It’s time to embrace reinvention in motherhood

‘Bouncing back’ is one phrase I want to ban in motherhood. I never want to hear it used again to describe someone who is postnatal. The media love to talk about how women miraculously give birth one minute, and the next, they are up and about as though nothing happened. This hastiness to return to ‘normal’ is unhelpful and damaging.   

It’s something I’ve experienced first-hand. I began freelancing after returning from maternity leave. I was determined to head back to work and continue right where I had left off. At the time, however, my son slept terribly. So, I found myself juggling sleep deprivation with the pressures of a new work style. I took longer to make decisions and questioned everything. My expectations of myself were high. I didn’t take the time to acknowledge the enormity of it all.   

The problem is that it’s easy to forget all that happens when you have a baby. Firstly, physically, nothing bounces back anywhere. It slowly, progressively heals and becomes the new you. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding play havoc with your body. When carrying your baby, your body comes under the same level of stress as an ultra-marathon; the internal organs squished up under your rib cage. Labour is one of the most demanding endurance activities anyone could undertake. And, within seconds of giving birth, you’re pushed to try breastfeeding, which can be painful and challenging to master. We do all this and then are released off home with limited ongoing care.    

Postnatal recovery is not a six-week event

The six-week physical check is seen by many to mark the moment that mothers ‘return to normal’. They’re given a 10 minute check over and then usually asked about contraceptive. But, pelvic floor muscles require constant work post-pregnancy. Exercise routines should be postnatal friendly for at least a year. Without the right support, many women find themselves struggling with incontinence for the rest of their life or returning to exercise without guidance, potentially resulting in long-term injury. In short, recovering from pregnancy takes time.      

And while the fourth trimester (0-3 months post-birth) is now rightly considered a vital time for parents to receive support, realistically, this help is needed for much longer. My sleep deprivation hit me hardest when my son was ten to fifteen months old. And my lack of confidence is only starting to register now, two years after my son arrived. After a year of freelancing, I recognise I need help moving between the different worlds and adjusting to my new head-space. I’m lucky enough to afford to work with a coach, and it’s something I now advocate for all mothers if they can. Primarily so that you can say out loud the things you worry about telling partners or family, things like: ‘I want some time away from my baby’, ‘I miss having no responsibility’ or ‘I’m not sure I can handle going back to work’.   

Support does not equal failure

All mothers and parents need to know that asking for help is not failure, it’s not a sign of weakness, and you are not a burden. Their internal ‘to do’ list has doubled, if not tripled. It is natural for anyone to need help navigating this increased volume of traffic after such a life-changing event. A child adds new worries, new considerations, new demands. By better-supporting mothers, they will come back more empowered, more resilient, and more productive than ever.    

So, let’s ban the phrase ‘bouncing back’ in motherhood. Instead, we should focus on the immensity of motherhood and the opportunities that result from this extraordinary experience. ‘Nurturing the change’ or ’embracing reinvention’ needs to happen instead.