How to feel like yourself again after having a baby

Not too long after my daughter was born I started wondering: when will I feel normal again? When will my body feel like my own again? I had no clue. I could only wait and see. That was my plan. I laugh at it now, because I was so naive to think I could go back to a state of pre-pregnancy. When I had things under control and knew what I was doing. I worried about my body and whether I would ever fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. But more than that, I worried about ‘feeling myself’ again, whatever that meant. My mum-friends assured me it would get better. Just wait until the first three months are over. So I waited and it did indeed get a little better. I got into the routine, I had a little bit more energy and could even start to enjoy breastfeeding and taking care of my baby.

Apparently I wasn’t a minute too early. It seemed as if the world had forgotten a human being came out of my body only 3 months ago. Those first weeks it seemed OK for me to feel like a zombie and forget every appointment or important events (thank you Facebook for reminding me of birthdays!). Or to walk around all day in my pyjamas without a bra (I was breastfeeding, why bother really?). But at some point I was supposed to have returned to the realm of the ‘normal people’, as in: “OK we know you’ve had a baby but isn’t she sleeping through by now? And you’ve got the hang of breastfeeding right? That’s sooooo convenient, you can do that everywhere. Just join us for dinner/party/drinks!”

This scared the begeezus out of me. Was I supposed to feel normal again? Should I already be out and about? Should I feel like having my life under control again? How come, I wondered, I was inundated with information during my pregnancy about my pregnant body but I only received information about my BABY after birth? I remember getting a leaflet about anti-conception the day after I gave birth. Important, I agree. But please, can someone tell me why I felt like crying all the time? I wanted a guide for women about how their body will be, about how they will feel AFTER the birth. Overwhelmed. Check. Dizzy all the time. Check. Tired. Check. Aching in places that are supposed to heal after 6 weeks. Check. Mega big boobies. Check.

After this reality check there were only two options for me: wallowing in self-pity or taking action. I ended up taking the middle way. I ate a lot of chocolate and watched a lot of Netflix. I cried and felt lonely. I was homesick. I cannot lie about that. But I also got up from the couch and ventured into the world again in search of my pre-baby self. It started small at home by putting my favorite dance songs on and going crazy, pretending I was in a club giving my best performance. I agreed with having my husband feed the baby with one formula bottle each night so that I could go to bed early/take a bath/watch TV undisturbed. I took the bus on my own and sat on the top level of the double-decker with so much excitement it was ridiculous. Emilie and I went to a sauna and had a massage. The first two hours were complete bliss. Then we had to pump milk in the dressing rooms and we both started to get nervous about being away from home. So we went home and were happy again.

Me and my daughter at LaufMamaLauf during a very sunny day (mind you I also went to training when it was snowing and freezing ;))

Most importantly, I started exercising again. I had ignored my midwife’s advice to do Rückbildung (the German term for postpartum gymnastic). It sounded so boring and I couldn’t imagine my baby staying happy during it. But I needed it to get back control over my bladder. After a bit of googling I found out about LaufMamaLauf. It’s a paid outdoor fitness class for mothers from 6 weeks after giving birth. They have classes all over Berlin and I was lucky that there was one in Steglitz Stadtpark which is just around the corner from where we live. I signed up for a trial lesson and joined immediately afterwards. In the freezing February cold, but never mind! My daughter was then 2 months old. I loved it from the start because it is really tailored to women whose bodies are recovering from birth. Emilie, who gave birth 2 weeks before me via C-section, joined me at LaufMamaLauf 2 months after, and got hooked instantly as well. It helped a lot that we were living in the same area and were doing this together: we were happy to see each other and, in turn, that motivated us not to miss any session. Our teacher Janika was great. She motivated me, gave advice and never ever made me feel like I was weak. And on top, I was meeting other mums with small babies. My daughter usually slept through the classes. I think the fresh air did wonders. After each class we’d go to a nearby cafe to have a drink. A Latte Macchiato of course, decaf for the breastfeeding mums. I was completely and utterly exhausted after each hour of training but I felt so good about myself for having done it. I would come home, feed my baby while lying in bed and then we’d take a nice nap together. Oh yes, and I’d learn a bit of German too.

Emilie and her son during LaufMamaLauf training.

With the passing of time I found more routine in my life as a mum. Around 6 months I stopped breastfeeding. The dizziness went away. Around 9 months I slowly started to feel like a normal human being again. Until now (16 months after the birth), I haven’t gone back to my pre-pregnant self: I still carry some baby-fat, I still can’t remember anything unless I write it down, and I’ve accepted that I can’t go to the toilet in peace. My baby isn’t a baby anymore but a toddler walking around and interacting with me. Time went by so incredibly quickly!

Frankly, even if I sometimes miss my old self, I am accepting more and more the new me (who is so much more confident than my old self!) and this new body (which is much stronger than I ever thought it could be). I am still getting to know “her” but I can’t imagine going back to who I was anymore. So maybe the question we should all be asking ourselves after birth instead is “how to redefine yourself after having a baby”?

It helped me a lot to be connected to other mums who are also struggling in getting used to their new body and mind. That is what we aim to achieve at SuperMamas Berlin: a loving and understanding network  of mothers , who are here to support and listen to each other. After all, we all want to feel good and happy with ourselves again. We might as well do it together!

– Marijke

 

 

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