14 Jun Why a postnatal support network is essential for your wellbeing
Ever been to a fabulous party, one where you’ve been working the room like a celebrity, drinking in the buzz along with your bubbles, completely in your element, and just all-round killing it? Ever popped outside to the balcony for a quick breath of air, only to find you’re locked out, the windows are double glazed, you can’t hear anyone and they can’t hear you, and there’s no drainpipe to shimmy down? In a flash you’ve gone from the centre of it all to helplessly watching the world happily carrying on from a distance?
No? Me neither.
But this feeling, of sudden, profound and somewhat confusing displacement is all too familiar for new mums. Despite the fact that the vast majority of women with young families experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, it’s something we very rarely hear or talk about, for some ridiculous reason.
So we are taken by surprise, staring at our perfectly prepared nurseries, feeling bewildered and guilty about the unshakeable sense of loss we feel at a time when we are supposed to be some kind of goddess or Beyoncé or something.
Here’s the actual deal when it comes to life as a grown woman with a tiny human, and how to prepare to navigate early parenthood like a boss.
While everyone’s experience is different, there are a few common challenges to this particular time of life. Knowing what these are and how they can play into each other is your secret weapon.
Sleep: This is the obvious one, but you’re probably not going to get quality sleep for a while. Only parents will understand the profound tiredness that comes with a baby. It won’t be forever, but it can be tough while it’s happening. You need someone that’s been through it and understands why your sentences are coming out backwards.
Overwhelm: For such tiny things, babies require a lot of you. Couple that with personal, family, and societal expectations and it can turn into a tidal wave of ‘WTF is happening?!’ Letting off steam with someone who gets it is a relief, to say the least.
Feelings of loss: Suddenly you have a new aspect to your identity but ‘old’ you is still right there, wondering what the hell is going on. This can be hard to reconcile and a lot of women who are completely in love with their bubs still grieve for their pre-baby life. It’s super confusing, but it’s really normal. With time, support, and a bit of self-care, ‘new’ and ‘old’ you will merge to become a kind of ‘super’ you.
Personal freedom: This is another tough one. For most women, babies limit what you can get up to for a while, and that loss of freedom is not always easy to swallow. Creating a space for new types of routines and activities with people who are also going at baby pace is liberating.
The postnatal body: It’s soft. It’s squishy. It’s unfamiliar and sometimes unreliable. In some cases it hurts. While it will always be changed, the really obvious changes are usually temporary. If you find you have an ongoing issue, most are treatable and respond to exercise. Workout buddies, postnatal exercise classes, GPs, and allied health professionals can all help you get to where you want to be.
Girlboss to Domestic Goddess: Can’t wait to stop working and relax at home with your new baby? Going from the hustle of a workplace to the quiet of home life and potentially not speaking to another adult all day can be a shock that often results in feelings of isolation. This is stupidly common, but with a little forward planning you’ll be all over it.
Find Your Team
Here’s your checklist. Get started as early as possible, preferably when pregnant, but anytime is good!
Speak to your family and friends who are already parents. They have a wealth of experience and can tell you how to avoid or overcome common struggles of life with littles.
Start building your network. If you’re pregnant start stalking other preggos now. Antenatal classes, pregnant friends, pregnant friends of friends, and facebook groups are all good places to start. If you have little ones already, mother’s groups and playgroups are a brilliant resource and support. Some of the best advice I received was this ‘Each playgroup has it’s own thing going on. Try it out. If it’s not working for you, move on to the next one until you find one that works.’ It’s worth the effort!
If it’s available to you, try to set up extra support for those first few weeks at home with your new baby. Having family and friends cook and clean for you during these weeks is a huge relief. Seriously, it’s the best. If this isn’t an option for you, try to freeze some meals ahead of time. You’ll be so thankful you did.
Choose your professionals in advance. If you don’t have a regular GP, now is the time to find one. Having a health professional you trust, who knows you, your situation, and how you deal with things can change your life. This goes for obstetricians, midwives, and allied health professionals too. Ask as many questions as you need to when you visit.
Being prepared for the massive physical, emotional, and social changes of early parenthood is as essential as having those teeny little diapers ready and waiting. With just a little heads up and the information you deserve, you can get prepared, find your team and step back into the party.
About Aja Stuart
Aja is the co-founder of Yeah Mama, a digital fitness studio made especially for pregnant and postnatal women and their families. At Yeah Mama we empower women to feel strong, healthy and confident during the most demanding physical journey of their lives. We offer specialised classes, multiple class styles, and elite, certified instructors that you can access anytime, anywhere. We’re launching this July! Sign up on our website to receive first access and special offers! @yeahmama_