Learning to Self-Care, All Over Again, as a New Mom
By Irina Kopp
Irina is a mom to a 1 year old girl, who after giving birth in Sep 2017, found herself struggling to find balance between her old identity and new, and finding time to dedicate to self-care. After working on the concept for the past year, Irina launched MamaStay — an all-in one kit full of hand-selected items that are tailored toward moms of new babies to help them self-care without putting too much thought into it. Irina created the kit not just to help moms self-care, but to try and minimize the guilt some moms tend to feel around self-care, as well as help moms reconnect with their individual identity.
When I was a little girl, I was captivated by how my mom applied lotion to her face — dotting it symmetrically from cheek to cheek to nose to forehead before massaging it in. I must’ve been just about 2 years old when I first saw this, but it left it’s mark.
Through my teens and early twenties, I continued to learn from my mom’s self-care rituals. She worked hard, but always took time to ensure she felt good from the inside and out. The advice “when you look good, you feel good” always resonated with me — because it’s true, and it works in a cyclical process — when you feel good, you look good, vice versa.
Even through my grungy teens, and hippie twenties my mom tried to get me to put on eye cream. At times, I rebelled; at times, I gave in, but the seeds of self-care had been planted a long time ago, and by the time I hit my thirties the tree was in full bloom.
Last year, I gave birth to my own little girl, and like most new moms went to a state of shell shock. Shell shock is a term coined in World War I to describe the type of post-traumatic stress disorder many soldiers were afflicted with during and after the war (before PTSD itself was a term). It is a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness, appearing variously as panic and being scared, flight, or an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk.
YEP YEP YEP ^^^ all of that
And just like that, the queen of self-care turned into #gollum.
So, what’s a girl to-do? Night after night, as I sat in bed nursing my newborn and dreaming of my next shower, mourning the loss of my old identity, and familiarizing myself with this new “mom me”, I scoured the internet for baby sleep tips, baby related everything, and also something that could help me self-care…I was physically spent from the marathon of giving birth, overly emotional, overwhelmed, and generally tired. I needed a self-care fix, a quick fix at that — mama hadn’t taken a shower in days.
To my surprise, I didn’t find many resources for helping new moms self-care. Most resources i found for new moms were all centered around the baby, not the mom.
Some might say — “B!t$4, just give the baby to your partner, give the baby a bottle, go take a shower!” Sure, but that’s a one-time fix, not a sustainable one; a sustainable fix is learning to self-care, all over again, this time, as a new mom.
A sustainable fix is learning to let go of #momguilt and understanding the analogy: “In case of a loss of cabin pressure… please place your oxygen mask on first, and then assist your child or other passengers” If you try to put your child’s oxygen mask on first, you might not get enough time to put your own mask on — resulting in bad news for both of you.
It takes a village to raise a child is an African proverb which means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for a child to experience and grow in a safe environment. The whole villages look out for the children. In this traditional structure, a new mom would certainly be able to take time for self-care, but women in our culture are often remote and removed from family and friends and would call their “village”.
Many of us new moms spend lengthy days alone with our new babies — troubleshooting ourselves as new moms and figuring out how to care for baby. While this may be the norm in our twenty-first century society, it’s definitely not natural. We weren’t meant to raise babies on our own, but because we actually do, it often comes at the expense of other priorities — for me that was self-care.
It takes a village, but the village has changed, it’s matrixed, it’s digital, it’s fast, and from an evolutionary perspective, as humans we haven’t caught up to today’s style of “village”. I greatly underestimated the demands of parenthood and the difficulties of combining life balance and parenting let alone returning to work and parenting.
So moms, strap on your oxygen mask, we’re in uncharted territory, and we have a responsibility to catch up, recreate our village, and we’re going to need all our confidence, strength, and persistence to do so.
My mom gave me the gift of self care, and via MamaStay, my mission is to share that gift with my fellow moms.