Article by Andrea Paterson
Now that most of the holiday festivities are over, and we are entering the dreary core of winter, there can be a tendency for mood and energy to take a nose dive. There doesn’t seem to be anything to celebrate, and if you happen to be stuck inside with a fussy baby, staring out at the relentless West Coast rain, or the icy sidewalks, or the three feet of snow outside your door, you might begin to feel trapped and anxious.
My first baby was born in February, and looking back on it I believe the timing had something to do with my postpartum depression. In the winter it can feel extra daunting to leave the house–it involves layers of clothes for you and the baby, rain covers for strollers or carriers, anxiety about how you’re going to feed your child while you’re both bundled up in coats and hats, and worry about whether or not the baby is warm enough, can breathe under all the clothes, or is in some way uncomfortable. Now with my second baby reaching the 6 month milestone I’m facing winter with an infant again, and while I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence, I still find myself throwing in the towel and choosing to stay indoors regularly. The logistics of leaving the house quickly become overwhelming, and while I feel bad for my cooped up five year old, some days I just don’t have the energy to slog to the muddy park with two kids. My anxiety rears its ugly head and we stay home.
The difference between my first winter with an infant and this second one is that this time I’m not berating myself for hunkering down with a cup of tea and letting my older child watch a bit of extra Paw Patrol. I’m not feeding myself the message that I’m a bad mom because my kid didn’t get a bike ride or a trip to park. He gets outside at preschool, he has hockey to go to twice a week, and his dad takes him out on the weekends. He’s not totally lacking for exercise or stimulation. On the darkest and rainiest of days, no one will die if we all stay inside. The winter is tough, and I’ve come to understand that a bit of extra self care is required to survive it. Keeping expectations for outings low can be a form of self care, but sometimes its also nice to find excuses to celebrate (indoors!).
To that end I have discovered an obscure day of observance called National Bubble Bath Day. The entire point is to go out of your way to have a bubble bath. It was celebrated on January 8, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t celebrate late. It’s silly, it’s random, but it’s achievable, and that can make for the best kinds of self care. These small acts of self care accrue, and participating in something vaguely ridiculous, like National Bubble Bath Day, just might have the power to lift your spirits. In these small gestures and movements towards caring for ourselves we, as parents who are struggling, maybe even floundering, can come back to ourselves slowly, and relearn what it is to find pleasure in our lives. Postpartum mood disorders can be slowly eroded by the tiniest acts of self care. Throw enough tiny efforts at the wall of PPD/A and it will eventually crumble, I promise you that. It doesn’t take grand gestures. Sometimes what it takes is a bubble bath today, and an uninterrupted tea tomorrow, and maybe a whole hour to yourself next week, and a 15 minute moment of quiet in the midst of a chaotic weekend. All of these small things matter, and are at the core of what it means to recover. You will find yourself again in the seemingly insignificant acts of self care and you will learn how to find balance.
So perhaps, on National Bubble Bath Day, you can arrange to have 30 minutes to luxuriate in the tub. Or maybe you can have a bubble bath with your child if that’s something you’d find fun. It isn’t much, but it might just create a miniature oasis in the desert of early parenthood. A bubble bath could create the momentum you need to begin caring for yourself in more profound ways. It’s a place to start. If you’re struggling, if you’re exhausted, if your mood is dark and you feel as frozen as the winter ground outside, go ahead and hop in the bath with your favourite book and a heap of bubbles and when it’s over check in with yourself, see if it made even a small difference. And if it did, do it again next week–find a tiny, silly, achievable reason to celebrate and soak your weary bones it in. Let yourself be warmed. And come home to yourself.