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Raquel Kelley's 9 Ways to Maintain Mental Health as a 2nd (or 3rd) Time Mom The writer and podcast host breaks it down.

By Raquel Kelley | Photo by @_mariatoscano

Everyone prepares you for baby. You take the classes, read all the books, buy all the non-toxic, organic, eco-friendly products and gear. I did my research (or so I thought) but was not prepared for everything that was going to happen to ME after baby. 

Now currently cooking my third child, I’m also birthing my first book called Where’d I Go? It is a lift-the-flap board book written not for babies, but for moms based on the identity crisis I had after having my first two. I wanted to create a fun and approachable book that makes these hard topics easier to talk about. 

If there is anything I learned along the way, it’s that our mental health as mothers is just as important as the health of our babies. Here are some things I will be doing differently the third time around: 

1. Talk it Out

Therapy shouldn’t be reserved for times of crisis. I suffered postpartum depression after my second child and therapy is what helped me overcome it. I just wish I hadn’t waited until things got so bad. 

This time around, I’ll have appointments pre-scheduled so I can talk through everything starting week one. Find what format you are comfortable with whether it be text, Zoom, or in-person and get those check-ups booked, not only for baby, but more importantly for you. 

2. Quiet is Key

Amidst those early weeks and months there is lots of noise: a crying baby, the sound of the breast pump (late, sleepless nights I swear I thought it was talking to me!), as well as our own inner monologue. 

Meditation was a tool that helped me through postpartum depression. Whether it’s 5-minutes listening to some Reiki music on YouTube or using a guided app like Mindful Mamas, with all of that going on, it’s very important to get quiet in order to cut through all of that crosstalk.

3. Beware of the Boobs

I thought breastfeeding would be easier the second time around. Nope. Wishful thinking. Luckily, my doula served as my lactation consultant who diagnosed the lip and tongue tie. The surgery is what helped these poor bleeding and cracked nips. 

Whether you decide to breastfeed or not, having a lactation consultant on speed dial is so crucial at the beginning, because making sure baby is feeding properly and getting enough nutrients is half the battle!

4. Find Your Tribe

Making mom friends is kind of like dating all over again. It’s a little awkward and you’re unsure of whether to make the first move. Joining a mom group after having my first newborn was the best decision I made. We all weren’t sure what the hell we were doing, but we were winging it together, which is what mattered most. 

Even with number three, I can barely remember what those early months were like. (I blocked them out, which is how I was able to have more.) I will be joining another mommy & me class again, because there is no comparison to being in the thick of it together.

5. Your Original Tribe May Change

Lots of things change after labor: your body, your emotions, even your friendships. I can remember calling up my best friends who had kids prior to me and saying, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were going through this!” It’s hard to understand the full depths of motherhood until you are in it yourself. 

It’s easy to feel some resentment toward friends who get to go about their lives making last minute weekend plans that don’t revolve around naptime or booking a nanny. Try not to take your frustration out on them. Know that friendships may change as you change as a mother, but change doesn’t have to be bad, just know it will be different. 

6. Rest & Recover

There is no award given to the first one out of yoga pants and out at their old stomping grounds. Your body has undergone a major trauma and needs time to recuperate. 

The first time around I pushed myself too hard, too soon. I tried to be a superstar and brunch with girlfriends like nothing had just happened to my body. It ended up backfiring and causing issues with the stitches. After my second, I learned my lesson and stayed in bed for about two weeks and took it slow. The recovery after that one ended up being much faster. Note to self, slow and steady wins the race!

7. Help Wanted

Go ahead and hang this sign on your front door. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to need support. The whole, “It takes a village,” saying wasn’t created for nothing. 

I lived across the country from my family with my first two children, so I had to rely on others when I needed a break. People aren’t mind readers, so in order to get help, you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for it. 

8. Lower Your Expectations for Yourself

Your only goal after giving birth is to keep a human alive. I felt I needed to be everything to everyone the first time around – the best mom, wife, and career woman. But as I rocked Depends and waddled around until week 6, I felt like I was failing everyone. My own unrealistic standards led to my own unnecessary guilt. 

Set your bar so low that just functioning each day seems high!

9. Lower Your Expectations for Everyone Else

Lastly, be sure to also lower your standards for everyone around you. While your world may have been rocked whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, others are still living their own busy lives.  

Sure, we’d love everyone to drop everything and help us out, but we can’t expect them to.  The more we lower our expectations of ourselves and others, the less chance we are to be let down. So, when you do receive that baked lasagna or unexpected drop-in visit, it’s even more the lovely!