motherhood, Postpartum

Mom Guilt: Why it’s Bullsh*t and How to Give it the Middle Finger

When you bring up the term “mom guilt” women will open up about their story: Working mom guilt, stay at home mom guilt, single mom guilt, daycare guilt, household guilt.

There are so many things we can feel guilty about as new moms.

Today we’re talking more about this guilt. We’ll discuss where it comes from and how we can work to overcome mom guilt so that we can be more present and confident in motherhood.

Watch it:

Read it: The transcript

Hello and welcome back to that Taboo ABCs of Postpartum!

G is for guilt and we are talking about working mom guilt stay at home mom guilt, bottle feeding guilt, nursing guilt, introverted mom guilt extroverted mom guilt…
You guys, there are so many freaking ways to feel mom guilt.

Many New Moms Feel Guilt

Every single time I talk to a new mom, I hear the word guilty. I feel guilty that ______. Go ahead, fill in the blank for yourself. And then we’re going to talk about what to do with this guilt, why we have mom guilt, and how we can overcome it so that we can be more confident and connected in our own motherhood journey. Guilt takes an even bigger toll for many in the family situations during COVID.

For those of you tuning in for the first time, my name is Chelsea Skaggs, I am the founder of postpartum together where we work to help women overcome the pressure to be Pinterest perfect, and to find more confidence, connection and communication and just some freakin joy in their journey, I focus on working with women between three to 10-ish months after baby because listen, as the fog starts to lift, that’s when we have all of these feelings and thoughts and ideas, processing all the changes. And it’s the perfect time to figure out how we move forward as women as moms and all the things that make up our identity.

So today we’re talking about guilt and I want to share with you some of the things I have heard from my clients recently.

As a Mom, I feel guilty about:

-how I’m feeding my baby

– The way I birthed my baby

-Amount of time I do or don’t spend with my baby

– I feel guilty for not giving enough of myself to my partner

-Not being social enough

-Because my house isn’t cleaned

– For wanting any space to myself and to get away from my family.

All right, so if you’ve ever thought any of those thoughts, listen, you’re not alone. Because these are all things that I have heard from moms just like you recently.

 

 
Tips for getting rid of mom guilt

4 Ways to Get Rid of Mom Guilt

So let’s talk about four ways to get rid of mom guilt. Because sister it’s not looking good on you. Just kidding, I just want you to be feeling confident. I want you to feel like you are not behind, to feel like you don’t have to live in the world of shoulds and guilts. And I want you to feel that you can be connected and competent in your way of motherhood.

1. Teach your support people how you need to be affirmed and cared for.

Maybe it’s that you need someone to notice that the house is clean. Alright, we are going to have to teach our support people to say that or to acknowledge that if that is what makes us feel fulfilled and not feel guilty. Maybe it is that we are feeding in a different way than we expected to talk to your support people about how difficult that is for you. If it’s difficult if you’re feeling guilt, acknowledge it, talk about it and make a space to say hey, this is actually what I need to help me come back this guilt so we are teaching the people around us how to better support us because the chances are they want to support us.

2. Take a break from the things that make you feel shitty, and cause comparison.

This is often social media or magazines or that trashy ass reality show that you find yourself watching. If you are feeling this ongoing comparison it can sound many ways. Like you just can’t keep up with this person or she can do it so easily, or look how good she looks, her house looks, or her kids look then it’s causing you some stress and comparison. This then piles right into the feelings of guilt that you have because you’re shaming yourself and listen, you can step away, you can turn it off, you can take a break, you can mute whatever it is that you need to serve you so that you’re not drowning in this pile of guilt.

3. Honestly reflect on each day and celebrate one win when we are in the throes of postpartum

When the days are blurring together, we’re hardly getting a chance to shower. Whatever that looks like for you in those early days, it can be hard to feel like we have done enough or done good enough.

Maybe it’s when you’re returning to work or you’re getting into the stay at home rhythm or you are you know figuring out what you’re doing. Social life and friendship and relationships can be tough in this season. It’s easy to feel like we’re not doing enough because again, that comparison game tells us that other people are doing it better, they’re doing it more, they’re doing it easier, like they are winning and we are losing. And that makes us feel guilt for not being good enough. So I want you to take time to reflect each day on one win that you’ve had. And listen, if you’ve had one win, that is a day worth celebrating.

4. Schedule five to 10 minutes a day to think or feel for yourself about yourself.

Do this so that you can be proactive in your brain, reminding yourself and affirming yourself. Know that you are not dictated by the comparison outside or by what other people think or what other people are doing, but spend that time with you.

Is the Mom Guilt Helpful?

Here’s the question I want to leave you with:
-What guilt am I carrying that isn’t helping me, my baby or my family?
-Next, how will I process that and let it go so that it doesn’t have a hold on me?
This takes work, intention and practice.

And if you’re looking for a safe space, to process out all the changes of postpartum to put tools and resources into place to have accountability to have connection we are here for it. Check out our next postpartum together small group offerings at postpartumtogether.com/groupcoaching and make sure that you subscribe to this channel (and blog) so that you can get the next videos in the taboo ABCs of postpartum series.

Postpartum

Sex After Birth: When & How to Approach Postpartum Sex

How do you know when you’re ready to have sex after birth?

husband wants to have sex but i just had a baby and i’m not sure if i’m ready

Do you need to be ready to have sex again 6 weeks after giving birth? If you get an “all clear” from your doctor or midwife at your checkup, does that mean you should feel ready for sex again?

A lot of women find themselves confused and feeling isolated when it comes to the conversation of sex after baby. Who can you talk to about sex when you’re a new mom? Can you bring it up at playgroup or with your friends? Women feel like they should be ready, even if they aren’t. This leaves new moms wondering if they’ve done something wrong, if their body is “broken” or if they are disappointing their partner.

The pressure to be ready for sex after birth can come from many places.

  1. Many providers mark the 6-week check up with an “all clear” to return to sex and exercise.

    While some providers take time to discuss all the changes a woman has experienced after having a baby, many women have felt rushed in these appointments and deduced to being sexual and fit again. This conversation of “your vagina is healed, you can have sex and exercise” creates a layer of pressure for a mom to be ready for intercourse.

  2. Pressure can come from a society that prioritizes sex in many ways

    There is an underlying assumption that a new mom “owes” sex to her partner because the partner has waited until mom is physically able again.

  3. Some women feel pressure from partners who don’t understand all the changes of new motherhood.

    A partner may feel like an “all clear” from a doctor is the green light everyone needs. When women are taught so little about their natural changes in postpartum, partners have even less understanding. This can be confusing and cause resentment in couples.

RELATED: Is this Weird for Everybody? Postpartum Sex

mom is not sure what to expect having sex after giving birth.

So What Does It Mean to be “Ready” for Sex Again?

A woman needs more than healed stitches to be ready for sex. It is a mental, emotional AND physical experience and transition. Some women are ready to get “back in the sack” right away, but for many women this is complicated and takes more time than the prescribed “all clear.”

Physically Ready

Being physically ready for sex includes healed birth sites- whether that is vaginal or cesarean (or both). This is usually what your medical provider is checking for you and giving an “all clear” for at a follow up appointment. Your pelvic floor undergoes a lot of changes and sometimes damage through birth and delivery. Many countries have pelvic floor physical therapy as standard care. In America, this is often something the new mom must seek-out. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be extremely beneficial if you’re struggling with incontinence, a “bearing down” weight on your pelvis and/or if sex is painful at any point. Many women (including myself) find sex to be significantly better after pelvic floor rehab. Breastfeeding can create a different feeling in your breast. If your breasts have been players in sexual experiences previously, you may need to address the change in sensation, feeling or even breast pain as you adapt to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can also cause more vaginal dryness meaning- lots of lube is needed!

RELATED: Do I need to Exercise My Pelvic Floor?

Mentally Ready

Motherhood, especially early motherhood, takes a lot from you mentally. Your day is filled with figuring out how to take care of baby, set new schedules, making appointments, figuring out naps and feedings, etc. On top of this, your hormones are continuing to shift and many women are met with some mental health struggles in postpartum.

It is just as important for a new mom to be mentally ready for sex as it is for her to be physically ready.

When you are thinking about engaging sex again, consider what mental roadblocks you are facing. Is it hard to find time to think about anything sexual and therefore, get in the mood? Are you facing anxiety, depression or another struggle impacting your libido and mood? Is your changed body creating self-talk that is impacting your confidence?

Once you are able to identify these mental roadblocks, they are important conversations to have with yourself, a trusted friend and your partner. Working through these things not only has a positive impact on your sex life, but your life and motherhood overall.

feel like i’m not ready for sex after birth but my husband really wants it

Emotionally Ready

If we feel depleted, it can be hard for us to connect. If we feel resentment or like our needs aren’t being met, we can shut down. Being emotionally prepared for sex can mean having our cup filled and feeling safe and accepted. This could be seeking self-acceptance, acceptance from our partner, etc.

If you are feeling depleted and/or disconnected, prioritize intimacy that is not necessarily sexual, but creates space for you to be seen and feel connected. This could be intentional conversations with your partner, foreplay, body acceptance practices and self-talk, etc.

RELATED: Postpartum Emotions

Words from the Postpartum Together Community

When I asked my online community what they would like to say to a mom who is thinking about sex again after baby, here is what they had to say. May these words help you remember you’re never alone, motherhood and relationships are messy, and there’s no one “right” way or timeline for you.

  • Listen to your body and take the time you need (before and during)

  • Talk to your spouse about your insecurities and what they can do to help

  • Use lots of lube

  • Stop if you’re in pain or uncomfortable

  • Start by taking a shower and appreciating this new you

  • It’s okay to not be ready. Your body is a priority.

  • Don’t feel bad if you need to stop

  • Don’t force anything

  • Sometimes your mind is your biggest enemy. If you feel ready, try. If it’s not comfortable, stop.

  • Lots of foreplay

  • It can be scary and overwhelming

  • Talk about it. A Lot. Take it slow. Try and relax.

  • You create your own timeline

  • Your husband doesn’t care that things are in different places- he loves all of you, not parts of you.

  • Go for it if you’re ready. It can help you return to parts of yourself that you have forgotten in motherhood.

  • Speak up about what feels good and what needs to be different

  • Decide to make it more about you and have fun

  • It’s okay if you don’t want to have intercourse but do find other ways to connect with your partner

  • You are still sexy

  • Just because there is societal pressure doesn’t mean you’re ready

  • Everyone’s experience is different and that is okay

Related: Setting Boundaries After Baby

Everyone’s experience is different. 

That is okay. Your experience is valid. 

There are ways to move into intimacy and sex, but there are not timelines or guidelines you need to abide by.

Having sex after birth is different for everyone, but there are a number of things you can evaluate to help you know if you are ready, what your needs are, and how to communicate that with your partner.

FREE DOWNLOAD:
6 Questions to Help You Get Back in the Sack

(Click to download)

sex after baby hurts, i don’t know if i’m ready for sex after birth, postpartum mom wants more time before sex again
Postpartum

Postpartum Emotions: The Changes and Feelings to Expect as a New Mom

The Stages of Postpartum Emotions You May Experience

When it comes to postpartum emotions of new moms, we have a long way to go in normalizing how big and different these might be.

“Women are so damn emotional.”

The statement, often said as an insult to belittle the experiences and feelings we have, is actually something worth celebrating.

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emotion+changes+after+a+baby-min.jpeg

Humans are Made to Be Emotional

Humans are emotional. This is nothing to be ashamed of- it’s in our makeup. We learn to navigate the world through a mix of logic and emotional response. Our body naturally creates factors that impact our emotional experience. Our autonomic nervous system causes our physical and mental reactions in an emotional response. Emotions allow us to feel and experience our life.

Somewhere down the line, women’s emotions have been discarded as a joke or a bother. We have been trained to push our emotions away and out in times when they should be flourishing and serving us. We start to see it in menstruation. The flux of hormones in our body creates higher intensity emotions.

There are jokes and skits about disregarding a woman at this time. Further down the line, there are the emotions of pregnancy. This is a time that is full of transformation for a woman and yet we so often hear “Oh, she’s just so emotional.” Or we even say it ourselves “Don’t mind me, I’m just emotional.” While there is some jest in the extremities we can experience, it doesn’t change the reality that these emotions are a biological response and are often telling us something important. Brush over them, and we miss a chance to really see the experience in its’ entirety.

RELATED: How Long is Postpartum?

Postpartum Emotions: They are Normal

Months later we enter postpartum. This time following childbirth where everything has undergone a change. In this time there are a number of factors contributing to our emotional response- each valid and each with a place in our transition. Again, these are not something to be ashamed of. They are wired in us for a reason and they can shine a light on areas we need to give attention to. Tuning into these emotions, through different stages of postpartum, can help us to be mindful and intentional in our postpartum time and give us the prompts we need to take proactive steps in our own healing.

In this post, I will walk you through 5 stages of Postpartum Emotions. As a postpartum coach, I’ve collected stories of hundreds of women. These stories have allowed me to dig into the transitions we all experience, the questions we all have, and the ways we can proactively address them so we can have the most fulfilling emotional transition in postpartum and beyond. You can also get guided processing through these stages in the Postpartum Together Small Groups.

HOW LONG IS POSTPARTUM?

First, how do we define postpartum? Some women think of postpartum as 6 weeks. This is because at 6(ish) week we have a follow up with our medical provider. At this appointment, we are given the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. We are usually cleared to “go back to normal” in things like sex and fitness. Many moms walk away thinking things should be “normal” without guidance and support on what this new normal might look or feel like for them. (Spoiler alert: This “normal” continues to change and evolve.)

Some women see postpartum as the equivalent to maternity leave. In America, the average maternity leave alloted is 12 weeks.  This means many moms get to the 3-month mark and feel the pressure to have control of these evolved areas of their life.

When referring to postpartum, I am referring to a period of time after a baby in which you feel you are transitioning. For the majority of women I surveyed, 2 years was the average amount of time they felt “in postpartum.” This feels like a good baseline for me as well. Maybe your postpartum period is shorter and maybe it is longer, but 2 years is the general time frame I’m referring to.

5 STAGES OF POSTPARTUM EMOTIONS

So what are these 5 stages and what are they made of?

the birth of a baby is also the birth of a mother

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Immediate Postpartum Emotions:
THE HOURS AFTER BIRTH.

This is marked by:

  • Hormonal fluctuation

  • Your connection with baby (be it a feeling of instant connection or not- neither is “right”)

  • Exhaustion from the birth

  • Feelings about the birth experience vs. your expectations prior to the birth

  • Internalized feelings about your abilities- instant ideas about your ability to be a mother.

    The immediate stage of postpartum is a sacred time where women need to feel honored in their emotions. There is not one “right” way to feel after birth. No matter your experience- take time to process what birth was like, how it shaped your view of yourself as a mother and what it spoke to you about the days ahead. This is a time to rest, push aside anything unnecessary and be present with yourself and immediate family.

Early Postpartum Emotions

THE FIRST WEEKS AFTER BIRTH.

This is marked by:

  • Fluctuating hormones (Most hormones take 6-8 weeks to balance. However, factors like thyroid and breastfeeding can cause this to be longer.)

  • Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Feelings about your “new” body

  • Feelings about your partner

  • Being needed 24/7

  • Expectations of others

The early stage of postpartum is a sensitive time when we are making intentional choices about this huge life transition. We are making these choices with limited sleep and fluctuation hormones. It is important during this time to draw boundaries to protect your own physical, mental and emotional health. This may mean boundaries around family and friends. This may mean boundaries around what you’re absorbing through social media, TV, etc. During this time you are being needed in a way you never have before and that leaves little room for rest and self-care. These boundaries are so important for our preservation and personal empowerment.

RELATED: The Breastfeeding Cookbook

Short-Term Postpartum Emotions

WEEKS TO MONTHS AFTER BIRTH

This is marked by:

  • Hormones (yes, still!)

  • Presenting your “new self” to society

  • Returning to work/church/social groups/etc

  • The mental load of motherhood

  • Finding (or not) personal enjoyment

The short term stage of postpartum is a transition from a small circle to a larger circle. As you begin to return to old or new rhythms you are presenting a change version of yourself and learning how that integrates into old spaces. You are absorbing the mental load of motherhood as you work to create rhythms for yourself and your family unit. As you return to public spaces, you may feel overlooked as people dote over the baby but do not ask many questions about you. You may also be finding small pockets of time in which I encourage you to engage something for personal enjoyment- be it a hobby, friend, etc.brain neurological changes in postpartum

Mid-Term Postpartum Emotions

MONTHS AFTER BIRTH

This is marked by:

  • Fog lifted

  • Possible identity crises/struggle

  • Internalized expectations from yourself

  • Perceived expectations from others

  • Balancing work/home/marriage/social

During these mid-term months, we start to think about who we are in a new season of life. You may be questioning or dialing in on our values and priorities. Additionaly, you may see changed friendships. You are putting more expectations on yourself as a mother and we are perceiving the expectation from others around us. We are working to find a balance- and balance does not mean everything is equal. This means we are figuring out what we need to sustain what is necessary. This is a common time women see their mental health needs as fog is lifted but they are not feeling “normal” like they expected to after the first few weeks of adjusting to motherhood. This is a great time to reach out to someone if you are still experiencing difficulty with mental health.

Long-Term Postpartum Emotions

postpartum lasts up to two years

MONTHS TO YEARS (2+) AFTER BIRTH

This is marked by:

  • Feelings about the evolved self

  • Feelings about your evolved family and family role

  • Experienced social dynamics

  • Perception of achievement and purpose

As our children grow and become more independent, we see another transition as we see our evolved self and family. We are responding to our experiences socially now that our own dynamics have shifted. We are also grappling with what achievement and purpose mean to us. While some women preserve their pre-baby interest, some women struggle to return to them and others have new interests that emerge. This is a time to think about your personality type, your role within your family, friends, and community and find ways to experience your unique purpose and sense of achievement.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

POSTPARTUM, TOGETHER

Postpartum is an emotional time, but that does not have to be a negative phrase. Our emotions give us insight and can propel us forward into new seasons and ways of life. By being aware of these shifts, we can address them internally and with those near to us so that we can feel understood and empowered during this time.

Momma- no matter what stage you’re in (or will be in the future), your experience is valuable and seen. Gone are the days of “putting on a pretty face and brushing over anything uncomfortable.” We are here to show up, be present and be confident in our transitions and experiences. If you would benefit from more support and community in your postpartum period (and who wouldn’t?), maybe Postpartum Together is for you.

What is/was the biggest transition you experienced emotionally in postpartum? When did you notice this most? Let me know in the comments!

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postpartum emotions and postpartum groups for new moms
Postpartum

New Baby, Lost Identity

DEAR POSTPARTUM MOM: IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW YOUR IDENTITY RIGHT NOW.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

Hey momma- let’s take a walk together down memory lane.

LIFE AS AN ADOLESCENCE

Let’s go back a bit and revisit one of those times in life where things felt out of whack.

Ah, adolescence. “The process of developing from a child to an adult.” I’m sure there are many stories you could tell me about this time. Stories about your body changing. Stories about your emotions changing. Stories about your friendships and interests changing. You probably have something really embarrassing that happened during this time (and most likely it was in front of that first real crush and you wrote about it in your secret diary.)

don’t feel like myself anymore after baby

Our society has accepted this adolescence as a normal part of growth. Something to not only acknowledge but also, in the midst of all of its’ awkwardness, to celebrate. It’s important for us to take a minute to experience laughter and tears as we look back and see that, even when we thought that time would never end, it did. Even when we thought we were going to crumble away in a corner somewhere after our 7th-period class, we didn’t. You’re here and you aren’t the same woman you were before the hormones and mental shifts and expectations changed around you.

So here we stand today, in the present moment. You have entered this realm of motherhood and I bet if you really think hard about it, a lot of things feel similar to those distant years of transitioning from a child to an adult.
Hormones.
Emotions.
Friends.
Expectations.
Interests.

(Did I already say emotions? It’s worth saying twice.) So many things are changing and it feels outright confusing sometimes. In contrast to your teenage years, though, now you feel the pressure to keep it together. You feel the pressure to innately know how to accomplish these new tasks and expectations. You feel pressure for all of the change to come ‘naturally’ and you’re feeling down on yourself when it doesn’t. Here’s the truth, momma, just like taking care of new breasts, starting to date, having more responsibilities and handling your roller coaster emotions didn’t come without difficulties the first time, this second major transition isn’t without its’ own set of new and unique struggles. Just because society doesn’t give you as much grace doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.

MATRESCENCE

matrescence changing me as a new mom

In her anthropological studies of mothers across the world, postpartum advocate Dana Raphael coined the term “matrescence.” This term and study has been on the rise as others like reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks bring it into the light (watch her awesome Ted Talk). Sacks defines matrescence as “the developmental phase of new motherhood, (it) is like adolescence — a transition when hormones surge, bodies morph, and identity and relationships shift.”

Does that sound familiar? Hormones? Bodies? Identity? Relationships? Matrescence makes so much sense, even if t it is still not a widely adopted and acknowledge part of our society.

RELATED: Emotions of Postpartum

FINDING YOURSELF AS A NEW MOM

Momma, today you are in the midst of your matrescence. Whether you became a mother a day, a week, a month or a year ago, you are in your transition. You look different. You feel different. You think differently (both intentionally and unintentionally.) The things that once defined you may or may not be relevant right now.

  • Sometimes it feels like you swapped bodies with a stranger.

  • Sometimes your hormones cause you to think and feel and act differently than you intend to.

  • The top things that make you YOU may be shifting.

  • You have probably lost some friendships, gained some friendships, and seen dynamic changes across relationships.

  • Sometimes you wonder what happened to the doting and attention you were getting as a pregnant woman and how it so fleetingly disappeared as the baby took the whole stage. (Yes, we love the baby too, but momma is still here and still needs help!)

trying to find myself after baby

When you sit down at the end of a long day, you may feel like you just don’t know who you are. In the midst of taking on new roles and putting aside old roles, you might feel lost in a shuffle. A shuffle that is your life and yet sometimes it feels like it is operating outside of you and you are just an onlooker. You might have an argument with a loved one and afterward think “Who am I? Why did I say that?” You might try to keep work or social things in order only to find them jumbled. You might look day after day at your postpartum body and wonder if it’s ever going to be “back to normal.” Maybe you flip flop back and forth in thinking about who you want to be known as and what would make you feel “accomplished” day after day. Maybe you know you love your kids, but you also miss the things that gave you life before you were a mother.

You will probably think and feel variations of these things, and you should. It can be uncomfortable. The growing pains- they still suck sometimes. For some women, their experience includes postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis (click here to see the warning signs of these very valid and treatable conditions). May you don’t qualify with something diagnosable, and so your feelings in this transition are often dismissed.

But you need not be dismissed, you still need space to grow and learn and process. You are still in the midst of something that needs to be recognized, validated and dare I say- celebrated even when it feels like a mess. You need spaces to grieve and celebrate because your life, it has changed in one of the biggest ways possible. It is not silly for you to struggle. It is not dramatic for you to feel so intensely. It is not wrong for you to not know your identity in this time. It is a normal part of the transition, but as we know, normal does not equal easy and just because we all go through it doesn’t mean any of us should go through it alone.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

Postpartum mom- it’s okay to not know your identity right now.

finding myself again after having a baby