Becoming a mother for the first time is a unique experience, but for some women, the reality doesn’t live up to their expectations. Where was that instant rush of love, that bond, that moment of looking into your baby’s eyes and finally feeling “complete?” If you had a traumatic or protracted labor and birth, if you found establishing breastfeeding painful or impossible, if you hadn’t slept for the last few months of pregnancy and suddenly have a 12-hour-a-day screamer on your hands, the only “complete” you’ll feel is “completely awful.”
I was very fortunate in having experienced two home births, both very quick and “easy” (if incredibly painful!). But it went downhill from there. Both boys struggled to breastfeed, both had reflux (one mild, one so severe he was hospitalized for a month), and neither slept at all. The youngest, at two-and-a-half years old still doesn’t . Within six months of giving birth each time, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression.
I tried a lot of things to help me recover. SSRI antidepressant tablets really helped lift my mood in the short term. Exercise and time to myself also made a difference. But the single thing that made the biggest impact was discovering mindfulness meditation.
So many struggles with new motherhood are about wanting things to be different from the way they are. To “rediscover the old you.” To be in better shape. To be a better mother. To keep your romantic relationship alive. But in practicing mindfulness, you learn how to accept the present moment as it is — which is a precondition for change.
In the early days, the monotony can feel relentless. But in being completely aware of what is going on in the moment, you can break that state. So much of motherhood is about responding to another person’s needs. But mindfulness helps us be aware of how we are feeling. Reconnecting with our own bodies and minds makes us more relaxed, responsive and better able to deal with everyone’s needs.
You don’t need to do a course at the start — just Google “mindfulness exercises” and give them a try. You’ve nothing to lose but your anxiety!