Most of my preparations for parenthood focused on having a healthy pregnancy and birth. Although my husband Wes and I read numerous baby books and took baby classes, I felt with a decade of meditation and yoga under my belt, we would navigate our first postpartum year with a calm and level head.
Two weeks into motherhood I found myself exhausted, raw, and doing everything I could to soothe a crying baby forgetting the importance of caring for myself. Parenthood truly humbled me to my core.
I slowly found my feet again using yoga for moments of self care while navigating my first postpartum year.
Here you will find 5 ways to help you or someone you love navigate the first year of parenthood beyond the advice of “sleep when baby is sleeping”.
Breathe - Our breath is the first thing to go when we are stressed and the first tool to bring us back into our body to release it.
Take moments of stillness when you are feeding/rocking your baby to notice your breath. See if you can guide your breath into the lowest part of your belly, back body, and side body. Pause for a second after the inhale and then take more time on your exhale than you did on the inhale. Let your breath go out the mouth with a sigh, or with no noise as you feel comfortable. Gradually increase how long you exhale, keeping the same tempo for every inhale, helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system telling your body it is OK to relax.
Once you have mastered your breath in calmer situations, use this same strategy when your child is upset, crying, or experiencing discomfort. Your child will start to witness your calm breath and will begin to learn similar tools to deepen their own breath.
Intention/Affirmation - If you weren’t the type of person to place inspirational post-it notes on your mirror, now is a great time to start!
With an unchecked mind in a new situation, our thoughts can be discouraging and self-critical. Giving your mind a positive affirmation to focus on can shift your focus to supportive thoughts.
Here are a few you can start with:
You can post positive affirmations around the house, keep a card with you, or simply remember it to repeat any time you notice negative thoughts during the day. Keep one on the changing table or any place you frequent through the day and repeat out-loud or silently to help retrain mental patterns of harsh self-criticism.
Yoga with Baby - You don’t have to have 75 solid minutes of complete silence to enjoy a yoga practice.
A difficult part of my transition into parenthood included not having a consistent yoga practice to help me re-center. I quickly realized the only yoga practice I could fit in was with my baby right next to me. My practice was broken up into 15-30 minutes scattered through the day. My flow was slower with deep stretches to help my aching body and full of goofy noises to interact with my little one. When I returned to working full time, I didn't want to spend any additional time away from my baby, so having him participate with me was a beautiful way to care for myself while connecting with him.
Here are a few easy ways to incorporate yoga into your day to care for yourself while caring for your baby.**
**Mothers that have not been cleared for exercise, should not do anything that does not feel 100% safe/comfortable. I only did breathing exercises and slight torso bends, keeping my legs together until I was fully healed.**
Community - Nothing is more healing than being with a group of people that 100% get what you are going through that want to listen to your story.
As a prenatal teacher I was lucky to have amazing women in my life going through the exact same thing to connect with to celebrate the highs and lows of the day. We used social media, text, and get-togethers once we felt comfortable leaving the house. Beyond that, my son and I went to mom & baby yoga classes, music classes, lactation and baby wearing groups, basically any place I could go with my baby and other parents.
Search for classes in your area or start a meet up group if you cannot find one. Use social media as a tool to reach out if you do not feel comfortable or are not able to leave the house. I teach a monthly parent and baby workshop at Tosa Yoga. This is a great way to connect with other local parents, while learning the other tools listed above! Check out the ‘Workshop’ section at www.tosayoga.com for the most up to date schedule.
Communication - Your feelings and thoughts matter. Your partner, family, and community want to hear about it.
I have always strived to focus on the positive side of life. While pregnant hearing about postpartum depression, I blew it off thinking that could never happen to me. A month into motherhood I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep and although I loved my son, I had never felt so low in my life. It was embarrassing as a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher to tell my husband I was having paranoid thoughts our son would freeze to death and that I was completely numb. I was worried people would judge me thinking I was a bad parent, or worse yet that I WAS a bad parent.
Opening up about my feelings to my partner, mother, midwife, and close friends helped me feel heard, loved, and best of all we created a plan to help me care for myself while connecting with my son. On the other side of what I finally realized was postpartum anxiety, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have made it through my first year the same without the support I received because I had the courage to speak up. This also has helped me become a better prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher knowing how to better support my students as they enter parenthood..
No matter what you are feeling - joyful, anxious, depressed, emotional, disconnected - you are not alone and it is important you have a safe space to talk about these feelings.
Parenthood is a wild journey. May you have the tools to not lose yourself while you invite a new soul into the world. No matter what please remember, you are doing an amazing job, and you are the perfect parent for your child.