Using Mindfulness to Overcome Postpartum Challenges
Mindfulness & Postpartum
Originally Posted on New Mama Project| By: Fiona Griffin, MS
THE BIRTH OF MY DAUGHTER WAS A SHOCK. Yes, I knew I was pregnant, and went into the experience as prepared as anyone could be, but it was still a surprising and, frankly, unsettling experience. Things didn’t go better or worse than I imagined, just different.
The postpartum period for me was also a shock. It was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and I struggled to feel like a competent mother. I had so many ideas in my head about what I should be doing and what was best for my baby. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I was also working hard to recover from the strain of childbirth. Every day was full of ups and downs. Each new day brought an opportunity to try to do things differently or better. After a series of perceived successes and failures throughout the day, I would reflect internally or process with my partner about how to make the next day better. Sometimes it would be better and sometimes it would be more challenging. During the immediate postpartum period I often felt like I was in a repetitive cycle of trying to be in the moment, becoming frustrated with how things were going, and resolving to do better next time.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
After several days stuck in my own cycle. Replaying an inner monologue over and over. Feeling defeated that things aren’t the way that I want them to be I began thinking on a deeper level that sounded like this: “So what is the key to breaking out of this cycle? How can I measure success differently so that each day feels positive. Or, should I change the game completely? How could I exist in a way that allows me to escape a need to categorize moments or days as good or bad?”
Sometimes when I am stuck I think about what I would counsel a client to do. I am not a practitioner of mindfulness, but it is impossible to ignore the mindfulness movement if you work in the mental health field. And for good reason. For me, using just a few mindfulness concepts helps me break out of my cycle. Countless others find mindfulness to be key in managing a variety of mental health issue. Even scientific research supports mindfulness. So, if you haven’t discovered mindfulness, maybe now is the time to try.
Here are my top three practical mindfulness tools.
1. Be aware of what is happening around you, in the moment.Be present. As a new mom it is really challenging to be at ease with what is happening in the moment. New mothers are often wondering if they’re doing the right thing, or worrying about how the rest of the day will go. It can also be difficult to adjust to the pace and schedule (or lack of schedule) of a newborn. Finding a way to settle into the uncertainty of the moment and drink up those special moments with your newborn may help you enjoy the postpartum experience a little more. Read our blog post about the secret to unlocking postpartum wellness for some ideas on how to be in the moment with baby.
2. Let go of expectations and attachment to outcomes. This is always a big challenge for me. Since the day I got pregnant I’ve struggled to accept the unknowable about birth and parenting. During the postpartum period, managing my expectations was a huge challenge. Letting go of how I expected things to go was something I really struggled with. There’s little chance things are going to go exactly as you expect, so the more you can allow yourself to go with the flow, the happier you will be.
3. Avoid judgement. You can’t control other people’s judgements – though they’re probably not judging you as much as you think they are. You can stop judging yourself though. If you have a negative thought, notice it and let it go. If you use harsh words towards your baby, give her an extra hug and move on. If your house is a mess, forgive yourself and pick up when you can. It is often said that we are our harshest critics. How can you be a little less harsh to yourself today?
You may be wondering where the pictures of babies and mamas are. Given that our theme this week is mindfulness I wanted to post simple and beautiful pictures that represent peace, calm, and a quiet mind. I hope they have a soothing effect on you. Maybe they will even serve as a focal point for some deep breathing or meditation. Check out Mindful Motherhood for some ideas on guided meditation.
I have to admit I don’t usually set aside time to meditate, and my experience with mindfulness is pretty elementary, but I do use these three strategies often. To me they lend themselves so well to parenting. Things are always popping up that I don’t expect. I am constantly wishing I was doing stuff just a little better, and I struggle to settle into the simple activities of parenting without my mind wandering. Every day is an opportunity to breathe deep and expand my heart to love myself and my baby a little more. When I take time to breathe and reflect I am sometimes able to be more at ease with what is. I hope you can find space in your life for some simple mindfulness practices to improve your postpartum experience.
Fiona Griffin is a mental health counselor and the co-founder of New Mama Project, an online community offering support for postpartum mothers and space for real talk about the transition into motherhood. The site offers a social supports guide and self-care quiz for new mamas that can be found here. Fiona works with youth and families in Vermont where she lives with her husband and daughter. You can learn more about Fiona at Fiona Griffin Counseling.
New Mama Projectis an online community offering support for postpartum mothers and a space for real talk about the transition into motherhood. In addition to a weekly blog and newsletter, the site offers a social supports guide and self-care quiz for new mamas that can be found here:New Mama Project .