After giving birth, most of us leave hospital thinking we have turned into Superwoman.
We put so much pressure on ourselves as women — next, we’ll be buying T-shirts for each other with slogans such as ‘Superwoman is leaving the hospital’, ‘you did it, Superwoman, the rest is a breeze’.
We go home and, after a few days, we start to feel tired, overwhelmed and think we could probably do with a bit of help. But do we admit to it?
The reason being, all around us, we see women who appear to be coping perfectly well with multiple children.
This is so often an illusion yet, still, it’s a sneaky lie that gets first-time mothers every time.
We feel pressure to have visitors, leave the house after two days — because Mary did — and laugh and smile while the washing gets done, the house is cleaned and dinners are made for a week.
I did all of this and more. I even stepped it up a notch and went back to work after ten days because I was a single mother and felt I had to get back to work. After all, nappies don’t pay for themselves.
I was in such a crazed fog — trying to be the perfect parent who provided sufficiently for their child — that I completely forgot I was a real person.
Then I crashed and burned, suffered postnatal depression and had to build myself up from scratch.
During pregnancy, we look after ourselves better than ever before. But, after we give birth, we tend to neglect ourselves completely.
Becoming a parent means sleep is limited anyway but couple this with bad food choices, or indeed skipping meals, and it’s like a car running out of fuel, fast.
If we don’t put petrol in our car it will simply not start, which means you can’t get to where you’re going.
You won’t have the energy that a new mum needs and, as Dr Phil says, ‘if mum ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’.
Taking time for you is not selfish; it’s healthy and essential. I don’t mean heading off to Spain for a week but, as a new mum, you should aim to put aside just ten minutes a day for you. Find something that you love to do. I find simply sitting still for ten minutes and breathing calmly is amazing.
Finding time can be like winning the Lotto for modern mums, as it seems we have less and less of it available to us.
I recently had to have an MRI and, as I was lying there, I was incredibly grateful for a half an hour where I could close my eyes and feel guilt-free.
Do I really need to find myself in such extreme situation not to feel guilty?
The fact of the matter is that, after carrying a baby, your body needs to take time to recover and heal. You need time to adjust to becoming a mother and, in my opinion, for at least the first 40 days women should simply just focus on the baby.
Accept any and all help that is offered and offer any and all help to a new mum. If you’re visiting a new mum, don’t be the guest that sits on the couch expecting tea and cake — be the guest that brings dinner.
Make sure you eat little and often and choose healthy
options such as nuts, berries and natural yoghurt with honey for snacks. And don’t forget to drink lots of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
After a few weeks, try and get out every day for a short
walk, and join a ‘mum and baby’ group.
But, most importantly, cherish every minute of those early days with your little angel.
I used to love it when James, after he was born, slept on my chest — I adored that lovely closeness and skin-to-skin contact.
I don’t live with regrets — as there is really no point — but sometimes I look back in disbelief at how much pressure I put on myself. If I am lucky enough to become a mum again I’ll stay at home and enjoy every
second because they do grow so fast and life is about living in the moment.