"What have I gotten myself into?"
"I never thought it would be this hard!"
"I haven't slept in two months."
"No one prepared me for…"
"Everything is different now!"
These are just a few of the thousands of statements I've heard from new moms when they come in for a check-up four weeks after their delivery. Becoming a mom is one of the most rewarding and challenging transitions in a woman's life. Everything changes. Everything! Forget the fantasies. Your old life is waving bye bye!
No, your baby isn't going to go to sleep so that you can prepare a healthy dinner, do a load of laundry, take a shower, answer the phone, emails and prepare for grandma's visit.
Preparing for birth is different than preparing for parenting
What's kind of ironic is how much time we spend preparing for weddings but not the day-to-day reality of marriage. Likewise, we have six weeks of classes for labor, but virtually nothing for parenting. It's backwards.
If you're reading this and you've taken a breastfeeding class or an infant care class, then you are doing great!
The fact is that becoming a mom and learning how to care for your little one is a constantly evolving process that depends on an infinite number of factors that range from how you were parented and your relationship with your partner to what your pre-baby life was like and what your expectations are, and of course so much more.
I was overwhelmed and supposedly I knew what I was doing
I was a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurse who had cared for every kind of childhood condition and still, when it came to my own little bundle of joy, like everyone else, I too was overwhelmed when it came to the sleep deprivation, swings in hormones, a baby who cried and pooped and spit up and didn't sleep and basically did all the normal things that babies do.
I went to a new moms group and it was one of the best things I ever did. Suddenly, I was with MY PEOPLE, other women who used to have it all together and now were trying to just figure out how to find time to brush their teeth and pull their hair back and slap a baseball cap on, oh right and try to rummage around the fridge for something to eat. Shower? Maybe tomorrow!
I'm not alone. You're not alone. And guess what? This is normal! Whew, what a relief to know that I wasn't a complete failure because my baby liked the swing, had a rash, wasn't sleeping the instant we put him down, my husband was acting differently, and I could barely remember my own name, and on and on and on.
If you are like 99.9% of all other mothers and need a little support, then by all means talk to a friend with a baby, join a group, buy a book, or do whatever you need to get the support you need.
Is it Postpartum Depression?
If you or someone you love is struggling more, crying a lot, having difficulty caring for themselves and/or the baby, then it may be more than just a transition and may be postpartum depression.
The good news is that postpartum depression DOES get better if recognized and treated.
Many moms feel ashamed and don't want to talk about their struggles. Many moms feel the same way and feel so much better when they learn that they aren't alone. Other moms are struggling, may not feel connected to their baby the way they thought they should, or that they're too tired to care for their little one, or that they are crying all the time. These kinds of experiences get better when we talk about them with professionals and then get the support we need.
This article first appeared in the November 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.