Rebecca Hatman is a Virtual Event Facilitator at Blue Sky eLearn. She's generously sharing her motherhood journey through the lens of mental health and self-care practices.
The importance of a mother's mental health often goes unrecognized. According to a study by the University of Essex, during the pandemic, postpartum Mental Health Disorder cases in new moms rose from 30% to 70%.
When mothers struggle with mental health, the whole family struggles. Whether you’re a new mom or know one, I hope that sharing my experience brings awareness to the mental health challenges that new moms face and encourages other moms to share their stories.
Please note: Be advised that my story may be triggering for some. Remember to always consult your physician for personalized medical advice.
I had the most fantastic pregnancy. As a yoga and meditation teacher, I already had a strong wellness practice before becoming pregnant. I focused even more on these wellness practices during my pregnancy: I ate right, followed every doctor's recommendation, and never missed doctor's appointments. I read books and took a birthing class so I knew what to expect on the big day. I planned to give birth without an epidural and instead learned natural ways to deal with the pain of childbirth. I was confident, excited, and ready!
Two weeks before my due date, I had a prenatal appointment, and everything looked great. I noticed I didn't feel the baby kicking like he usually did, but I didn't think anything of it because my appointment had gone so well.
The day started to wind down, and I began to pay more attention, counting kicks like I learned to do in my birthing class. They weren't there. I fell asleep trying to count kicks and woke up suddenly at 1:00 AM and held my belly—still nothing.
I was tempted to go back to sleep and call the doctor in the morning, but my intuition told me to call the birthing center. They told me to come in right away, and when I got there, they began monitoring the baby's heartbeat. It was weak, and after careful consideration, the doctor recommended a cesarian section. Although this was not my birth plan, I knew he was right and went into surgery right away. It was a success, and just in time. My son spent a few days in intensive care, and we were home as soon as he was well enough to live outside the hospital.
After the birth, I put so much attention on the baby that my own health was an afterthought. I never went back to the doctor for a check-up after the cesarian, which is major abdominal surgery. I was in a massive amount of physical pain, and breastfeeding was not working, which took a toll on me mentally. The baby was colicky and cried more than he didn't. I was lucky to get two hours of sleep a day. There was no time for the meditation and yoga that kept me so healthy during pregnancy.
Soon after my baby was born, the world went into lockdown because of Covid. The pandemic amplified the isolation and uncertainty of being a new mom. My excitement about becoming a mother turned into severe postpartum anxiety and depression. I was having scary thoughts that something horrible would happen at any moment.
I was tired and overwhelmed. I was feeling hopeless. I thought I was going crazy. The support I had during my pregnancy was difficult to find now that I was a mom. It was like I was living a bad dream and couldn't wakeup.
The love of my son pushed me not to give up. They say if you are going through hell, keep going. Just like in a hero’s journey, a new mom has challenges to overcome in her new life. She is the most important person in a baby’s life, and her health is as important as the baby’s, because they are interwoven.
Here are a few things I did on my journey and recommend to others:
Contact your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of anxiety or depression. Many new moms have guilt for not enjoying every moment of this new life. But it's okay to not be okay. Be honest with your doctor about your symptoms. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will begin to heal. Your doctor can help you decide if prescription medication is right for you and help you find support.
A lot of moms feel guilty for taking time for themselves. Yet, when you are exhausted and barely have a minute to yourself, you may soon be running on empty with nothing left to give.
Recent research indicates that meditating brings about dramatic effects in as little as a 10-minute session: "Several studies have demonstrated that subjects who meditated for a short time showed increased alpha waves (the relaxed brain waves) and decreased anxiety and depression." (Cary Barbor, Psychology Today)
As a certified meditation teacher, I created a library of short, effective meditations you can do in 10-minutes or less.
Be sure to get cleared by your doctor before doing any movement exercises. The “bounce-back” culture on social media tells new moms they need to work hard to get back to their pre-baby bodies. I find this to be incredibly harmful.
You will never be the same after giving birth. That's not to say you can't be stronger and better than before you had a baby, but there is no going backward. And why would you want to? You've just grown a human in your body. That's amazing!
Mindful yoga is helpful for new moms because it is more focused on the mind and body connection than pushing the body to look a certain way. This practice meets you where you are and helps you reconnect to your body as it is now, honoring where you are in the moment to look forward to the next phase of your life's journey.
Look for Hatha-style classes and teachers who offer variations to the poses. Avoid power yoga, hot yoga, and strict teachers who don't encourage you to go at your own pace. Poses like planks, Chaturanga, and boat pose can aggravate new moms' common physical issues, such as abdominal separation or pelvic floor weakness. You always have a choice and should not be forced into any pose or position that doesn't feel right.
Deep belly breathing is like a manual override for your brain. It can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you rest and digest. The best part is you don't need a lot of time or any special equipment to do it.
I learned the 4-7-8 Breath from Dr. Andrew Weil while training for my meditation teacher certification at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. The benefits are immediate, and when practiced regularly over time, you will find even more relaxation benefits. Here's how:
It’s okay not to be okay some days. It doesn't mean you don't love your children fiercely; it means you are normal. When you connect with other moms who understand what you’re going through, it helps you know you’re not alone. You are an amazing mom, just the way you are. In ancient times women worked together to raise the children. Aunts, grandmothers, and mom-friends all have an essential role to play. Don't be afraid to ask for their support. If you have trouble connecting with moms in your area, @themotherhoodcenter offers support groups for new moms like you.
There will be ups and downs on this wild ride called motherhood. Don't be afraid to seek help from your medical team. Give yourself grace and mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing. Surround yourself with loving support from other mothers who understand. There may be no going back, but there is so much more waiting for you ahead.
About Rebecca Hatman
Rebecca is a Virtual Event Facilitator at Blue Sky eLearn and has been in the event industry for nearly ten years. She is a Certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor and Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner. Rebecca is a specialist in trauma-informed, mental health aware mindfulness practices and has worked on hundreds of workshops, conferences, and trainings that focus on mindfulness tools to help people feel better. Learn more about her practice at RebeccaHatman.com.
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