This post was written by Erin Norton, RN, BSN, MBA, director of Community Outreach, Parkview Women’s & Children’s Hospital, with input from the “Self-Care Toolkit for Pregnant Women and New Moms”, compiled by the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Mental Health Taskforce.
My six children are the greatest joys of my life. Although they are long past the baby stage, I have wonderful memories of their pudgy cheeks, tiny toes and that intoxicating new baby scent. Being their mother is the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It has also at times been difficult and challenging.
I look back on those early days and remember being both in love with my new baby and incredibly overwhelmed. I delighted in every new milestone they reached while also feeling overcome with exhaustion. I remember trying to give them everything and never feeling like it was quite enough. Some days when a toddler was running around and a baby was crying, I would have given anything for a long, hot shower. It wasn’t either/or. It was and/also. Things were both wonderful and sometimes not wonderful.
Looking back, I realize I was often singularly focused on my children’s needs. In other words, I was a typical mom. In my focused desire to make sure the children had everything they needed, I sometimes neglected the things I needed. I was able to recognize that I was both in love and tired, but at the time, I still had an either/or mindset. Either the children were well cared for or I was. In hindsight, I see that an and/also mindset would have been better. The children can be well cared for and so can I.
Since the days when I was a new mom, we have more information available on self-care, meaning the things we intentionally do to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Self-care helps us be in a place where we can better take care of others. Because of this, self-care is one of the kindest, most loving things a woman can do for her baby. It’s a way to strengthen her mothering ability.
Self-care doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming, but it does need to be intentional. There are things you can do today to practice self-care. Here are some things to try:
- Organize a drawer
- Take deep breaths
- Get out in nature
- Say “no”
- Write a poem
- Dance in the kitchen
- Forgive someone
- Floss your teeth
- Text a friend
Don’t be fooled into thinking self-care is selfish. In fact, it is the opposite. By taking the time to care for yourself, you are building up your mothering capacity. Ditch the old either/or mindset and embrace a better way.