I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what the heck happens to us on maternity leave. Why do we become so afraid of things that were simple daily functions before (unfolding the stroller for the first time? Going out in public with a baby for the first time?)
Seriously, where does all of this total internal doubt come from? Why is it so bad on maternity leave? Who is this fearful anxious person and where the hell did she come from?
It is a strange experience to have your first baby and consequently have the shell of comfort and security cracked wide open.
EVERYTHING is new and NOTHING is comfortable in the fourth trimester.
It’s only when you look back at photos of newborn baby two years later that actually ‘enjoy’ your baby and have warm fuzzy memories. And when you realize that you finally feel good about your mat leave a year afterwards, you’re like geez, what was I so worried about?
I’ll tell you right now, it’s not you, it’s your brain. It is designed to worry and keep you safe and alive, not happy and growing.
I have come to believe (now that I’ve done it three times) that this initial torment of maternity leave and new motherhood is A GIFT. It teaches us to overcome our own brain and our own biological instincts.
It will take me a few paragraphs to lay this idea out, so bear with me.
We don’t like to push the edges of our comfort zones. This is exactly why personal training as an industry exists. Trainers push us harder than we would go. It is a very small % of the population who push themselves beyond their comfort zone in the gym. Usually, those people are professionals.
Having a baby is like having a personal trainer who pushes all of your comfort zones – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
In addition to having all of our boundaries pushed, we get a bit messed up as well, because our day becomes one of many “human doing” tasks. Amongst all of the “doing” and “laundry” and “diapers” we retreat inside ourselves. On maternity leave, our own internal chatter becomes a loud roar. There’s so much to do on the outside during maternity leave. But there is SO MUCH MORE going on in the inside. Massive love, massive fear, massive engagement, massive suffering, massive doubt, massive confidence. It’s so confusing.
The fourth trimester is a time of contrasts.
There is rich growth + reflection + introspection.
There is also a hell of a lot of doubt, negative internal talk and fear.
Why? The brain and biology of a new mom screaming is a very anxious voice that is pointing out danger EVERYWHERE. You can’t blame your brain. It is collaborating with your hormones and nervous system to keep you and your baby alive and your hormones well tell you EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS. Your brain’s priority in the fourth trimester is not your happiness. It is staying alive.
This is what your brain says to you in the fourth trimester:
“F your sleep, you hear that baby crying? YES. I’m sending you panic hormones right now so that you hear every sound and snuffle, and you will definitely wake up to crying. F your sleep.”
Your brain knows you won’t die with no sleep. So it won’t let you. See? Your brain is entirely unconcerned with your happiness, your wellbeing or any of that. It’s concerned with keeping you and babykins alive. Basic needs.
So how do we manage this?
How do we prevent ourselves from spiralling down into a deep place of self doubt, isolation, anxiety and fear?
How do we make mat leave about growth and expansion rather than isolation and contraction?
I really care about this topic because I contracted on the first, and somewhat on the second mat leave, and began to expand on the second and third mat leaves.
There are so many things to share with you but today, I want to share on Flow State. It is a very specific, very intentional practice that SHUTS DOWN the parts of your brain that are concerned with doubt, self talk, anxiety, etc. We have enough moments in our day where we worry and contract. Let’s carve out some space in our internal worlds to trust and expand, and that starts with activities that put us in flow state.
If you’d like to dive into the science of flow state (they’ve literally scanned the brains of people in flow state) activities that get you in flow and how you can start doing it today, just click onto the next article.
If you read this article and thought YES, YES and YES this is me! Then take the next step. Learn about the science of flow state and start practising it in your life. This is your first chance to practice growth and expansion on mat leave. If you don’t click on the article, then you are staying where you are and staying comfortable. 🙂 That is okay too, sometimes we need to hold the boat steady, stop it from rocking. But once it’s stopped rocking and we are ready to go somewhere, we need to put the sails back up.
(oh and sorry I HAD to use the Moana boat as an analogy. I’m a parent of a 4 year old girl and Moana is AWESOME. And the song lyrics are weirdly approprio for this article.)