Postpartum Survival Mode:
Be Where You Are & Give Yourself a Break!
I co-facilitate a weekly pregnancy and postpartum adjustment group at my office. Our group is well-attended by amazing moms (and sometimes dads) who need a little extra support before and after having a baby. There are many things I hear every week, but one of the most common is “I feel like I haven’t done anything all day!” This is associated with terrible guilt because these moms don’t think they’re doing “enough”.
Let’s face it—it’s hard to be a new parent. Moms’ and dads’ lives change dramatically when a baby is born, from changes in sleep and “free” time to changes in identity and body image to psychological and relationship changes. But too often we forget to give ourselves credit for all that we are doing amidst this stressful time of change—trying to get some sleep, lose some weight, bond with the baby, and adjust to new roles, intimacy, and simply being needed 24/7! For the most part the first several months (and I would say the first year in most cases) is simply survival mode.
When you’re just trying to keep up—to get a shower and maybe a nap, throw together some dinner, and give your honey a kiss on the cheek before night feedings keep you awake for hours—you’re in survival mode. When you’re under the clouds of a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, like postpartum depression, you’re in survival mode. And survival mode is a time to slow down and receive support, love, and help as needed to sustain and recharge you. It’s a time to let go of the need to add more, do more, or “be” anything more than who and where you are. I’m here to tell you that being in survival mode is a good place to be for it means that you are, after all, surviving and so is your baby and hopefully your relationship. Survival mode is enough. It really is.
Remind yourself that survival mode is a temporary situation and that adding anything “extra” to this already stressful time is absurd. Let go of your need to bake cookies, volunteer more, try to keep up with that “super parent” down the street! Remember that you’ve just had a baby, that your life has been changed forever, that you are still healing, recovering, and doing many important things, and that the last thing you need is any guilt about not doing “enough”. Believe me: you’re doing much more than you realize!
Moms and Dads, please take a little advice from me and give yourselves a break! Let yourselves be where you are. Let yourselves simply survive for a while. Focus on the relationships that really matter—caring for your baby, for one another, and especially for yourselves. I guarantee that soon enough you’ll be out of survival mode and thrown into the busyness of “normal” life again. And then you’ll probably be wishing you could go back to the simpler days of “survival mode” instead!
How do you cope with “survival mode?” Leave a comment and let us know!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]