The first few weeks after becoming a mother are hard. You are recovering from a lot and if you have a chronic illness that recovery might take longer than expected. There is so much to adjust to and recovering is only part of it. I wasn’t prepared for the sleepless nights, learning to breastfeed, and the agony in my body just from holding my beautiful boy.
What helped me cope was remembering what my physical therapist taught me years ago, everyday activities count as a workout. Meaning laundry, washing dishes, feeding the pets, all count as strenuous physical exercise when you have severe chronic pain and muscle weakness. I realized I could apply that lesson to my new role as a mother.
Seeing motherhood as a workout changed my perspective and helped me mentally deal with the stress. Yes, it’s hard but workouts aren’t supposed to be easy. I had held a 7.5 lb squirming thing up to my chest at weird angles for hours on end. This was all new to my body, I shouldn’t feel ashamed of having a hard time with it. Changing my perspective took a lot of the pressure off.
I’m going to share with you ways to start thinking of motherhood as a workout and then briefly share some things I would do during a typical day as a new mom. See how changing my perspective helped me and think of how it might help you as well.
How the treat motherhood as a workout:
One. You need to fuel your body properly. No one workouts when all they have had to eat that day was soda and chips. Make sure you always have water with you. Eat lots of good protein and veggies. Never skip breakfast, think of that as your pre-workout meal. If you are too exhausted to care about food or sitting down to a meal is too hard, consider protein shakes that have servings of vegetables in them. Blend it with some frozen fruit and some coconut oil or almond butter for a meal replacement smoothie.
Two. Any workout coach will tell you how important it is to use good form. In this non-stop workout posture is key. Try to focus on your posture when you are standing or walking with your baby. Another way to use good form is to squat down instead of bending over whenever you can. Try to do a squat whenever you get laundry out of the dryer or need to pick something up off the floor. Your back will thank you. In the early days postpartum it may not be possible to keep good form but as you recover, try to be conscious of how you are moving your body and think of every movement as an exercise.
Three. Stretch as often as you can. You just held a baby and fed him for an hour or more, it might not look like a workout from the outside but your arms are killing you, your neck is stiff from staring at his precious face, and the rest of your body is stiff from staying in one position trying not to wake him. You have to stretch those tired overworked muscles to help them recover more quickly so you can start that workout over in a few minutes. Stretch slowly every morning to alleviate all your stiff muscles, more than likely the night was a workout of its own and now you need to recover and prepare for the day. If your baby is cluster feeding try to stretch right before he starts, not only with it help your body but it will also help you mentally prepare for those draining hours.
Four. Workouts are easier with music on. It’s a good distraction and when you play upbeat music you feel more awake and upbeat yourself. Upbeat music might not be good to play in the middle of the night but it’s great for the mornings and afternoons when you have zero energy. Try blasting the music while you take a shower or when you are fixing breakfast. Find some calming music that doesn’t put you to sleep for the evenings. Sometimes singing along is all it takes to fake having energy and a good mood.
Five. Rest and recover. This one feels like a pipe dream. Who has ever heard of a new mom getting rest? While we’d like it to, rest doesn’t have to mean a good night’s sleep. Rest can be someone else hold him for 10 minutes or a shower. Any little bit of rest for your body that you can get. It can also mean resting one part of your body. If you have been holding and rocking your baby for a long time, try wearing your baby in a wrap while you walk around the house. This will give your arms some time to recover while you use your legs, core, and shoulders.
Here’s what I did for the first few weeks.
Every morning between 5 and 7, I would feed Leo and then wake my husband up to watch him while I took a shower. I would turn on upbeat pop music and hop in the hot water. Then I would stretch in the shower. I created my own stretch routine mostly by doing whatever stretches I could think of that were safe to do it the shower. Then I would turn the water to cold. I turned it slowly so I didn’t shock my system. Cold showers are good for overworked muscles and help with blood circulation. Then I was ready to start the day.
During the day if the pain was too much, I’d put Leo down for a couple minutes and stretch my arms and back. He would normally cry the second I put him down but I knew I needed to take care of myself before I could take care of him.
In the evening after my husband came home from work and we ate dinner, I would make sure Leo was good and fed, then his dad would take him and I’d go take a bath with Epson salt and few other healing things like Aloe Vera and witch hazel. After about 15-20 minutes soaking I would turn on the shower, stretch and slowly turned it to cold. Taking that time to myself was so important. It not only physically prepared me but mentally as well. I would not have been able to make it through the newborn days if I didn’t make taking care of myself a priority.
Like any workout the more you do it the better you get. Hold on to that thought at 3am when you feel like your arms are going to fall off as you limp around the room comforting your baby.
(Yes a lot of nights I was literally limping around our bedroom. Oh the joys of chronic pain.)
Remember changing your perspective can change everything. Treating motherhood as a nonstop working helped me to cope and adjust to the changes in my body and life. If you are new to parenthood I hope this posts gives you some ideas and helps you take the pressure off yourself as you adjust. If you are a more experienced parent share in the comments ways that you changed your perspective during the newborn stage.
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