The shift from maiden to mama after baby is born
After your baby is born it can feel like you've gone from centre stage to the background. Twin mama, Megan Raynor discusses the shift so many of us experience.
Although I’m not someone who loved being pregnant, there is still a lot I miss when I think about those days. The cuteness of dressing the bump, the comforting feeling of my babies playing inside me, and the eagerness of my family to bake any sweet treat I demanded (carrot cake, always). But the thing I miss the most is the non-stop awe and adoration from people around me. Complete strangers would tell me how beautiful I was, clients would insist on giving me their chair and bringing me scones, fellow morning walkers would offer cheers of encouragement as I climbed the local mountain – it’s the kind of external love a girl can get used to!
And I did.
Throughout my seven month pregnancy I was treated like a goddess. No matter which room I walked into I was treated as special, simply because of the big round belly leading my way.
Considering pregnancy is hard work – even if you’re someone who has a relatively 'easy' one – I’d say there’s some kind of primal instinct that causes others to care for and adore pregnant women even when they don’t know them. It helps give us a boost and keep us going through the nausea, rib kicks and back pain.
But what happens once the pregnancy is over and the belly is gone? For many mums I’ve talked to our experiences are the same – we went from being treated as the most important person in the room, to the least. Everyone’s focus (including our own) switched to the newborn, with
We hear it time and time again – everyone wants to hold the baby, but who will hold the mum?
This leap from goddess to forgotten, can feel like an abrupt change, in the middle of one of the biggest changes of your life. It’s a change we often take on-board ourselves, with our newborn being the centre of our lives too.
This isn’t to say that your newborn isn’t important – they are likely to be the most incredible, most wonderful, most beautiful creature you've ever laid eyes on. Not to mention their high dependency – meaning when they need you, they really need you. But it is to say that you are still important too and that it’s okay to feel a bit discombobulated as you adjust.
As the knowledge of the all-important 'fourth trimester' (the Merriam-Webster dictionary even recently added this phrase) grows, I think too will the importance of mums after birth. However there are things we can do ourselves to help with this adjustment period and bring us back to a less wobbly state.
As a first time mum of twins, I felt it all. My body was no longer a thing of beauty that drew strangers' awe, my time wasn't my own, and I couldn’t escape the (definitely incorrect) feeling that I shouldn’t need to ask for help because now I was a mum I had to get on with it.
Remembering that I was still important, maybe even more important because my babies were relying on me, took some time. It also took a few breaking points and identity crises but I think there is a hidden blessing to that journey.
Now that I have been through the rollercoaster of being treated like a goddess, to being forgotten, to this new version of myself, I have so much more awareness of how doing things for my own joy really does matter. And that being important in my own life is what makes the most difference – it starts with my treatment of my mind, my body and my boundaries.
Of course it’s not without challenges but acknowledging that I matter made all the difference.
FIND FIVE MINUTES
As new mums, we give and give and give some more. This can add to the mental strain of adjusting to the ways your life has changed. When your little ones are small it can feel too hard to carve out time and you may not even be ready or want to do the things that used to light you up before. Time to yourself doesn’t have to be as big as a girls’ night or a yoga class, it can be as small as a nap, some quiet time watching Netflix, or just five minutes to lie on the floor doing nothing.
The goal is to have a brief reprieve from being needed, from thinking about all the things you have to do, and just let yourself have a small break. The wash load can wait, you and your mental health are a priority and the more you allow yourself to see that, the more important you’ll start to treat yourself.
GATHER YOUR HELPERS
When you’re pregnant you’re offered help for things as simple as getting out of a chair, when you’re a mum you’re praised for your ability to juggle all the tasks. I'm continually amazed by how incredible parents are at taking everything in their stride and getting on with it, right from day dot. However, just because you can juggle it all, doesn’t mean you should have to.
This statement in itself is big to get your head around but a good place to start is by practising asking for help before you even need it. If you’re anything like me you’ll carry on being superhuman and only ask for help at breaking point. The goal is to ask sooner, so that breaking point doesn’t come. You could practise this by asking for a meal train before the baby’s even born, or telling key loved ones that you struggle to ask for help and could they please check in with you instead. Every time you ask for or accept help, you make it easier for the next time you need it.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN PERSON, WITH YOUR OWN NEEDS
As mothers it can feel like our entire purpose for living is our children, to the extent that we forget we’re people with needs too. This all-consuming nature of motherhood is part of what makes it so wonderful, it’s like falling in love again, with those obsessive mushy thoughts and endorphins flowing through you.
However the all-consuming nature is also what makes the adjustment tricky – because when you’re deeply in love you want to do everything you can for that person. In this case, your baby.
Without adding to your pressure, I’d like to nudge you to think about what needs you could meet before you’re consumed by mum-life. There’s a trend on TikTok that features mums getting ready as if they’re going to work. For these mums popping on some mascara, doing their hair and getting into clothes before they started their day, is a way to help them feel more like themselves.
For me it was (and still is) getting some movement in my day, sometimes by walking the twins in the pushchair, other times with a solo run as soon as their dad gets home. The key thing here is to not add more to your list of things you feel you have to do, but to look at what you can integrate into your life that will make you feel good. It might be a big bottle of water when you wake up because you know you always forget during the day, your partner doing bedtime routine so you can read a book, or even just remembering to take your multivitamins every morning.
You have needs too and it’s more than okay to do what you can to meet them.
Finally – and most importantly – it’s a time to be gentle on yourself. You might not feel like you can do all, or any, or these suggestions yet and that’s okay. Just like it’s okay to do them all and make yourself a priority again.
Every mum adjusts at a different pace and there are no rules or templates to follow. It’s only by being gentle and showing ourselves the love we show our children that we can start to find our feet in this new phase of life.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 58 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW