Being a mum for the first time can be exciting yet nerve-wrecking. As much as we look forward to finally holding the baby we’ve been carrying and growing together with for 9 months, we often grapple with doubts and fears on whether we will be good mothers. Here are some tips to help us ease into this new season of the 4th trimester.
After delivery, our body goes through a huge and sometimes traumatic change; after all a human did come out from us! Our hormones become highly dysregulated and that can cause us to feel varying emotions all at once.
I remember crying for no reason on the second day of confinement and feeling happy the next minute, as if nothing had happened. I was shocked by my own emotions and thought that something was wrong with me.
I was also particularly upset with everyone in the household even though no one had done anything to provoke me. Everything somehow seemed to annoy me. After speaking with some mums, I came to understand that our hormones go haywire after delivery, and it will take some time for them to regulate.
It helps when we expect these changes and recognise that it is often a phase that will pass in a couple of weeks. However, if negative emotions persist, do seek support from a trusted family member, friend or counsellor.
Something that caused me a lot of stress was the expectation from everyone that I have all the answers. I did not know how anxiety-provoking it was until everyone around me asked all sorts of questions: When can I bathe the baby? What time is the next feed? How much should I feed? Why is the baby crying? Is he hungry? Is he feeling cold? Why didn’t he finish his milk?
While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.
It felt like I became a “baby-encyclopedia” the moment my son was born, and all the answers had to come from me. However, we need to remember that we are as new to the baby as they are. While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.
Coming up with a system that everyone could follow was helpful. We wrote feed timings and amounts on the glass door and everyone followed as closely as possible. We also included nap times and their duration as we observed them, and soon we got the hang of taking care of a newborn.
It is becoming a norm for people to exaggerate or overly beautify a part of their lives, especially on social media. As mums, it is inevitable that we compare ourselves with other mums, more so when we start scrolling on social media platforms and see other mums seemingly “having it all together”.
This can cause us to feel insecure about ourselves and brings unnecessary stress. As we unwind on social media, we also need to be vigilant about what we are seeing and believing.
I’ve always gone by the principle that what I see online is what others choose to show me. It may not be a full representation of their situation. This awareness is important so that we do not strive to “look-good-feel-good” online and ignore the struggles that we are facing. We need to acknowledge the place where we are at and be real with ourselves.
When I was in the initial phase of breastfeeding my boy, I often came across social media posts of mums easily expressing breastmilk and how their babies were latching well. On the other hand, I was suffering from engorgement, my baby wasn’t latching well, and I struggled to even produce enough milk for a feed.
I felt so terrible about myself, and thought that I must be the worst mum ever to not be able to breastfeed my baby. It was consuming me from within, and I decided to stop viewing such posts. Instead, I looked for community among mum friends who went through similar situations. It helped me feel much better since there were people to cry out to in the middle of the night as we journeyed together.
As mums, it can be difficult to ask for help. It could be because there is a lack of resources available, or you feel uneasy about the way others might handle your baby. We might also believe that we have everything under control.
While it does seem easier to be the one taking care of your baby since you are the main caregiver, we also need to keep a lookout for our mental health. Transiting from a world where you get to decide almost everything for yourself, to one where it revolves around your newborn, is a difficult process.
It is impossible for any mum to be able to meet both their baby’s needs and their own needs at the same time. More often than not, we forgo our needs because we are so caught up with taking care of our baby. However, a prolonged negligence of our own self-care can leave us feeling empty and resentful.
We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby.
We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby. This could be in the form of approaching your parents, in-laws or close friends to come over and watch your baby while you take a short nap or even a stroll nearby.
There is no shame in seeking for support because we are all humans with physical limitations. Mums are not superheroes, we are also people who need to eat, sleep and bathe!
My hope is that the above has helped shed some light on what to expect as a first-time mum, and even more so how to care for yourself. You can only give what you have, and not what you don’t!
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