Years ago, I witnessed the President of my Alma Mater have an intimate conversation with Gloria Steinem. Steinem had graduated from Smith College in 1956 and as most know, went on to champion equal rights for women.
At the end of the conversation, they opened up to questions from the audience. A very well-dressed woman in her 30’s stood up and asked, “Can women really have it all?”
Gloria did not hesitate when she answered (and I am paraphrasing here)…
“The only way women can have it all is if they have a partner doing 50% of everything needed to keep a family going. That means physically, emotionally, mentally and financially.”
She went on to explain that her intention for herself and all women was never to create the myth of “Superwoman” that had evolved from the feminist movement. She wanted balanced equality for women in all aspects of their lives.
I left that evening thinking about the lies I had been sold.
Like most women and mothers, somewhere along the way I internalized the idea that overachieving at my job and at motherhood was the goal. That I was smart enough and strong enough to be in 15 places at once all while growing, birthing, and raising a human.
After that night I felt a bit of shame that the strong feminist woman I was at Smith College had transformed into this exhausted and joyless shell of myself.
Yes, my son brings me immense joy. (I’ll add that caveat because 1. It’s true and 2. I know I’m supposed to). But the scales were unbalanced, and I needed to right them.
The reality is that I live hours away from my family and just moved to a new town in a new state and had no support system in place. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was definitely experiencing postpartum depression.
I know, you’d think that someone with a master’s degree in Acupuncture would know what they needed to nurture and nourish themselves postpartum right? The simple answer is: Yes! On paper, I did have the knowledge to take care of myself.
What I realize now is that having a baby draws on every single reserve you have, even the ones you don’t, and it can leave even the smartest, healthiest, educated women weakened and out of balance.
The postpartum transition doesn’t care how “prepared” you are. It rains down like a ton of bricks on all of us.
Writing this article made me reflect on all the mommas I see in my acupuncture practice. I see so many women who want to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and maintain balance and strength for delivery. But once that baby comes…crickets. The reality is that women are unable to continue seeing me because they are inundated with the trials, tribulations, and joys of keeping a newborn alive and healthy.
Since most of us are not raising a child in a village with support and care from a group of elders, here are 5 ways you can help yourself find balance during your transition into motherhood.
Create your own village. A network of women who not only make meals for you but who you can share your authentic self with is key. Break down the façade that we have to appear one way on the outside when inside we are feeling something totally different. We need to be honest about all aspects of motherhood. We hold so much power in our storytelling.
Nourish yourself. And let others nourish you. If they need ideas, you can send them this article. Drink tea and eat foods that support your recovery. You can learn more by reading Foods to Favor and Avoid Postpartum here.
Ask for help. Selfcare is crucial in letting us be the best mommas we can be. When you are able, get in to see an Acupuncturist, Homeopathic Doctor, Chinese Herbalist or Therapist.
Rub clockwise the Acupoint Heart 7. This point is called Spirit Gate because it taps into the deepest part of your heart and can calm your mind and body to help you sleep. It is located on the underside of the wrist crease on the pinky side of the wrist on the outside of the tendon.
Lastly, never ever SHOULD on yourself. You are perfect as you are, and that baby is so lucky to have you as their mommy.
It took me two years to figure this all out. It took two years for me to build my village and restore myself back to the woman I had been. My wish is for you to have this sooner than I did.
Today my son is 13 years old, and I have successfully kept him alive, fed, warm, and happy (well now that he is 13…maybe not so happy all the time) but I didn’t do it alone and I am grateful for the women who have helped along the way.