There are countless blogs entitled “How Motherhood Changes You” and they’re a lovely read. They usually have an air of positivity, containing phrases such as “motherhood changes you; for the better”. Which is true… for some people. However this isn’t something you need to read when you’ve just had a baby and all the things you thought you would feel just aren’t there. It also isn’t what you need when you’re exhausted, deflated and deeply mourning the person you once were.
I’m here to tell you honestly, how motherhood changes you and how to handle those changes.
Some women get their body shape back after having a baby but for the majority of us, we change quite drastically and often doubt we will ever look like we used to. Lots of women suffer incontinence, have gained weight, loose skin, stretch marks and scars. Lots of women also really struggle to lose the weight that they gained during pregnancy which can be a difficult thing to walk through.
Often our joints are weaker, especially our pelvis, back and knees. We find exercise more difficult and the image we had in our minds of running about with our child feels like a pipe dream.
So yes, we are different physically and it’s tough. Here’s some suggestions on how we can handle these changes:
If you were pregnant you will be more than familiar with the term (and feelings) of “mum brain”. It’s also referred to as brain fog, pregnancy brain and so on. I’m sure you will also know that it’s a real thing. It’s believed that our cognitive memory is kind of traded in for deeper empathic abilities. Further evidence that our biology - and our bodies - are indeed, miraculous. The downside of this miracle is the guilt that comes from our wanting to focus some of our attention on ourselves, our work, our wellbeing.
Studies have shown that our brains are still the same even two years after the birth of our babies.
It really is no wonder that we feel so different as mothers; because we are different. Think about how difficult it is to hear ‘sad news’ before pregnancy compared with after.
These hormonal and emotional changes can be hard; but here are some things we can do to handle them:
Motherhood brings many other changes: changes to our values, our friendships and relationships. It changes our work or job sometimes, our order of priorities; it changes our life in ways we never imagined.
But if you could take away just one thing I hope it is this: That this new you is beautiful. She has sacrificed much and continues to do so but she is worthy of time, affection, gentleness and care. You do not need to pour your entire heart and soul into motherhood to be a good mum. Give it what you can when you have taken care of you and your needs. You are important, you are worthy; you are beautiful.
I’ve used journaling throughout many periods of my life, and there’s no doubt that as a mum it’s been one of my favourite wellbeing activities. I try to journal as often as I can; that precious few minutes of the day when I put my pink pen to tea-stained paper and just write. I write for me, for my sanity, for my nourishment -- and it is nourishing. I write for my eyes only; like no-one is watching. Allow me to explain why this element is so important.
The reason it’s important for me - and dare I say you - to acknowledge that my journal is for my eyes only is because it gives me permission to be brutally honest. The act of journaling is therapeutic but the act of journaling with fearless authenticity is transformational.
It isn’t always easy to share with people (or even ourselves sometimes) what’s in our hearts and minds, in fact when we first become mums it can be downright scary to say it aloud. So write it, write it as if you’ll burn it afterwards. Write it for your eyes only, take that first step towards sharing your feelings with your journal and you’ll be stepping in the right direction towards being your true self.
Perhaps this is too tough still, perhaps you aren’t ready; it’s OK. Start small, start with the other suggestions below. Don’t allow your worries or your doubts to put off starting something so wonderful for you. However you choose to journal is good enough. You are good enough.
Starting your journal with at least one gratitude is a really beautiful way to start your journey of journaling. For one thing it makes starting it easier. But more importantly, the positive effects of gratitude are really important to your wellbeing and health. That’s right, studies show that people who practise gratitude report less aches and pains*. It’s also known to reduce feelings of depression and other negative emotions such as frustration and regret.
Try starting with just one gratitude per day and build up to more. Here are some grateful prompts for your journal should you need some ideas:
“I’m grateful for my home, and my sofa. I’m grateful I get to curl up on it most nights at 8pm with netflix or a good book”
“I’m grateful for my friends, how I can really be myself around them”
“I’m grateful for the sun, the tingle of it as it warms my face”
“I’m grateful for my body, how it gave life to my boy and sustained him for months”
I could list more but this is about you, what are you grateful for? Write it down.
This is something that us women, us mums, just do not do enough. We’re experts at examining the things that we didn’t do well; our failures, our weaknesses, our bad mood or the crappy tone we used. We’re great at wishing we had done better, regretting our choices and of feeling like we just haven’t done enough.
This has to change.
You, me; we are amazing. We’re raising small people - actual small people, and that’s no small thing. It’s huge. But you’re also more than that: you’re a daughter, friend, member of the community, you have acquired a unique set of skills in your life that make you you. You’re one of a kind and what’s more, I am certain that you did a better job as a mum today than you think. So again, write it down. Write down something -- or lots of things that you did well today. I’m not talking “I finished writing a book today” type of accomplishments, I’m talking “I had a warm shower today” kind of accomplishments. It might seem insignificant but how difficult is it to have a shower when you have a newborn?
The act of focusing on our accomplishments, no matter how seemingly small is another way of taking a positive look at our day -- and life. It encourages you to seek out the good things you did instead of thinking through all the so called mistakes.
When you write this stuff down, you start to feel it; you start to feel like the winner that you truly are.
Motherhood changes you. It changes your relationships, your marriage, your values, your work, your sense of worth, your body, your brain. Our transition to motherhood is the biggest we have ever - and will ever go through. I call it becoming your mother self. This new amazing person has gone through so much change that she’s often a little lost, a little unsure. We need to get to know our new self; who we are as mothers.
Using your journal as an opportunity to explore your mother self is an amazing gift. The sooner you recognise that you’ve changed and start to learn how, then the sooner you can rise up as the new version of you with strength and clarity.
Take your time, be gentle; but be relentless in your exploration of your new self. Your mother self will thank you, I am certain of it.
I hope these journal ideas help you to start - or deepen - your journey of journaling. I encourage you to make writing in your journal a daily ritual, go somewhere sacred - your bed, sofa, window, garden? And just write. Write your accomplishments, your gratitudes or absolutely anything that comes to your mind. Explore the real you by writing for your eyes only and have fun exploring motherhood through the power of your own words.
Go journal mama, you’re worth it.
When we are pregnant (especially for the first time) there’s a huge focus on our well-being. Everyone fusses around us, supports and cares for us. They ask us how we’re doing; they report on how well we are looking.
We try to eat the right foods (and do slightly better at avoiding the ‘wrong’ foods). We might do a hypnobirthing course and so discover the wonderful benefits of meditation, deep breathing and relaxing. We might attend pregnancy yoga, book a pregnancy massage, have treatments for those parts of us which are aching.
We take care of ourselves; we are focused on our well-being and it feels great.
And then we are introduced to motherhood.
Suddenly our attention is entirely on this new and beautiful life. Sadly, everyone else’s attention is on them too. Our - and their - focus is purely on the well-being of the baby. Interest is no longer in the well-being of the mumma, it’s like we no longer matter as much as we did. But we do...
This is where society - and we - are getting it wrong.
Having a baby, letting go of the person we once were, getting to know this new version of life and ourselves is hard; it’s a rollercoaster that requires patience, respect and self-care.
When we have a newborn, we start to neglect ourselves at a time when it is most important to care for ourselves.
So, let’s look at the things you can do...
Firstly, set aside a few minutes every day that’s yours. Reflect on areas of your well-being that you want to shift focus on. This could be one or two, or a little of everything.
Take this time to really nurture your needs openly and without judgement. We want to create a safe and positive space for you to explore and reconnect. Remember; you deserve and need this time.
It might help to ask yourself one, some or all of these questions to spark what will fill, energize or benefit you most today:
Recognize the importance of taking time for you. Not only do you benefit (hugely) but your feeling stable, happy and confident will benefit your family (hugely) also.
My suggestion is simply this: Try to do just one thing every day that’s yours. Do not be afraid to ask for help to ensure this happens and do not feel guilty for wanting or needing this.
If we neglect our own self-care it can affect everything. We are just as in need of tenderness, love and support as we were before our bundles were in our arms.
Start as soon as possible. Today..?
Ask for help, change your habits and learn to appreciate and love your new mother-self for she is truly awesome.
Good luck mama, you can do this; you are worth this.