I vividly remember sitting in the car in the parking lot of a local supermarket. I was sniffling back tears. I sat there listening to my son crying out of hunger, and audibly shaking as I spoke to my husband through the car’s Bluetooth. I had just (barely) survived a SHORT grocery shop with my 6 week-old son (I seriously only needed to purchase TWO items). I had been motoring through the aisles of this unfamiliar shop while my son wailed in the pram. I fielded unimpressed looks from other customers, and even a couple of reasonably empathetic comments from passersby.
I was very grateful for two things in that situation – one, a woman called out after me ‘you’re doing a wonderful job!’ as I motored on past. That really made me feel better (although to be honest, that was after the fact – at the time it only helped marginally as I was well and truly past flustered by that stage!). The other thing that helped was the conversation with my husband in the car afterwards. Gosh it was good to have someone to break down to and receive verbal encouragement from. It was the support I received that truly helped me through that tough season.
You see, I suffer from some sort of anxiety. I haven’t been diagnosed, but I know my anxiety levels are higher than most average people. I know I worry about things too much. I know I overthink things, and I stress about ridiculous situations (like where am I going to park when I go somewhere new?). The other night, I literally didn’t fall asleep until after midnight because I was so anxious about another false alarm going off on the baby monitor. I know I suffer from some sort of anxiety. But was it any different to ‘normal’ first-time mum anxiousness?
The thing about becoming a new mum is that there will be some anxiety there for you to some degree. Whether you are ‘naturally’ an anxious person or you’re relatively laid-back, at some point it will hit you. Is my baby supposed to make weird noises at night (yes, yes they are)? Is my baby’s poo supposed to look like that? What is that red rash on his face? When am I supposed to feed him solids? Am I feeding him correctly? Mums are ambushed by so many questions, and often judgements based on their answers to these questions, that they are anxious about whether their child is normal, and whether they are mothering right. All new mums go through this at some point, and many might not be sure how to let go of these anxieties until they build up to breaking point. For me, I followed these five strategies below after my shopping incident to help me get through the tough times that motherhood brings:
GO TO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORKS
We had family and friends bring us meals in the first couple of weeks, which was absolutely brilliant - it removed the hassle of us going out shopping with a screaming baby, which was what I was most anxious about (especially after my previous incident!). Surrounding yourself with supportive loved ones can help minimise your fears and concerns as they offer practical and emotional support.
Whatever this looks like for you and your beliefs, engaging in some sort of mindfulness can help you to relax, refocus and prioritise what is important. I found even having 20 minutes to myself after my husband returned from work helped to clear my mind of the things I was worried about, refocus on what is important to me (my family) and to move forward.
TAKE TIME TO EXERCISE
We all know exercise is important for physical health, but it also releases endorphins to make us feel emotionally better. Fresh air can give us a new – and often better - perspective on things, (and hey - a baby screaming in the stroller is moving and won't be annoying any one person for too long!)
FOCUS ON SELF CARE
Give yourself permission to have 'me-time' away from your child, even if it is only for an hour. Do it regularly, and indulge in something you are passionate about or enjoy (massages, movie, read a book, go for coffee). This will remove that feeling of anxiety you may be feeling, help you to relax and prepare you for the next task ahead (and you’ll most likely miss your baby in that short time – I know I sure did!)
BUILD UP YOUR MUM TRIBE
The best support I had was a group of new mothers who were going through the exact same experience as I was, who could empathise with my situation, and offered words of encouragement and support. There were other mothers who encouraged me to go out for coffee, and weren't the slightest bit put out by my screaming baby. There were mothers who would come up to me after a rough (screaming) session at mother's group and ask if I wanted them to hold my son to give me a break. If I could give you only one piece of advice, find your mum tribe as soon as possible, and stick with them because they will make your motherhood journey not only bearable, by enjoyable.
After I followed these strategies, I found myself feeling less anxious and was able to enjoy motherhood a lot more. While I still have moments of anxiety (just a part of my nature/personality I guess), I love everything about motherhood now and enjoy going out with my son.
What tips or strategies have you found to alleviate the anxiety new mums face?
- Fi Morrison (Mumma Morrison)
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As Fi mentions above, a huge part of getting through the early stages of motherhood is by having a great support network. Please feel free to join our Facebook group over at Find Your Village here – a truly supportive community of new and experienced mamas where you can vent frustrations or share your excitement in a space that is free from judgment.
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