Women in the postpartum phase of their lives are one of the most underserved populations in our health care system. The minute both my children were born, all of the attention shifted away from me as their mother, and onto my kids. As much as I appreciated this, it also left me feeling left behind, ignored, and unsupported, while at the same time being expected to be in top form to care for my newborn. This was especially distressing as a first time mom! I often felt left on my own to figure out my needs, and I often didn’t have the energy or time to advocate for myself, let alone even know what I needed or where to go for help.
Here are a few ways that you can advocate for yourself, so you can be in the best shape mentally and physically to care for your newborn and yourself.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
During pregnancy and labour (regardless of how you deliver), the pelvic floor and your core go through a lot of changes, pressure, and stress. Pelvic floor physiotherapy may be something to consider and requires no referral from a doctor which makes it easier to schedule an appointment.
The pelvic floor is part of your core muscles and is important in sexual functioning, bladder control, stabilization, and even bowel movements. Having your pelvic floor assessed following birth, can help avoid incontinence, pain during sexual intercourse, and put you in the best place possible when you want to begin exercising again.
Motherhood is a significant change in both your identity and your lifestyle. Even if you feel you are coping well, working with a counsellor can help you debrief the changes to your life, and share your labour story. Labour and delivery can be a traumatic event, even when obstetrically it was “normal”, and being able to share your story, can help you process the feelings surrounding it. Motherhood can also at times feel lonely, and having someone there to listen without judgement and validate your feelings, can be incredibly helpful.
As an intern counsellor with Strong Counselling, I (Justine) am passionate in working with moms during this period, and would love to set up a consultation to see if we would be a good fit!
Find Your Village
“It takes a village” is a common quote most mothers hear, but in today’s society where most mothers work, and our sense of community has deteriorated, it’s become harder to find your village. Joining local moms’ groups, whether in person, or social media, can help foster connection with other moms. Participating in community events for moms, such as Cineplex’s Stars and Strollers for new moms, or yoga classes where babies are welcome, can also provide an opportunity to feel part of a community.
Ignore Society’s Expectations
This is easier said than done, but society puts a lot of pressure on moms and what they “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing. Show yourself the same compassion you would show a close friend who is experiencing motherhood for the first time. Everyone’s family is different, everyone’s child is different, and you are the best parent for your child. You may notice that many people around you, and even strangers at the grocery store, will feel like they can share advice on motherhood. It’s helpful to imagine the advice like apples at the grocery store, you can pick and choose the ones that work best for your family and ignore the rest and leave them behind.
Online Mom Groups
There are a variety of online mom groups available to women at all stages of pregnancy and motherhood that can help you foster connection and receive support. To share a personal story, when I moved 4 hours away from my support network as a first time mom with a 6 month old, I used meetups.com to find a local moms book club, and they quickly became a huge part of my life. It made a huge difference for my mental health in the first few years after our move.
Here’s a few favourites:
- Mommy Connections Canada – www.mommyconnections.ca
- Moms Canada – www.momscanada.ca
- Breastfeeding Support and Moms Networking Group – www.medelabreastfeedingtips.ca
- The MotHERS Program – www.themothersprogram.ca
- Meetup (find local moms groups in your area) – www.meetup.com
- BabyCenter Canada – www.babycenter.ca
- Pacific Post Partum Support Society – www.postpartum.org
Motherhood is challenging at every step of the journey. Knowing how to advocate for yourself, or how to help a friend or family member advocate for themselves, is so beneficial in helping this journey be a little less lonely, confusing, and overwhelming. We are all in this together!