motherhood and self-care

Let’s talk about motherhood—the beautiful, chaotic, transformative whirlwind that it is. We often paint it as a picture-perfect journey filled with joy, love, and fulfillment. But let’s get real for a moment—motherhood is messy, unpredictable, and sometimes downright challenging.

In this blog post, I aim to share some of my personal experiences during this transformative period, the consequences of giving when my own cup is empty, and to explore the profound healing and growth that can unfold along the way.

This isn’t a post about whining or failing to appreciate the blessings of motherhood—that’s stating the obvious. This is about sharing the raw, unfiltered reality, steering clear of toxic positivity. Because sometimes, hearing from other women who have faced challenges in motherhood or in general can be incredibly helpful. It reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles.

The Transformation of Self

At 20 months postpartum (because who said there’s a time limit on postpartum?), I’m rediscovering myself—not the old me, but a new version that’s still under construction. Self-care? That became a luxury I often couldn’t afford. My health took a hit, and I found myself running on empty.

Embracing the Unexpected

Remember those idyllic visions of a natural birth, breastfeeding bliss, and leisurely cafe visits? Well, reality had other plans. My baby decided to be a leader, opting for a transverse position at 34 weeks. Natural birth dreams shattered, I grieved the loss while embracing the unexpected journey of a C-section. My doula was not needed.

Thankfully, the surgery went well and my baby was delivered. Three weeks earth side, my son went into hospital. Without going into every detail, the challenges— his stomach was a size of a balloon…cause: lactose intolerance. We then we’re dealing with eczema, colic, reflux, and (unknowingly) a low milk supply. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would not have my own milk to feed my baby. This may not be a big deal to others, but for me, it was.

The Impact on Relationships

And let’s not disregard the profound shift in dynamics that occurs when you bring a baby home. This transformation presented another complex assignment that took up a big part of the parenthood experience.

The shared responsibilities, mood swings because of sleepless nights, and role adjustments can strain even the strongest partnerships. It’s a journey that demands open communication, patience, and adaptability.

Just as parenting itself is a journey of growth, so too is the evolution of your partnership in the face of these challenges. If I was to do it all over again, I would invest more in the postpartum journey and get all the support. There were so many things that I was unaware of.

Pouring From an Empty Cup

I found myself giving endlessly, often neglecting my own needs. The result? Burnout, exhaustion, and a loss of passion for life. Motherhood taught me the hard way about the consequences of pouring from an empty cup.

Taking care of my son became my full-time job (because I wanted to), both on an emotional and physical level. It took some time for me to adjust to this new world and find a “balance” between looking after my son, running a business, furthering my studies, being a wife, homemaker, and tending to my own health issues.

Having had experienced postnatal depression and anxiety for the very first time, it’s taken me time to reintegrate into my body, which doesn’t always feel like mine anymore. This year, I made it a priority to be gentle with all parts of myself, giving myself space, filling up my cup, and having more patience throughout another transition period.

Motherhood is hard, and there’s no preparation for “balancing” all the things when the baby arrives. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that few people discuss this side of motherhood. After conversing with other women, they also shared how challenging motherhood is and how it’s rarely discussed.

There was a period during this time when I lost my passion for life, which was very unusual for me. My adrenals and kidneys were overly charged, draining me and leading to other health issues becoming depleted.

In traditional Chinese medicine, emotionally, the heart and thyroid are associated with the fire element meant to bring forth joy and desire. However, if you deplete it, your desires can become flat, and your passion for life diminishes because there is no energy there.

What Is Your Daily Life Emotional Programming?

There’s a ton of advice about self-care, but what’s often overlooked is how we THINK about our mundane daily tasks. It’s not just about doing things to feel better; it’s also about changing our mindset around our “to-do” lists each day.

How are you approaching your day to day life?

For instance, my previous approach often triggered a fight-or-flight response. I realized I needed to change my perspective and self-talk around my daily routine, reminding myself that it’s alright not to rush constantly. When someone would care for my son, I’d fret about completing tasks quickly due to limited time. Clearly, this mindset didn’t contribute positively to my well-being.

I began addressing my mindset by reassuring myself that I needn’t feel anxious or rushed. I had to find contentment in this season of my life and accept my limitations. Learning to embrace what I can and cannot do, and being at peace with it, was crucial. Understanding that “I am doing enough”, even when tasks remain incomplete, became my mantra. Not an easy feat!

This shift in thinking began to calm my central nervous system, allowing space for further healing and an increased sense of awareness with life.

Acknowledging All Emotions

Let’s debunk the myth of toxic positivity. It’s okay to feel grief, frustration, and uncertainty alongside joy and gratitude. Motherhood is a complex tapestry of emotions, and it’s crucial to honor every shade of it.

I believe that women don’t share enough about the difficult aspects of the postpartum period. Once on Instagram, I read a comment from a woman thanking another mother who had just given birth for sharing only the positive aspects of her experience. To me, this seems like toxic positivity. While I’m certainly in favor of positivity, I don’t believe in downplaying or dismissing negative emotions, struggles, and challenges.

Insisting that we should always focus on the positive and avoid acknowledging or expressing any form of negativity denies the authenticity of genuine human emotions and experiences.

Looking back now and knowing what I know now, having a c-section was a blessing for me and my son. I’m so grateful for interventions like these. And, of course, I was grateful that I was able to conceive naturally and quickly at my age. But this shouldn’t disregard my feelings of grief.

More than anything else, what I’ve learned from this experience is that the journey into motherhood is far from linear; it’s an ongoing process of growth that extends beyond the surface-level changes. It’s become evident that the way I’m parenting my son has shown me a deeper need within myself—to engage in a process of self-reparenting (inner child work), especially during this phase of my life.

Nurturing Yourself

As we nurture and support our children, we come to realize that we deserve the same kindness and compassion. This experience has solidified the importance of turning inward and addressing the emotional needs that often go unmet in the hustle of daily life.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m a happier and healthier mom, my son responds to me differently. Why wouldn’t I want to become my best self if that helps my child thrive?

So, beyond tending to my son’s growth, I recognize the necessity to foster my own growth through self-reflection, self-care, and self-compassion. This journey into motherhood has offered me not only the chance to raise a child but also the opportunity to parent and nurture the parts of myself that require attention and healing. Through this, I’m discovering that in providing for my son, I’m also providing for myself—an intertwined and evolving cycle of growth and fulfillment.

Embrace It All

As you come to the end of this narrative, let’s recap: motherhood isn’t solely about the journey of raising a child; it’s a profound personal evolution that sparks transformation within yourself. Embrace the validity of your feelings, whether they manifest as moments of joy, frustration, or uncertainty. Recognize the power of reparenting as a means to reconnect with neglected parts of yourself, craving love and care.

Amidst the sleepless nights and ceaseless responsibilities, prioritize nurturing your own growth. Remember, it’s not selfish; it’s essential. Just as you wholeheartedly tend to your child’s needs, allocate some of that devotion to yourself. By doing so, you’re not only enhancing your own life but also establishing a cycle of emotional well-being that resonates not just with your children but across generations.

A Message Beyond Motherhood

And if you’re not a mother, know that this message still resonates deeply with you. Just as you tirelessly attend to your responsibilities, set aside some of that dedication for yourself.

As you continue along your path of personal growth, do so with the understanding that you deserve the same grace and nurturing that you wholeheartedly bestow upon others. You’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery and growth, shaping your future in ways you may not have envisioned.

Embrace both the challenges and joys, allowing them to serve as guiding lights on your journey toward a beautifully intertwined evolution of self-love. Remember, you’re not merely navigating life; you’re nurturing a profound connection with yourself and weaving a legacy of love, care, and strength for your own journey and for the world around you.

Love,
Irene