Our society has imposed an expectation that mothers can quickly “bounce back” from childbirth, as if the experience of bringing a child into the world has little significance on their lives. In our newest Dual Perspective, we first get a powerful glimpse at how Postpartum Progress advocate and Maria Shireen CEO Shireen Thor, overcame the inner battles she experienced, and postpartum nutrition Expert Crystal Karges shares essential reminders on why a new mother must nourish her mind, body, and soul.
I had a very rosy vision of what being a mother would be like: think cuddles and rainbows. I also believed that I would recognize that my body just performed what is nothing less than a miracle – bringing a new life to this world — and that I would be some type of superhero.
And that superhero momentum would give me the strength and stamina to handle everything that it takes to be a great mom, wife and business owner.
I would make good use of my time while my newborn snoozed for hours and hours. Because newborns sleep 20 of the 24 hours of the day, right?! Given my past experiences of taking on different and new roles and challenges with ease, I thought that becoming a mother would come naturally to me; after all, it’s biological.
After my son’s birth, the harsh reality of my new responsibilities quickly set in. I knew I was now a mother because I was given that title immediately after childbirth. But, feeling how I thought a mom is supposed to feel did not seem instinctual. I felt not only incapable of completing routine tasks like going to the gym, sleeping, or cleaning…but I felt incapable of the caring, nurturing, cuddling, and love that makes a woman a mom. And in the absence of those feelings, the void and loss of control in my life grew. What I needed was no longer a priority, and I began to crumble.
I thought my doctor would be there to “save” me during my routine check-ups. After literally being opened wide – emotional and physically – I thought if anyone would understand and ease my anxiety to make me feel better about my situation, it would be my doctor. I expected my doctor to ask me basic questions around my well-being: “How are you sleeping? Are you eating well? How are you doing?”
To my surprise, I was instead asked: “Do you want an IUD for birth control?”
If it wasn’t for my lack of energy, I would have hurled the doctor’s clipboard across the room in response to whether I wanted to insert a foreign object into my body after having just given birth. I wanted someone to help me with WHY I felt so badly and if I was going to live the rest of my days in a foggy, subtly-depressed state.
Let’s be honest – when my son was born, I found myself in the role of CEO of: (1) my household with a newborn and (2) my new company. It was impossible to excel in both positions, leaving me with an identity crisis. And with a baby comes immediate, irreversible and palpable changes in one’s relationships with family, friends, and partner.
While the reality of motherhood initially left me questioning whether or not I was still a capable human being, my perspective slowly shifted. I began to recognize that while being a mother has forever altered my frame of reference, it has also helped me focus and sharpen the person who I have always been. It was through this process where I learned that in order to take care of those I loved, I need to be mentally and physically healthy through giving myself the love and compassion I deserved.
At my lowest I thought I was the only mother in the world trying to climb out of my darkness and I was oblivious that postpartum is not uncommon. I am proud to advocate for any non-profit organization who educates and empowers women to feel comfortable asking the right questions to get help. If I can help other new moms free themselves from everyday mental and physical struggles, then they will be able to focus on leading a happier, healthier one for themselves and their loved ones.
Coincidently, the best analogy is something we all hear on the airplane:
“Be sure your air mask is secure before assisting others.”
I learned the hard way, that I need to take care of my body before I can take care of anyone else. It took some serious work to remind myself I needed to take time for me, and make sure I was getting the right emotional and physical nutrients to be the best CEO, at work and at home.
The following advice from nutrition Expert Crystal Karges helps new mothers navigate those early difficult months to regain a fresh perspective that life is beautiful, in all its imperfection.
NOURISH YOUR MIND
Postpartum depression can be a place that feels infinitely dark and hopeless. As a mother, it is essential to connect to support, and with postpartum depression, professional interventions are often warranted. Seeking out help is not a sign of weakness; quite the contrary is true.
In your very moments of weakness is the epitome of strength found to carry on for yourself and your child. You cannot be expected to do and be everything, nor should you be. Take the steps to give yourself what you need during this delicate time; whether connecting with a counselor or specialist, finding a support group with other mothers who may be experiencing similar situations, and having healthy outlets for effectively processing your thoughts and emotions.
NOURISH YOUR BODY
Given the length of time it takes our bodies to grow and develop a human being, shouldn’t we give ourselves that much time and more to heal from pregnancy and birth? Our bodies need to be nurtured through rest, nutrition, and room for grace to slowly take everything in. Let go of the notion that you need to keep up with the rapid pace which life moves and give yourself permission to experience the slower moments that make up motherhood.
After childbirth and with breastfeeding, your body is in need of adequate nourishment for healing and restoration. Having simple meals and snacks on hand that are filling and nourishing can keep your body fueled in the postpartum phase. Remember to sufficiently hydrate throughout the day and take the opportunities you can to rest. The foundation of your overall wellness is dependent on how you physically care for you body.
NOURISH YOUR SOUL
There are few transitional times in life that will reshape you in the manner that motherhood does. During this period of metamorphosis, make a mindful effort to purposefully find ways to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life. From a place of fullness can you pour into the lives of those you love, and an empty cup has nothing more to give.
Where do you find joy, meaning, purpose? What things spark your creativity and leave you feeling refreshed? To do what is necessary for sustaining life and growth in your own home, you must find ways to purposefully nourish your soul. This can be something as simple as having a few minutes of quiet reflection each day, journaling, taking a short walk somewhere tranquil, or expressing yourself with a creative outlet or hobby. Be adamant to take this time for yourself as a mother without guilt.
An estimated 1 million women each year will struggle with postpartum depression or some type of perinatal mood disorder following pregnancy. The truth is that the postpartum phase in itself is beautifully messy; with sleepless nights, breastfeeding struggles, crying babies on top of recovering from the physical and emotional experience of childbirth. Postpartum depression can exacerbate these normal experiences, making it overwhelming to bear.
For these mothers struggling to resolve their expectations of what they thought the early days of motherhood would be, it is important to know:
You are not alone.
Give the power of compassion and strength to support postpartum awareness through Maria Shireen’s CHARITY TIES initiative. For each bracelet sold, $10 will be donated to a non-profit organization supporting postpartum awareness.
HEADER IMAGE: AMANDA JORDAN
Shireen Thor is the co-founder and CEO of Maria Shireen, a functional fashion accessories company whose patented hair tie bracelets have been featured across major media outlets and sold worldwide in over 40 countries. An engineer by background, Shireen started Maria Shireen as an extension of her love for problem-solving and designing functional products with style.
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones. Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.