible, along with buying secondhand instead of new. Her favorite thing about Fishers is experiencing all of new things that it has to offer since she was a child, while still being able to reminisce on her childhood memories here. She has a 9 year old daughter and welcomed a baby boy in October. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.