Shakira Akabusi @shakira.akabusi
🍼Pre &Postnatal Fitness Expert
💪🏽 Founder of #StrongLikeMum
💥Speaker, Writer, Track Athlete
👶🏼👦🏼 Mama to Rio & Ezra
💚 Lover of health, wellness, cooking and exploring this beautiful world we live in.
Building wellbeing and emotional balance as a new parent.
As a new parent there can be a huge range of emotions. Excitement, euphoria, love but also perhaps exhaustion, confusion and a general sense of being overwhelmed. In short, nothing is off the table. Hormones and emotions are running high and it’s not just for new mothers. Scientists believe that becoming a new parent requires one of the biggest reorganisations in the lives of both parents. It changes brain function, endocrine systems, behaviours, identities and relationships. In other words the mind, body and life of both parents will undoubtably change dramatically.
Building wellbeing and emotional balance as this ‘new born parent’ requires an understanding of what makes us ‘well’ and ‘balanced’ to begin with.
Wellbeing is the linkage of physical, mental and social wellness. So how exactly can the arrival of a new baby affect the wellbeing of parents?
Considering the vast physical changes that a mother goes through during pregnancy, labour and the immediate postnatal process, the sudden onset of sleepless nights for both parents, potential nursing challenges and dietary adjustments it’s clear to see how and why parents may begin to feel fatigued. Other wellness issues may also arise such as mood changes, difficulties with decision making and lack of concentration.
By understanding that physical, psychological and social wellbeing are all interwoven, it’s easy to see how the above mentioned physical changes may lead to other psychological and social consequences.
Feeling a range of emotions in the early postnatal period is natural. It’s important to be aware of when symptoms develop further into mental issues such as postnatal depression or postnatal anxiety disorders. More information on this can be found on the NHS website here, however ‘baby blues’ or generally fluctuating emotions are very common.
Sleep deprivation , irregular eating patterns, hormonal changes and the constant, relentless demands of a new born , not to forget demands of older siblings, can easily lead to unexpected feelings of sadness, anxiety, inadequacy, resentfulness, and even guilt.
‘New born parents’ may also undergo a reshuffle of their social life. It’s not uncommon to experience a change in relationships with friends and even family members. Alongside a shift in your priorities, you may find yourself on a new time schedule due to nap times, night time wakings, nursing schedules, school runs etc. It’s perfectly possible to regain a sense of self and important as well that parents remember to find time for their own hobbies, however finding your new ‘social identity balance’ may take time.
So how can we build wellbeing and find emotional balance as new parents?
The key is in understanding that it’s different for everyone. Each pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal journey is uniquely different. So too the level of support for each family can vary, so there can’t be a ’one-size-fits-all’ answer, however there are a few important elements that can be addressed to help families achieve wellness as new parents.
1) Taking care of yourself
Of course as parents your priorities change, and you new arrival will need a huge amount of care and attention. However, it’s also important that parents themselves are given a chance to recharge, recuperate, nourish and rest. Similar to how on an aircraft it’s advised to make sure your own oxygen mask is fitted, so you are better able to help those around you. New parents much be able to ‘re-oxygenate’. Its much easier to be physically and mentally available for your newborn, when you are well rested yourself.
This may seem easier said then done, in particular for parents with other siblings to care for. However, recuperation can come in many forms. Take long walks with your children, plan your day ahead when possible, including meal preparations, playtimes, food shopping etc to maximise the down time. Even a 10 minute shower is a great time to practice some mindfulness and deep breathing to re-energise for the time ahead.
2) Value coupling moments
Both parents should aim to stay connected and talk through moments. In the same way that it’s important to find time for yourself, it’s important to value coupling moments and maintain a sense of intimacy and closeness. Work as a team. Remember you are not just ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, you are a partnership and that needs tending too also.
3) Ask for help
You will be amazed how many of your friends and family are happy to lend a hand , especially in those early days after birth. Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, identified ‘the depleted mother syndrome’ whereby the constant demands placed upon a mother, the physical and mental stresses and a lack of resources can drain and deregulate her body. This can easily lead to the ‘baby blues’ or in some cases more serious forms of postnatal depression or anxiety. Therefore, during the immediate postpartum period it’s crucial that a little time is set aside for ‘mothering the mother’. So if you need some extra support engage friends, family and other professional services, including the services of a maternity nurse, babysitter or sleep trainer.
Exercise doesn’t need to mean an hour in the gym or intensive bootcamp. Gifting yourself even just 10/15 minutes a day for gentle exercise, from stretching to walking, and core work, will do wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing.
5) Plan your pennies
Financial worries can cause stress for many new time parents, so ideally try to have this discussion in advance. Now might not be the best time to make elaborate purchases, however planning ahead can assist with affordability for childcare should you both of you wish to return to work or take up a new hobby or project i.e. going back to university.
6) Celebrate the Now!
There is a well known saying that for new parents, the days may seem long but the years short. Ultimately this is a unique and wonderful experience. Yes there can be challenges however remember to take a moment to celebrate the incredible achievement that your body has created. Giving life to a new human being! Accept the changes in your life and even your physical changes. Time will give you the ability to build on both of those and find a happy balance. But embrace the now.