The first year of motherhood is hard. No matter how pretty and put together the pictures on Instagram, things behind the scene are usually pretty chaotic. For me, the first 365 days were chock full of anxiety, exhaustion and frustration. There are very few support tools for new parents built into the American healthcare system and not much emphasis is placed on keeping the new mama healthy. It is, of course, important to focus energy on your new bundle of joy, but I discovered almost immediately that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wasn’t going to be in a position to properly serve my family.
Everyone’s experience is different, but here are 7 practices that helped me get through the first year:
- I meditated. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful to have developed a meditation practice before having a baby. For me, it is arguably the single most useful tool for navigating motherhood. Here is how you can start meditating.
- I built a community. Having a group of moms by my side who were going through similar experiences during the first year was invaluable. I started a mama & me fitness Meetup and joined a few others. I also started text chains with my friends who had babies in the year before me so that I could ask for advice or vent. I found that the women in my life who had just gone through the things I was about to were really eager to lend their support.
- I moved my body. I am a fitness professional, so finding time to workout became a priority for me almost immediately after clearing my 6 week healing period. Even if I wasn’t able to (or didn’t want to) workout, doing gentle yoga or heading outside for a long walk made me feel much, much better.
- I went outside. Some people recommended that I get outside every. single. day. Some days this felt hard, but I did it and I’m glad that I did. There are incredible health benefits to going outside, such as reduced stress, improved mental health, greater overall wellbeing and many more.
- I carved out ‘Me Time.’ The first year of motherhood really put my priorities into perspective. For me, it became important to find time to do yoga and to read sans baby. Even simply stepping away to walk the dog around the block or take a shower on my own while my husband watched the baby helped to relieve stress build-up.
- I over-communicated with my spouse. This is one of the best pieces of advice that I received before I had my baby. In the first year, I constantly filled my husband in on how I was feeling and what I needed. If I didn’t share (and sometimes over-share), he really would have had no idea what I was going through.
- I found a good pediatrician. Since my OB/GYN visits tapered off as soon as I had the baby, I found it really helpful to have a pediatrician who checked in on me during my baby’s visits. Questions that seemed important for her to ask – Are you eating properly? Are you finding time to sleep? How is breastfeeding going? Do you need resources to get more support?
Things that I wish I had, but didn’t:
- Support. I wasn’t able to have family around after I had my baby. If I had gone back to do it over again, I would have figured out how to bring in a family member for a couple of months or I would have hired a postpartum doula. Simply having help with all of the things that weren’t feeding a baby (like cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, taking out the dog) would have been game changing.
- Information. Since having my baby, I’ve read several books that would have been really useful to read before I became a mother. Two of my favorites are: From Bump to Grind and The Fourth Trimester.