To all new moms and moms-to-be,
I say this as one of you. I just cleared what I consider to be the oxygen-dropping, plane on fire, first year of my first child’s life, and my best advice for new moms coming away from it is:
Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First.
I’m a traveler, so stick with me through this travel metaphor.
You get home from the hospital with your bundle of love. You just birthed an 8 lb baby (so lets say you are more than just sore) and your baby is screaming at the top of her lungs (it’s nothing you did, babies cry). You haven’t slept in over 48 hours and you don’t see a full night’s sleep in your future for at least the next 3-6 months. You can’t remember the last time you showered and dinner has been served out of take home containers for the past few weeks.
a.k.a The plane is on fire
So, you’re going down, straight down. Maybe people around you are offering to help by bringing meals over or occasionally stopping by to make sure you can still see your sink by cleaning one or two of the dishes from two weeks ago, but mostly you’re surviving. And did I mention you are surviving with a smile on your face? Because despite your inner need to scream out and declare I QUIT, you can’t quit and furthermore you don’t want people to know you are struggling…you want everyone to see the plane as still intact vs. the bright flames going on around you.
The oxygen masks deploy.
Where are the instructions for these things? You’ve heard the speech over and over and over again before every flight, now you are staring at the oxygen masks and have no idea how to work them. Your fear kicks in and with that comes doubt and negativity, a combination that leaves you slightly paralyzed.
You thought the mommy thing would be easy, which is why you didn’t pay attention while your birthing class teacher (the flight attendant) was going on and on about how to breastfeed and where to find support. Now it’s not a drill anymore, this is game time and need to learn how to get this oxygen mask on before the plane crashes.
You try to put your baby’s mask on first
We all do it. We know the rule put your own mask on first but when your plane is crashing, our mama instincts turn on and we want to protect the ones we love. We always put our baby’s mask on first. We sacrifice sleep, forget to eat and fail to ask for help. We shut ourselves off from our friends and family because we want to figure it out on our own…or are embarrassed to let others see us struggling. We selflessly ask what is best for baby, but forget that if we aren’t functioning, we won’t be able to take care of her at the end of the day.
Your baby needs you to put your oxygen mask on first.
You need to have the energy both physically and mentally to give your baby you. Stop pushing yourself way past your limits in the name of new-mama-hell. Ask for help, EAT, take a shower and brush your teeth. All basic tasks that can seem near impossible when you are in your new mom haze. The best way to fight off the post pregnancy hormones is to surround yourself with healthy and uplifting things that speak to you.
What does it mean to put your oxygen mask on first?
1. Take care of your body
Shower, brush your teeth, shave your legs (just kidding), exercise. Do at least the basics that both take care of your body and help you feel normal. The nights and days start to run together, but if you shower, brush your teeth and exercise, your mood will be lifted.
2. Remember what inspires you
Your little one will become your world, but don’t forget who you were before baby. Make time, even 15 minutes, to do something you love. You won’t get to do it every day, especially in those first few months – but fight to surround yourself with what you’re passionate about so you don’t lose sight of you.
3. Find your people
Community is everything when you are a new mom. Whatever you do, don’t try to do it alone. Don’t avoid friends and family because you want to figure things out on your own. Accept help whether it’s an occasional meal, phone call or they spend the night to help around the clock. Being a new mom isn’t easy and just sharing mom war stories can make you feel less alone.
4. Say no
Stop filling your schedule. Yes, you have the cutest baby in the world and everyone you have ever met wants to come visit. Be selfish with your time and say no if it adds extra stress to you day. Sometimes the best yes, is learning to say no to any activity that doesn’t align with your goals or new mom schedule.
Spend as much time as possible cuddling and getting to know your new addition and don’t stress about saying no to anything that interrupts that.
5. Give yourself a break
If breastfeeding isn’t your thing, stop allowing yourself to feel like a failure because you switch your baby to formula. If dinner isn’t on the table and you live off of frozen meals the first few months, it’s OK. If you don’t have time to put on makeup, or you leave the kitchen sink full for one more night, life will go on.
Focus on what you need to do to be the best mama you can be and let that be the deciding factor for every question as a new mom.
Without first securing your own oxygen mask in the chaos, you won’t have the strength or clear head to secure your babies.
I’ll leave you with this,
Your health matters.
Your mental state matters.
What you eat and drink matters.
Make time for what matters.