From start to finish, pregnancy and childbirth utterly reshapes a woman from the inside out. Here’s why new mothers must remember that healing the mind is just as essential as healing the body.
BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC
When it comes to childbirth, we tend to only think of the physical exertion that the process entails. After all, they don’t call it labor for nothing. Regardless of the nature of your birth, there is no question about the physical difficulties your body endures through the process. While the physical component of childbearing is often the focal point, we too easily forget and neglect the mental health challenges that are faced along this journey.
Let’s take a look at what is considered essential.
Heal Your Body From The Inside Out
As mothers, we often hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations. Whether internally created, imposed, or subjected by our culture, we are overwhelmed by standards set far beyond our means. Having a new baby should mean inexplicit joy and happiness. While this undoubtedly part of the motherhood transformation, these feelings are not always what defines a new mother.
As a new mother, we are faced with a physical body that feels broken – the seams that come undone as we bring forth new life.
Everything we once knew about ourselves: our relationships, personal boundaries and space, our instantly-changed bodies, and the complete overhaul of our identity can be overwhelming to keep up with. The countless emotions that we feel through this powerful process, coupled with the many biological changes that our body is experiencing can put a strain on our mental health.
Maternal mental health issues are a concern on a global level. According to the World Health Organization, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder worldwide. These numbers are likely much higher, as mental health concerns go often underreported. We cannot deny the manner in which changes motherhood presents challenges mental heath.
Make A Healthy Mind Your Priority
As much as we want to separate out our lives to make things more manageable, it is crucial to remember that health and healing in motherhood should be a holistic approach. Even if bodies are at the peak of their physical health, we are not well if we do not address mental health. What’s more is that the health of our families will also come unhinged by untreated mental health issues. That’s because the wellness of your loved ones starts with you.
Your body undoubtedly needs rest, attention, and healing following the days, months, and even years of childbirth. In this healing process, be sure to divert needed focus to your mental health as well, and be mindful of the changes you may be enduring and feeling. Keep in mind that the things need to care for yourself mentally may differ from another mother, and that is perfectly okay. It’s a matter of finding what you need, and honoring your body and mind through the healing process.
Give yourself space and time to process what you just experienced and the changes you encounter on a daily basis. Talk about what you feel and think, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enlist a professional counselor or join a mama support group if you need it. As you walk through this journey and all the different emotions that you are feeling, know you are not alone. Believe that you are the perfect mother for your child, and you will get through this healing process.
Lean On The Support Of Your Partner
When the struggles are real, it is not uncommon to internalize the pain by keeping to ourselves. As you go through your motherhood journey, remember to lean on the love and support of your husband or partner. They are a part of this process as much as you. Parenthood is a life-changing transformation – you will both never be the same again. When a new baby takes center stage, it is far too easy to push your relationship to the back burner. Don’t forget the love that brought you to this place in the first place. While regular date nights might not exactly be realistic, there are many ways to keep your partner involved as a proactive part of your healing.
Remember that your husband or partner is simply not a mind-reader. They are learning through this process, just like you, and may not necessarily understand your needs or feelings. Talk about what you are experiencing together, communicate openly what you need during your time of physical and mental healing. Let your partner be a safe place of support and rest during this time of vulnerability.
Above all, cherish yourself, knowing that motherhood is but a chapter in your journey that creates your uniquely beautiful life story.
HEADER IMAGE: JANKO FERLIC
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.