Despite being 6 months in, I still feel very much like a new mom. Nothing compares to the learning curve of motherhood. You quickly go from feeling overwhelmed by new tasks such as breastfeeding, changing a diaper, giving a bath, to having them be commonplace and completely ritualistic. I remember having a complete meltdown in the wee early days during bath time and feeling scared and overwhelmed by it all. Currently, Jack is still trying to decide whether he enjoys the bath or just tolerates it, but at least I know that I am a pro at bathing him. From what I've already learned and experienced, the moment that you think you've "got this," your baby changes and you have to regroup. Although I may never feel totally confident in knowing what I am doing, I am happy to share my insights, ranging from emotional and mental hurdles to how we currently navigate meals. Hopefully, I can offer up some ideas and connect with new moms dealing with similar emotional experiences.
Social media has been an amazing place to connect with new and more seasoned moms. It has taken me a while, but, I finally had time to thoroughly answer some of the frequent questions that I have received over the past 6 months of motherhood.
What are some of the emotional and mental hurdles you've dealt with as a new mom?
For me, the hardest thing that I have dealt with as a new mom has been the emotional and mental hurdles. I have struggled a lot with the self-inflicted pressure to get back to functioning on the level that I was at pre-baby and then realizing how unrealistic that goal is. Part of my struggle has to do with reconciling the loss of my previous life where I had an abundant amount of freedom and time. The other part involves the challenge of integrating my new identity with my previous sense of self. I struggle with the concerns of falling behind professionally and even personally, maintaining friendships, and keeping up with work obligations which can become more arduous and, at times less intriguing.
So much attention and focus is placed on nurturing the pregnant woman from day one. Your family and friends constantly ask how you are doing, you have monthly and then weekly check-ins with your doctor, but once the baby is here, it is easy to feel just like a vessel. The feeling seems to be more intense because of breastfeeding. I was fortunate to have incredible birth and postnatal doulas to help ease the transition to motherhood. However, once they were gone, I found there to be a huge disconnect in our culture in terms of looking out for the mother. The fact that a new mother's first check-in with her OBGYN is six weeks post-birth is mind-boggling . The system needs some major overhauling to help lend more emotional and physical support for the new mother and to look out for those who may not have the access, means, or knowledge base to seek out help. That being said, I joined two new mom support groups, which were very comforting in the early days, continued with therapy, and still managed to have some major meltdowns due to overwhelming fatigue, anxiety, pressure, and some fear.
Being a new mom brings about a tremendous amount of reflection on your own childhood and the type of mother you had. It seems easy to pick out the faults and question certain decisions, but also to be grateful for the scarifies that were made. I imagine this is just the beginning of self-reflection and putting in the work to try and lead my child on the best possible path.
How do I manage to work and care for Jack?
My initial answer is not well. To my novice surprise, it's been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, especially while breastfeeding and pumping. I am extremely fortunate to have the help of both my mom and mother-in-law, but, even that never seems like enough. I go through the range of emotions of not wanting to miss a beat with Jack, to getting overly anxious about falling behind professionally, to just trying to figure out how to carve out a few hours to care for myself. It is a mental circus that I know I will be grappling with for many years to come. What has helped me during the times of self-conflict is the awareness that Jack is still so young and that this phase is so fleeting. I am trying my best to be kind to myself and to appreciate the incredible support I have from my family. My current professional goal is to work to maintain my site and my business obligations, and once I have more flexibility, to be able to throw myself more fully back in and with a stronger purpose.
what are my favorite sources of omega 3's?
Throughout my pregnancy and currently, I take nordic naturals omega 3 supplements formatted for a pescatarian diet. I also try and use hemp seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts in my smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal.
What are my favorite postnatal smoothies?
For the first three months of Jack's life, smoothies were a huge part of my daily intake. Not only did I find it to be a quick, efficient, and one handed option, but it allowed me to get an abundant amount of nutrients into my body to help heal and replenish. My smoothie rules are to always have some greens (usually organic baby spinach), protein (nut butter, chia, flax, or hemp seeds, a clean protein powder, nut milk, or yogurt), and immune boosting/antioxidant fruit or superfood powder (blueberries, acai, cherries, pomegranate, or maqui.) Here are a few if my favorite "go-to" super-powered smoothies.
How do i find the time to cook and what are my favorite quick meals ?
Finding the time and motivation to cook has been one of the daily struggles. I am extremely fortunate to have a husband who enjoys cooking and is great at it, which makes the fueling part a lot easier. The name of the game these days is to keep things as simple as possible. We try to roast a rotating assortment of broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and brussels sprouts every Sunday and riff off that throughout the week.
Quesadillas have been a major staple in my eating repertoire lately and provide an easy lunch or dinner, especially when it seems that there is "nothing to eat". I typically will warm up a Siete Foods almond flour tortilla, fill it with sauerkraut, shredded organic cheese, some pre-cooked veggies, top with another tortilla, flip and cook for another 3 minutes. I typically serve it with avocado and salsa.
Roasted chicken thighs with sharwarma spices from the NYT's has become my husbands, to-go entree. We usually shorten the marinade time to 30 minutes and serve with a yogurt tahini mixture, cucumber salad, and a grain.
As I get more organized, I plan on sharing more of our shortcuts to dinner.
do you have any sleeping tips?
There are a lot of tough things to have to deal with as a new parent, but months of night after night after night of interrupted sleep is pretty brutal. I completely understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I feel fortunate that from early on (3 months), Jack started sleeping for longer periods and at 4 months we "sleep trained". We kept Jack in a bassinet next to our bed until he was 4 months old. I found that arrangement to be extremely helpful for the frequent night feedings. Around the 3 month mark, Jack starting "setting" a 7 o'clock bedtime, and we happily followed his lead. We began dimming the lights and would take him into the darken bedroom at around 6:30. I would feed him and wrap him in an ollie swaddle, which I found extremely helpful. After month 3, we gradually started to unswaddle him, first with one arm, then with both, so he could self-soothe. By 4 months, we no longer were using the swaddle. We never used a pacifier, noise machine, or lovely. I do recognize that some babies need more tools to help calm them, but we tried to minimize any extras.
After our 4 month check up, Jack was down to one feeding a night, which was usually around 4am. Our pediatrician recommended to eliminate the night feedings since Jack was on track for height and weight. I know that there are many methods to sleep train, but we went for the old fashioned "cry it out" method. I talked to a lot of new mom friends and went to a sleep support group. It seemed that a lot of people who tried the more "gentle" methods would ultimately lead to "cry it out". We moved Jack to his crib in his own room, let him have a few nights to get used to the new space, got into a routine of dimming the lights, giving him a bath, a massage, and a bottle of pumped milk, and then pulled the "trigger". We had two awful sleepless nights but, since then, Jack has slept consistently from 7 to almost 7 every night. Because we value sleep so much, we are annoyingly rigid about sticking to his schedule and try our best not to interfere with Jack's bedtime. Getting your sleep back is so unbelievably rewarding.
Currently working on getting naps situated. Will share our progress soon.
how have I managed to get back into shape? how do I manage to workout?
I know my body will never be "back" to where it was before Jack. That is the reality of making another human being, and it is a shame that society places an unrealistic title on woman to "bounce back". (Hello Kate Middleton 7 hours after birth?!) What has made me feel good about where I am at post-baby was to be really mindful of my diet and exercise while pregnant. I kept up with my workouts, as much as I could, ate extremely healthfully, and nurtured myself the best that I could. I truly believe that these strategies allowed my body to heal quickly and closely resemble its pre-Jack form. My workouts are nowhere near where they were before Jack, but I am incredibly grateful for baby wearing barre class at pure yoga in NYC. I attend four times a week, and not only is it a great workout that I can bring Jack to, it has also given me the opportunity to meet some incredible moms who I now consider good friends.
how did I know I was ready to start working out? what are the challenges I face?
Typically your doctor gives you the "ok" at 6 weeks. I was a little overzealous and rushed to a spin class the day after I was cleared, which I think was way too ambitious and not at all kind to my body. I also started going to postnatal yoga at around the 6 week mark and found it to be soothing for both my body and my mind. Early morning workouts used to be my thing, but workouts are now a constant dance of when I have time, where there's a class I want to take, and of course, who can watch Jack. I used to be a moderate runner and have yet to get back into it. I've dabbled in a few more spin classes and, at 6 months postnatal, I returned to one of my favorite workouts, Refine Method. It felt great, but my stamina has been greatly decreased
The main challenges which I am dealing with now are stamina and core strength - both of which are pretty common issues among the postnatal group. For pre/postnatal individuals, I think it is very important to notify the teacher of your status so they can modify exercises for you, especially if you are recovering from diastasis recti.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading along! I know that this post was long winded and personal. My hope is to be able to connect and share with other new moms or moms-to-be in my most authentic way. It is hard and it is not getting easier, but, it is truly incredible. Let me know if you have more q and a! I would be more than happy to continue the conversation.
Up next Jack's favorite things/ baby stuff that I recommend.
Top photo by Sasithon Photography