When I was asked to give a talk last week in aid of Maternal Mental Health Awareness week for the powerhouse team that is Everymum.ie, I was honoured. I set about laying out my talk and discovered that I had never really sat down properly to consider my own Mental Health journey through Motherhood. This blog is a summary of that talk.
If you had asked me a few years ago about Maternal Mental Health, I think I would probably have been a little dismissive. I mean, you get to stay at home from work for almost a year - how can that be hard?! Before I had kids, in all honesty, I didn't even consider Maternal Mental Health as even a "thing". Well, roll on three miscarriages and three children later and I know only too well the challenges!
We all have our own stories and challenges, and I remember when my eldest was a baby and he had transient lactose intolerance. It was a nightmare. I had to pump, put drops into my milk, wait for 30 minutes and then give it to him. My god, it was a stressful introduction to motherhood! I was living at home with my parents after a move from the UK, and I had been up all night with my newborn, feeling shattered. I was proud of my few ounces that I had just pumped. I walked into the kitchen placing the expressed milk on the countertop. Whatever way I turned I knocked over the bloody bottle and all my beautiful milk went flying. I was about to lose it until my amazing mama raced up to me and said: "ok so, this is a laugh or cry moment, and it's going to be a laughing one"! I can tell you, laughing was so far from how I felt!
Your mental health is a consequence of a build-up of a series of small actions that happen every day. I think it's important to note that it's easy to dismiss these daily small occurrences that can lead to bigger issues. Mental Health doesn't mean you had to have suffered only from something really major like postnatal depression or severe anxiety.
So we know that the daily grind of motherhood can be a real challenge, so let's talk about ways to help ourselves through.
Self-care is a real 'buzzy' term. I think it's really important to differentiate between the term of true Self-Care and treating yourself. Pampering sessions like getting the nails or hair done are absolutely wonderful, but in reality, for most mamas, it's not a sustainable weekly or even monthly thing to do. So what is true self-care?
In March 2019, I ran the Pregnancy Wellness & Empowering Birth Online Summit and one of my wonderful guest speakers was the incredible Alison Canavan. I asked her to speak on this very topic, so I'll borrow some of her words if I may. When I asked Alison what true self-care is she says "it's showing up for yourself every day". I would also love to add that I believe it is also about being kind and gentle to yourself.
As our lives unfold, we find ourselves central to so many varying relationships. We are mothers, daughters, best friends, aunts, lovers, partners etc, however all of those relationships can fade, fizzle out, go through waves, or sadly end. However, the ONE consistent relationship that you will always have in your life is with yourself. That ain't going anywhere! So we better nourish and protect it!
So how exactly can we 'show up for ourselves', each and every damn day, particularly as mothers? Here are my top suggestions:
And I ended my gorgeous talk by doing a relaxation with all the mamas and babes in arms present. It was quite incredible for those new to this sort of practice, feel the whole energy in the room change as the babies picked up the calm energy of the room and their mamas.
Moral of the story - put yourself higher up on your pile of priorities. It won't happen overnight, but making teeny tiny little daily changes will massively benefit your mental health.
Thanks for reading Mama. If you enjoyed this article please do share it using the buttons on the left. I also have postnatal online courses that you can enjoy more guided relaxations, yoga and pelvic floor restorative sessions, as well as lots more. To check out the courses - have a look here:
Have a wonderful day
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth and Motherhood. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business MumandBaby.ie