It is lovely to spend all of our time with our little bundle of joy. The love that fills up our heart as if it will make it burst. And there are no words to describe the feeling of gratitude for holding the most precious being we have ever met.
We feel like shouting to the world how in love we are. We want to be the best for that little treasure. We would do anything for them. Our empathy level is higher than it has ever been.
But, like any other kind of love there is a darker side to it. The changes in neural and biological systems that are brought about by pregnancy and lactation are there to ensure that our level of empathy has the right boost in order to respond to the baby’s needs.
Our bodies release hormones and neurotransmitters and our response to the baby’s needs is sharpened up. We endure the sleepless nights, the (seemingly) endless feedings, diaper explosions, the undecipherable cries, the anxiety, the fears, the insecurities and any other demands of a 24/7 care. However, these changes can also predispose mothers to postpartum disorders.
It is common – if not a given fact - for mothers to report high levels of exhaustion. The energy and the time seem to just not be enough for any other activities. And as a consequence, it is not unusual to experience feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Having a social life becomes like a mission impossible as the intervals for getting out of the house become very limited. The irregular naps and feedings, the unexpected diaper changes, the realization of not having taken a shower for 3 (??) days that suddenly strikes us, the whole logistics for going out can put us off… And, all of a sudden, even a simple walk around the block doesn’t look that appealing anymore.
The immersion in caring for our babies (or small children) becomes bittersweet. All the energy, love and effort that we invest in our little ones may have an impact on our well-being and even hurt your relationships, especially if we get into self-denial (*) mode.
If there are a few things I wish I had known when I became a mother are: we become even better mothers when we take a bit of “me time”; everything is temporary, it will pass.
I wish I had accepted earlier that mothers need and deserve a break – even if only for a few minutes a day it is important to create that mental space in which we can breathe, scream, vent, cry, laugh, or simply... just do nothing.
And I wish I had found out earlier that I was not alone. As soon as I started opening up with other mothers, I’ve realized that there were so many mothers who were going through the same struggles as I did. I wasn’t the only one, I was not alone. That gave me strength, comfort, and brought me a sense of normality. It also has made me realize that taking tine for ourselves should not be a reason for feeling guilty, but actually be made a priority – if we do not take care of ourselves first, how can we take good care of others?
*On this topic, I suggest an interesting read “The Sacrificial Mother Escaping the Trap of Self Denial” by Carin Rubenstein