This month’s Mama Story features Julienne DesJardins, a virtual assistant with expertise in digital marketing. As a business owner turned mamapreneur, Julienne brings lessons from management, marketing, and mamahood into the mix of her postpartum journey.
Confession: I’m one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music in October.
So, naturally, I was ecstatic when I found out I would be giving birth a few weeks before Christmas. It seemed like such a magical time to become a mother. Lights, family parties and snow. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, having a baby in December could be a dream come true or a total nightmare. And the closer we got to full term, the more it felt like the latter. The lights never made it on the tree. Those family gatherings ended up feeling overwhelming with a new baby. And the snow. Man, the snow.
We live in Buffalo, New York, so I was completely overcome with fear of how big a role snow would play in my labor. I worried about going into labor during a workday; of course at the same exact time as an unexpected, apocalyptic storm would prevent my husband from getting home to me. And I was terrified, beyond all reason, of being snowed in when labor began.
(It didn’t help that everyone kept reminding me of “that mom” from the previous winter. Firefighters had to carry her out of her home during a particularly bad storm.)
Snow. It consumed me during the final months of pregnancy. And believe it or not, it ultimately played no part in my birth at all! (I went into labor on a weekend. And it was so warm out, we didn’t even wear coats to the hospital.)
I can’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet we all have one big thing that weighs on us as we walk our path toward motherhood. (Even regardless of whether your path is biological or adoptive.) For me, it was a strange, magical time where I was simultaneously terrified and excited and joyful, and…#allthethings.
Here’s where the break though came: my husband and I decided the best thing to do was address my fears one-by-one and make a self-care plan that would put me back in the driver’s seat.
We found a doula we could call as soon as labor began, so I was sure not to be alone. And we joined a hypnobirthing class that helped me release my fear, and gave us practical tools we could use during labor. (That class was the best thing I did for myself while pregnant, hands down.)
I really believe that’s the key to taking care of yourself during your pregnancy. It’s taking the time to identify exactly what you need, and working with your support system to get it.
If you’re stuck on how to do build a self-care plan for yourself right now, here are a few ideas:
1. Ask for help
This was one of the most frustrating things about pregnancy, and the early days of motherhood, for me. I’m someone who pushes through. When I start a project, I keep going until it’s finished.
But, for me, the exhaustion of pregnancy never went away. I never got my energy back. And then I had a newborn. Between nursing and those long nights, the exhaustion was here to stay. I just simply had to admit what I was capable of; what I could and could not do.
And that’s where my support team came in: my parents and husband. Without them, I literally could not have made it.
Now, I was one of the lucky ones. I make my own schedule because I’m a small business owner, and my husband is a public school teacher who was able to take paid paternity leave. We were both home together for a solid month. (And it was the best month of my life.)
The two of us, hiding away in our house – just staring at the new baby.
My husband is an amazing and super involved dad. So during his leave, he let me rest by bringing the baby to me for feedings and burping him after. He also changed most of his diapers.
But a few weeks in, I started feeling like a cheater. I didn’t feel like the primary caregiver. I felt like a bad mom. And I started to take it out on my husband.
But I realized something: My son didn’t automatically have a bad mom because he had an active dad. I wasn’t lazy because my husband was supporting my healing process by gently reminding me to rest. I needed his help. I didn’t have to do it all. It was OK to watch someone else do all the heavy lifting for a change. (After all, I did just birth a baby, right?!)
2. Extend grace … to yourself
After you ask for help, you must forgive yourself. You may not feel like enough, but you are. You are doing your best. You are giving the most, and best, of yourself to your child. Keep going.
I’ve needed to tell myself this over and over again. And I have to remind myself of my favorite, little “mama mantra”. It comes from an unlikely source – Abraham Lincoln. (No, seriously!)
“I may walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” – Abraham Lincoln
You may not be the exact vision of what you had in your head before baby arrived. You may walk slowly. So what? You’re not walking backward; you’re giving your baby nutrition and safety and love. You’ve met your highest goals. The laundry and the homemade baby food and the pre-baby-weight-body will wait.
3. 3AM rule
I heard someone mention this one time and I thought it was a great idea. The notion is that nothing you say to your partner during a middle-of-the-night feeding (or changing, or baby-scream-fest) counts in the morning.
Admit it: you both said things you didn’t mean. Let it go.
You’re on the same team. Try your best to not muddy the water by holding on to the little things. And if you’ve held on to some things you shouldn’t have? See number 2.
It’s crucial for you to take care of yourself during your post partum period. When you care for yourself, you give your baby all of his mother. And that’s a goal worth fighting for.
Want more resources about postpartum mental and emotional health? Check out Chapter 7 of The Expecting Entrepreneur.
Julienne DesJardins works with small businesses ready to collaborate with a strategic partner. She is a digital marketing virtual assistant, and Certified ConvertKit Expert, who specializes in email and social media marketing. Julienne loves to blog about her favorite business tools and tips for work-at-home parents. If you’re a mom struggling with finding enough time for their biz during your day, you’ll love her free 5-day email course, Balance Biz + Baby. (It’s all about how to recapture your time!) Visit her website or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.