Sleep deprivation. Feeding schedules. Body changes. These are a few of the many difficulties new mothers face the first few months to a year after having a baby. But one challenge not so commonly discussed when talking about postpartum is accepting help.
I am a mother of 3 wonderful children; a 5 year old and 20 month old twins. I was blessed to go full term in both pregnancies and the deliveries went as planned. The aftermath of those pregnancies however threw me for a loop. I took so many classes on basic baby care and breastfeeding along with reading every forum and article on baby related topics I could find. Yet when faced with the reality of being the person trusted to keep these babies alive I felt lost. There were so many questions and concerns I’d never anticipated that I was now charged with answering. Inside I was screaming for help. However the biggest challenge I faced after childbirth wasn’t answering those questions, it was accepting the help I so desperately desired. While this may sound simple, for me it was more difficult than I ever imagined.
As a self-proclaimed introvert I love my alone time and need to feel that I have control over my surroundings. Accepting help meant that I had to let down my heavily guarded walls and allow people to come into my safe space. I also had a huge fear of being judged. The idea of people coming into my house when it looked its worse was horrifying for me. Conversing with people while looking like I’d never heard of a hair brush also had me mortified. I felt vulnerable, imperfect, completely lost, and unsure of just about everything.
I had a dear friend of mine who offered to come by to help with chores and I would say to her, “I'm okay" but I really wasn't. I was swamped with so much laundry and vacuuming I didn't know where to begin. I was too embarrassed to show I did indeed need her help. Another friend offered to entertain my oldest daughter while the babies and I napped. I told her it wasn't necessary, that I had it all handled. Not true. In fact, my poor child watched so much TV in those first few months after the babies were born I'm pretty sure she memorized every single Daniel Tiger episode.
People will offer to help in numerous ways in the first few weeks. Don’t let your pride keep you from receiving that help. Be specific about what you need at that time. I felt that being direct and letting people know what I needed would sound rude or entitled. Whether it was loading a dishwasher, folding laundry, bringing a dinner, or picking up groceries. These are examples of things I actually needed but was too afraid to ask for.
Just say yes. I felt that I should be able to handle everything that having a newborn brings. I kept thinking to myself, “How dare I burden someone else to help me? They didn’t plan to have this baby. You did.” That kind of mindset will only leave you feeling isolated and unsupported. If someone offers to come over and wash your laundry or clean your kitchen. Put your pride aside and say yes. Someone close to you offers to watch your children for a couple of hours so you can get a nap. Take that opportunity to do just that.
Find your village. It truly does take an entire village. Find a support group in your community that caters to new mothers. Having a community of women in the same crazy time in their lives as you will offer so much insight about the everyday challenges we face as new mothers. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), Mocha Moms and Meetup.com are great sources of local groups in our area that offer support to one another. And lactation consultants are a must for any breastfeeding mother.
Lastly, let go of all those expectations you had before giving birth. Life is going to be unpredictable and messy at times. It’s going to get easier as time goes on. The more you get to know your baby and yourself as a mom the easier it’ll be. Be patient with yourself and give yourself a little grace to not get things right every single time. There are going to be lessons to learn and you’ll be stronger for having learned them.