Most of us crave some quiet alone time, but for introvert mamas, this is even more important. Briony Goodsell shares how Ayurvedic practices have helped her honour her sensitive soul.
I wanted to be a mama more than anything.
I struggled with infertility for years before I got to hold my daughter in my arms. And when she finally arrived, I found myself where I had dreamed of being for so long: as a mama with a beautiful new baby girl.
But something was wrong.
I didn’t feel like I thought I would. I was overwhelmed. I was filled with self doubt. I was exhausted. I felt scared and alone. I wasn’t enjoying mamahood.
My baby cried a lot. I cried a lot. I found myself asking, what had I done wrong?
Then there was the guilt. I had longed for this for so long, how could I be feeling this way? My husband would leave for work in the morning and I would just cry. I was scared to be alone with my baby.
I now know that I was experiencing postnatal depression.
It completely blindsided me, it wasn’t something I had even thought of.
When I started to experience the same feelings during my third pregnancy, I knew that I needed to seek help.
Here I am, 13 years later and a mama of three fast-growing children (begging for the time to slow down).
Reflecting back on my transition into mamahood now (with the benefit of hindsight and slightly wiser mama eyes), I ponder how different it could have been. If only I had known then what I know now – about my own needs as a sensitive introvert soul, and about what I could have put in place to make my postpartum experiences easier each time.
I truly believe that nothing teaches us more about ourselves, or life, than the rollercoaster journey that is mamahood. Nothing can crack you as wide open, make you dig as deep as you have to, or make you feel so intensely, as being a mama. And that’s what it’s done for me.
Before I became a mama, I was someone that needed alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved catching up with friends, but I always relished my time alone after busy periods.
It wasn’t even a thought in my mind before I became a mama that this time would disappear, at least for the first few months with a new baby and that it wouldn’t ever be the same again.
In traditional cultures there are villages, or tribes, that women are a part of from the moment they are born. Each girl is raised to help out with little ones: she sees women experience pregnancy, birth and the transition into motherhood. It’s not a foreign concept to her.
What a difference to our own modern culture, where it’s not until we become pregnant ourselves that all of a sudden we have a few short months to prepare for our new roles.
We need these tribes.
We need the generations of wise women to guide and support us as we become mamas; to pass down traditional practices that nurture and nourish women into motherhood. We need them to pick us up when we fall down, and to provide much-needed connection. We need them to help us avoid the loneliness and overwhelm that often comes with being a mama.
Where are these communities in our modern day society?
In our culture, we celebrate the tenacity of ‘doing it ourselves’.
Asking for help isn’t a trait we seek to have, but as we move from maidenhood to mamahood, we need to ask for help more than ever. And, we need to feel like it’s okay to ask for help.
We are raised in a culture that can look down on mamas needing ‘me’ time as selfish. But what happens when women burn out because of constantly trying to meet the needs of others but not that of themselves? I’ve definitely been there and it’s not good for anyone. So much of modern day mamahood is spent connected online, but doing it alone.
Reflecting back on my own experiences as a new mama, I wish I had known how traditional cultural practices surrounding new mamahood could have helped to support my physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. I wish I had known some of the beautiful Ayurvedic practices that nourish and heal women after giving birth. Practices such as eating specific Ayurvedic foods that are warm, spicy, moist and easy to digest; keeping warm and allowing yourself to just fall in love with your baby and learn how to breastfeed; having others look after the day to day jobs or caring for other children; and easing back into the world slowly.
And then, when my youngest baby was 6 months old, I was feeling inspired by my own mamahood journey and finally felt that I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to give back in a way that would help other mamas and mamas-to-be as they transition into new mamahood. I wanted to give the support and share the knowledge that looking back, I was so lacking in. So I retrained as a doula and created The Nesting Place.
Over the next couple of years, The Nesting Place grew and my marriage ended.
I found myself a single mama of three and a solo business owner. My business provided a much needed creative outlet and was a lifeline to me during this time, providing some ‘me’ time, albeit in helping others – often being called out to attend birthing mamas for long periods of time (thank goodness for good support!).
How do I manage life as a mama of 3, business owner and sensitive introvert soul? I do my best. Sometimes I feel like ‘hey, this is going ok, we’re doing alright!’ and sometimes the mother guilt kicks in and I feel like I am doing a terrible job.
There are times when I have to pull myself up and remind myself to practice the gentle advice I give to the mamas I care for – self care has to be a priority.
As I enter the next phase of mamahood, teenage-hood (give me strength), I can already feel how I am being stretched in new ways.
As our children change and grow, so do the ways in which they need us: our role is constantly evolving as mamas.
We need to keep checking in with ourselves as women, to make sure our needs are also being met.
Let’s be gentle with each other Mamas. Let’s support and nurture each other. Let’s celebrate our differences. Let’s bring back that village.
We have to find time to nurture our souls.
SENSITIVE SOUL NURTURING PRACTICES:
• Being gentle with yourself – there is no such thing as a perfect mama. We are all just doing our best in the situation we are in.
• Celebrate your uniqueness – try not to fall into the comparison trap. What you see on social media isn’t real and the road someone else is travelling as a mama is their journey, and yours is yours.
• Take some time out – even if it’s just half an hour to sit outside in the sunshine and drink a cup of your favourite tea. It can make the world of difference to just have that little bit of ‘you’ time amongst a day of giving to others. Including something that you enjoy, something that makes you feel good, in every day will help to boost your oxytocin (feel good hormone) levels and this helps to reduce your stress and anxiety.
• Create a ritual – this doesn’t have to be something big or fancy, it might just be that each morning you start the day with a warm shower and some self massage.
• Taking mindful moments. Pausing during your day to ‘check in’ with yourself and your feelings. To stop and be present with where you are, to connect with your breath, to connect with your body.
• Reconnect with something you did before you became a mama, something you love.
• Nourish yourself with good food.
• Catch up with some friends – in real life! Nothing beats face-to-face connection with other likeminded mamas. People you can be real and honest with. Where there will be no judgement but just love, support and reassurance.
Briony Goodsell is a pregnancy and post-partum Ayuverdic Doula who supports women during their pregnancy, the first 40 days/6 weeks postpartum, and ongoing for the first 12 months of motherhood with support Mama groups, educational workshops and more. You can read more about her commitment to new mothers at The Nesting Place.