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More than anything, I wish I would have had someone share with me a list of mental health tips for new moms before bringing my premature twins home from the NICU.
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What I Wish I Knew as a New Twin Mom
I have written a handful of times now about my struggles with mental health as a new mom that developed after a traumatizing month-long hospital stay, emergency c-section, and having NICU babies. Those things combined with being the new, first-time mom to teenie tiny preemie twins played part in my path toward the darkness.
That path continued to get darker and darker after trying to advocate for myself and being turned away by two doctors that I genuinely trusted.
Them turning me away left me feeling hopeless. I was convinced I was crazy. I was convinced that this must just be what motherhood is. That motherhood is a dark cloud that someone everyone else seemed to manage so much better than myself.
Every time I collapsed onto the kitchen floor at 4pm I felt the intense intrusive thoughts of not being enough. That I must be some kind of failure because I couldn’t handle what I was given.
I didn’t want to ask for help again. I didn’t want to speak up again. I didn’t want to feel more pain than I was already putting on myself.
Something no one seems to talk about is just how HARD it is to advocate for your mental health when you are your own worst enemy.
Then when you find the courage to do so, to ask for help, just to be shot down. It feels like a knife being pushed into your abdomen.
That changed in March 2019.
I was so low that I drove myself to my local hospital and sat outside. “I need to be admitted” I thought to myself. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I didn’t want to risk losing my babies. I didn’t know what would happen if I was to walk inside. Motherhood with mental illness is a sick joke sometimes.
But that night I realized I needed help. Both for myself, and for my twins.
The next day I called around asking for local mental health clinics. I came in contact with an outpatient walk-in mental health clinic close by. I made a promise to myself to go in the next morning when they opened.
I was scared. But I went.
Little did I know that clinic would change my life and help me learn how to manage motherhood with mental illness.
They listened. They heard me. They cried with me. And they got me in contact with a therapist and psychiatrist. They helped diagnose me as Bipolar and got me on meds. They helped me realize it was possible and that I deserved the care. That they were there for me. All of me.
Over the last year, I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I’ve gone to regular therapy, found a medication that works for me, and most importantly, found my worth.
It didn’t come without a lot of hiccups along the way. There is no clear path to healing. And I am in no way healed. Managing motherhood with mental illness is something you continue to work at every day.
It’s also something that I wish, so desperately wish, that more people talked about. And not just new parent struggling with their mental health, but the practitioners that are supposed to help us.
You’re Not Alone in Your New Mom Mental Health Struggles
As you have probably gathered through what I have shared so far, one of my biggest struggles with accepting where I was at mentally as a new mom was my mindset of being the only one.
But I hope that if you are in a space where you came across this post, you now know that you aren’t alone, just as I was not alone.
1 in 5 new moms struggle with their mental health postpartum. Yes, 1 in 5.
Here are a few more-common-than-you-think ways that new moms struggle with their mental health postpartum:
Common New Mom Mental Health Struggles
- Not understanding the difference between baby blues/PPA/D/R, or really what they are as a whole
- The mindset of postpartum mental illness breaking the surface closer to or after the first year of your little one’s life
- Separation anxiety & the toll it takes/what it looks like
- Hormones running WILD and causing so many things from irritability, to change in appetite, sexual desires, and even hair loss
- That anger is a real thing w/ the combination of hormones + very little sleep
- Not getting enough rest & assuming all is fine with that
- The heavyweight of mom guilt over taking time for yourself to do any and everything
- That everyone struggles in different ways
- & that you (more than likely) might not understand the emotions but it’s important to let yourself FEEL them
Steps I Took to Overcome my New Mom Mental Health Struggles
Honestly, the greatest thing I did for myself and my mental health as a new mom was accepting that I needed help, and with that, how to get over myself and take that help. That alone is the most important of the mental health tips for new moms I have.
This “help” can come in many different ways from the actual physical help of others, to purchasing items that take some of the stress off (like these from Regalo Baby that I have raved about), to helping yourself by putting your needs at the top of your list next to the needs of your new bab(ies).
Let’s dive into some of those mental health tips for new moms are, as well as some of what has been recommended by other parents I’ve met along the way.
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Mental Health Tips for New Moms
- Advocating for yourself is hard, let your support system help (this can look like having your best friend remind you to make the phone call or even going with you to talk with a doctor)
- PPA/D/R etc are more common than you think (especially for moms of multiples) here are some awesome resources
- Not all doctors know how to help you the way you need it – here is how to find someone who DOES
- PPA/D/R might not show up right away but that doesn’t make it any less valid
- You might feel alone, but you are not. Here are some great places to get some support
- Start an easy daily mental health journal also helps when you do decide to talk with a doctor
- Skip the “daily routines” & make one that works for YOU and your own life
- Engage in open conversations with friends about your feelings – odds are they’ve been there too and can offer support
- Follow accounts on social media that encourage you to embrace this new you for all that you are
- Repeat after me, my body has changed, and that is okay
- Take your baby/toddler gear with you to your friends/families houses. This play yard from Regalo Baby was a MUST from the time they started moving around until they were about 2.5 (read about ten ways I used it here)
- Pick something that is just for YOU – I wish I did this earlier but I take myself out on regular dates. Coffee, brunch, drives to the beach. Something just for ME
- Invest in products that take off some of the workload like an easy to clean play mat, top-rated easy-close baby gates, and this bath set with a foam knee pad
- Let go of “screen time rules” & embrace what works for you
- Create safe zones for your baby/toddlers w/ gates/mats/cots so that you can get things done (or relax) knowing that your babes are safe
- Pick one (or two) chores a day & leave it at that (trust me, your well-being is 10x more important)
- Or set yourself a thirty-minute timer for chores
- If you’re ahead of the game – prep your doctors/therapist for mental health evaluations/visits ahead of time & make sure to share your thoughts with them and how you would like to go about things postpartum
- Read about PPA/D/R & other mental illnesses & encourage your partner/support system to educate themselves as well
- Stick to delivery or store pick-up for any and everything ( and I mean everything; target drive-up is my BFF)
- Make sure to schedule time for you where you can. If you have a partner, maybe this could look like a regular night even just once a week where you have your toom to yourself, or to sit in your car drinking a milkshake from Sonic. The little things truly do matter and add up to support your mental health as a new mom
- Consider adding mirror work & positive self-talk into your daily habits. I know they can sound weird – but more than anything I wish I would have implemented these things early on as a new mom
- Get some fresh air – whether it’s opening a window, sitting on the back deck with your baby doing some tummy time on their baby play mat, or actually going for a stroll
- As the kids get into the toddler stage – put together activities that let your mind rest. One of my toddler’s current favorite afternoon activities is setting up their my cots & pretending we’re camping! I also use this activity to get work done
- Set facetime dates! I always thought I couldn’t do this because the kids were loud or someone was always crying but now that I’ve made this a regular thing as a toddler mom, I know how much I wish I had done this sooner
- Try your best to only focus on “must do’s” like appointments, picking up food, filing taxes. Everything else (aka, the dishes you want to do 24/7) can sit on a rolling to-do list because they truly do NOT have to be done right this second. Letting those things go was like a boulder was lifted off of my shoulders
- Block block block on social media – don’t give anyone else the CHANCE of making you feel less than. Get block happy. Someone posts about their postpartum weight loss journey and it sets you off and sends you in a spiral? Unfollow them on social media. And yes, you can do this with friends & family! It’s under settings on both Facebook and Instagram. You’ll still be friends or “following” them, but you won’t see their posts unless you go to their pages
- No two children are the same. Forget the milestone charts.
- Vocally appreciate your body for all it has done not just for yourself, but for their little ears. My toddlers have picked up on the positive words I share with myself and it is the sweetest thing
- Download some sort of lists/notes app (I like google keep) and start noting down all of your thoughts. The mental load of motherhood is a LOT and keeping these things jotted down will help lighten it a bit and help you remember to schedule that next appointment or grab whatever it is
- Try your best to be vocal about your needs. The odds are, your partner isn’t going to know exactly what you need 24/7. Try your best to be vocal to avoid things piling up in your mind and added stress
- Try out meditation! This is something I recently took up and man, I wish I started YEARS ago (this is my favorite guided meditation app)
- My #1 tip – grace. Lots and lots of grace. This is a new season of life you’ve never experienced, or maybe you have but you haven’t experienced it having already given birth or with a toddler or multiple kids at home. Read this for more on why you need to give yourself more grace
Shop some more awesome products here from Regalo Baby that take off some of the mental load of motherhood & use code TwinsAndCoffeePals for 10% off the entire site!
That wraps up my mental health tips for new moms today & I hope you’ve found some that will stick with you and hopefully make life a bit easier.
I’ve said it many times by now, but please know you are not alone mama. You genuinely are not alone.
Sending you so much love!