Today is a two decaf kind of day. Which means I get a moment of tricking my brain into waking up, but then I’m back where I started. It’s been a rough few days. Everyone in my house has green-snot level colds. My toddler is also teething, and we stupidly decided to get her 18 month vaccinations done, just before we realised a cold was breaking. I’ve had very little sleep – a timely reminder of what newborn life will be like again in 5 months or so. Little one can definitely hear now. She kicks every time her older sister screams in the night or headbutts me in the guts. Sisterly love.
These memes that pop up in my social media feed about surviving parenting with coffee and alcohol aren’t so funny now I’m pregnant again. Seriously, how does a mum cope without coffee and wine o’clock? Here are my go-to tips.
Connect with someone who doesn’t judge, push advice or try to compete with you. Pregnant? Guess what? People love to know how a pregnant woman is feeling. Ever noticed that they ask all the time?
Send a text to someone and tell them you’re feeling lousy. Sometimes all we need is to be heard. Just someone to say “oh, that sucks. Thinking of you”. If you have no one like that in your life, then try a supportive forum. I like to look at the Tuesday check in on Safe Sleep Space’s Facebook page where the aim is to normalize infant sleep issues. It also helps mums feel less alone and isolated. Just seeing that someone else’s kid isn’t sleeping either, and sharing in that experience without everyone jumping to fix it can help. Sometimes we don’t need to “fix” our emotions or our experiences, we just need to sit with them, and accept that they will pass. Which brings me to my next tip.
Outside. Get yourself out into the sun. Without coffee or booze your best chemical enhancer is the sun. Sunlight helps release melatonin which is the hormone that tells our brain whether it’s time to be awake or asleep. Sunlight on the back of your eyelids will tell your brain to stop producing sleepy kill-me-now chemicals and wake up. Even if it’s not sunny, fresh air can also help. Even if it’s raining. A wise mum friend of mine has a saying “there’s no such thing as inappropriate weather, just inappropriate clothing”. So invest in rain gear, or a coat that actually covers your bump (I like this one from Mamaway that coverts for baby wearing and then back to a regular coat). Get whatever else you need to stop making excuses not to go outside. There’s a reason that referrals for depression always hit their peak when the weather gets worse. While you’re outside, practice a bit of mindfulness. You don’t need to read a book or take a course (I know you don’t have time). Mindfulness is simply learning to increase the amount of time you pay attention to one thing at a time. It might be that you just listen for birds. Every time a worrying thought comes in, allow, accept it and go back to listening for the birds. Maybe pick up a leaf and just examine it (toddlers are great at this). It’s just a small holiday for your brain. It’s not lying on a beach in Fiji for an hour but it’s something.
Positive coping statements. Have you noticed some of the ways you talk to yourself when you’re stressed. The kinds of “you’re not good enough”, “everyone else is coping better than you” kinds of statements. Stop for a second and think about whether you’d talk to your child like that. No? So why do you talk to yourself that way? You need a few default coping statements to cheerlead yourself on, just as much as your kids do. Remind yourself “I can do this”, “I’m coping just fine”, and “I am enough”.
Ease the load. Say no to something. If you’re not good at saying no, there’s no better time to start practising. Kids need boundaries. What’s something you absolutely do not need to do today? Strike it off the list? Someone you don’t need to see, who sucks up your energy rather than replenishes it? Not today, thanks.
P.S., If all else fails, chocolate and cheese also start with C. Chocolate has theobromine (and, yes caffeine too) which gives us a little dopamine hit. It also has magnesium which we tend to crave when sleep deprived. Cheese has tryptophans which are converted into serotonin to help you feel calm and relaxed.
Have you watched the video on coping in pregnancy? You can view it here