When I gave birth, no one mentioned that I might hear babies crying even when mine was fast asleep, or that I’d wake up at 3:00am rocking a pillow and not remembering my baby was in her crib, questioning my mental stability. No one told me that this very early stage of parenthood was quite normal and that I wasn’t a bad mother for having these thoughts or feelings.
I spent the first few weeks wondering if things would ever get better, trapped in the mindset that my overwhelming exhaustion would beat me and I would never be free from the four walls of my house again. The reality is that those first few weeks were the biggest test, and the most rewarding proof of my own strength.
By week 3 we’d left the house as a new family multiple times in the week, but I knew that would be changing once my partner returned to work. I didn’t know how I was going to navigate the outside world now that I had to think about prams, bottles, bags, milk, breast pads, nappies, and every other possible essential I might need along the way.
Making plans was always my ‘get up and go’ and I now needed to adjust to a life where that wouldn’t be practical all of the time.
Monday morning rolled around and I was suddenly left alone with my baby. I don’t think I even got dressed for the first week alone with my daughter, and I recall answering the door in nothing but a bra and pants on one occasion. By the second week with my partner back at work, it felt more achievable to start leaving the house again.
We needed milk and this felt like an ideal opportunity to take the 5 minute walk to my local shop. Both me and baby were ready and were about to leave the house when I suddenly felt dizzy, breathless and scared. My hands went sweaty and it felt like one step outside would turn my legs to jelly. I gave up and stayed home, telling myself I’d just go out tomorrow instead. By the following week I realised I’d said the same thing everyday, “I’ll just go out tomorrow”.
It wasn’t until a doctors appointment was approaching that I realised how much this was becoming a problem. I didn’t know how I would be able to do it, or if I even could. I kept telling myself “I have to do this for my baby and for me” and “I know this will feel good, I love being outside” but it was quickly combatted with intrusive thoughts of, “what if it all goes wrong?”. Well, what if it does? What would I do? Come home I suppose, and how would I know if I didn’t try. So, we did it.
Initially, my hands were gripped so tightly around the pram, my knuckles were white and I was breathing like I was on a run. But, as I took each step further away from the house and away from my security blanket, it started to feel like my body was loosening up.
This was the feeling I’d been missing most. The fresh air filling my lungs and the uplift nature provides us with. It was like a welcome hug from the outdoors, a familiar friend. I realised in that moment that I get to enjoy the outdoors whenever I want to and it’s also my responsibility to allow my daughter to do the same.
When I got back home, I truly felt on top of the world. I wanted to do it again, and again and again. The next day I went into town, walking the whole way. Then I walked my local nature trail, and my daughter got to see ducks for the first time. And now I’m outside almost everyday where it’s achievable, even if it’s just in the back garden to enjoy the sun or feel the rain on my face.
I don’t have to stop going outside because I had a baby, I just get to experience it all in a totally new and different way. Having a baby has made me realise that yes, I am a mother, but I’m also an individual who needs to care for their mental and physical wellbeing. I know how good it feels to spend time outside, how it boosts my mood, my energy and my productivity. Remembering that when things are hard can be difficult, but every time I take just one step outside my front door, I can thank myself for doing what makes me happy. I can remind myself of just how important it is to be outdoors at any opportunity I can.
Getting outside with my baby makes us both feel good. It provides me with breathing space and to enjoy nature with someone who’s experiencing it all for the first time, and that’s quite beautiful.
Blog written by: Sarah Crossley, Marketing and Communications Officer at SASP