Your baby is now born. You might very well be thinking – as have millions before you – “Oh, wow! This is really for real!”
The first few hours, days, and weeks of life with your child outside the womb can be exciting and utterly magical. There really is no other life experience that compares to the feelings you have when your child is born. I distinctly remember the births of each of our three babies as if it were just a moment ago. I don’t ever recall feeling so elated as when each of them entered the world right before my eyes!
In addition to the true wonder of bringing your baby into the world, there are understandably going to be times when it as tumultuous as it may have seemed to be when he or she was still inside. But it’s a whole new world now, and that is very, very clear.
You may very well have had a set of expectations about how life was going to be after your baby was born, whether it’s your first child or fifth. Some, if not many of your expectations, may have come true. Some may not. That’s ok. Trying to predict how we’re going to feel about anything is not always so easy. Right?!
For example, your delivery may not have been as smooth as you had hoped it would, your body may not look like you expected post-birth, your expected feeling of utter joy and elation may not arrive on time. Hormones can also play a role in all of this.
This is NORMAL! I promise! There simply is no right or wrong way to feel or be after you have a baby.
Dispelling Some Myths
I thought this would be a great time, in the third and final installment of my series about having a baby, to address some of the myths associated with having a baby. There are several myths that I would like to help address for you to help in this major life transition for you, your baby, and your partner. Clients who are new parents have repeatedly told me that helping them dispel these particular myths has been incredibly helpful in putting their minds at ease. You’ve got enough going on right now, so let’s see if we can bring you some relief.
Myth: All deliveries proceed according to their carefully constructed birth plans. And you wind up crying tears of joy with your adorable little babe in your arms.
Fact: Sometimes yes. Often yes. But not always. It is absolutely the scenario for many people. But the reality is that for many couples unexpected challenges pop up. Whether the baby is past the due date and the gentle hypno-birth you were going to experience at the local birth center is replaced by an induced labor at the hospital, or your labor was slow at first, but then moved quickly and you passed your window for medication, delivering you sweetie drug-free, when that was not the intention. Actual labor and delivery can sometimes be very, very different from what is envisioned for the eight months prior. And this can have a HUGE impact on delivering moms.
Emotionally, these changes can happen so fast, sometimes, that moms can’t really process what is happening. The fear and anxiety that accompany these rapid developments can cause a lot of stress on the mom (and their partner). It’s not until AFTER the birth that the aftermath of this comes out.
Couple this with the physical pain of just having given birth, add in sporadic times of euphoria as you enjoy your new baby, and the sudden shocking feeling of not being totally sure you can do this whole parenting thing. Whoa! It can be a whirlwind of a time for both the new parents.
Breathe easy, it’s alright. This is another instance when you just need to roll with it and be gentle with yourself. You have been through a lot, and it’s OK to need a little time to process all that happened (or didn’t).
Spouses and partners can support, and get support, from each other right now as they revel in the new life before them and share their vulnerabilities with each other. Don’t forget that half of sharing is listening, too. Open communication is very important here. And partners, if your other half who just gave birth is a little hard to read, simply offer lots of love. And especially patience.
If you care and love your child, you will not fail them. You may discover a way of parenting or caring for them that differs from what you’ve read, and that’s wonderful! As I said before, there is no single RIGHT or WRONG way to do something. A thriving child needs love, first and foremost. You can figure out your own styles of parenting as time goes on.
Myth: My wife doesn’t really need me to do anything, so I’ll just sit here and hang out.
Fact: She needs the opposite. When a mom has a baby, her maternal instinct kicks into overdrive. An expectant mom, generally more than their partner, will read and read and read about, not only the pregnancy but also about what items are best for a baby, how to care for a baby, parenting styles, co-sleeping, vaccines, etc., etc., etc. The list really can go on and on! Dads may not have that same sense of information gathering that moms have at first.
Or, after seeing the mom-machine carrying the baby, holding the baby, feeding the baby, changing the baby, getting up at night to feed (which they can’t always do if breastfeeding) and so they feel left out, frankly. Commonly, dads simply don’t think they have much to do! This couldn’t not be further from the truth!
This is where communication comes into play again. No one can keep up with the hectic schedule of a baby on their own for long! It’s exhausting, mentally, emotionally, physically, all of it. Dads DO have a big part in this time, it just might be that they are caring for the MOM rather than baby. Telling her to go take a nap (you may have to be firm in your suggestion), doing some laundry, bringing some tea, rubbing her feet, rubbing her back, cooking meals, offering to bring the baby to her in the middle of the night so she doesn’t have to get up. All these things help and are crucial to making it through the first bit of having a new baby.
Myth: The baby came out of mommy’s tummy and now she doesn’t love me anymore.
Fact: The family did grow, but there is enough love for everyone! Parents have a seemingly bottomless capacity to love their children. However, it can be challenging for siblings when another is added. At first, this little thing that seems to only cry and poop gets ALL the attention and mommy sleeps, or is cranky, or says, “not now,” to every request.
But siblings can also play an important role in caring for the new baby, no matter the age. As far as they want to, have older children help with baby care tasks. Bringing supplies for diaper changes, gathering items to get ready for an excursion, or even holding the little one while YOU get things ready to go. If they are younger, maybe bringing a toy or “playing” with their younger sister or brother can make them feel included and like they are part of the family too. All this interaction helps the new baby bond not only to mom, but to all members of the family and fosters the sense of security that babies need.
Keep an eye on the younger ones, though. Most older children get that their new baby sister or brother is vulnerable and fragile; younger ones may not totally understand. Having said that, they will likely need you to let them know what is ok (safe) and what is not.
Myth: I’m smart, I’ve prepared. I got this. I don’t need any help other than from my husband or partner. I know it’s going to be hard, but I will power through.
Fact: This is exactly the time to call in the troops! I’ve spoken in both Part 1: 9 Questions To Ask Before Having a Baby and Part 2: Congratulations, You’re Pregnant. Now What?! about the importance of building your support system. Well, now is the time they get to leap into action! Even if your spouse or partner takes some leave, you will still need help around the house, especially if you have other children.
Maybe it’s rides to sports practices, or troop meetings, or movie dates. It could be a meal delivery system for the first month. Maybe it’s just coffee (or tea) and someone to talk to who isn’t the baby! Having a person or people who can support and love you, without judgment or expectations, is invaluable at this time.
MYTH: I’m a strong woman. I could never get depressed.
Fact: For some, this is definitely true. But for many others, this is a myth. In the few weeks and months following birth, moms can also experience postpartum depression. Having people around who might notice common signs and symptoms and be there for you is invaluable. We need to be connected to others, and being a new mom can be quite lonely at times, even with someone else in the room.
When a mom is overwhelmed with the constant demands of an infant AND experiences postpartum depression at the same time, the attachment to her infant is at risk. If a mom can’t bond with her baby, she can unwittingly put him or her at risk for health and developmental issues as they grow. This ripples through the entire family and can affect everyone.
I wrote an article a short time ago on the “baby blues” and post-partum depression. And, yes, there is a difference between the two. Click here if you’d like to learn more.
The good news is that post-partum depression is very treatable.
Moms aren’t the only ones who need to take care of themselves. BOTH parents can’t withstand sleepless nights for long. A crying and colicky baby can wear on anyone and everyone’s nerves. I strongly encourage dads to take your own self-care seriously. You know how on airplanes they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first? It’s for a reason.
Dad’s need to take time to recharge periodically as well. When parents take turns with the late nights, take turns with diaper changes and laundry loads, it’s better for everyone. When you get to the point you can leave the baby for a couple hours and go get your nails done, do it! When you can meet your friend for a movie, do it! Don’t ignore taking care of yourself, or else there won’t be anyone who can care for the baby! It’s better for everyone if you take care of your baby and take care of yourselves. This makes for a much happier family and more fulfilling relationships.
I hope that this three-part series on Having a Baby was helpful for you. If you’ve been operating under some of the myths presented here, and would like more support as you move into this new thing called parenthood, please give me a call. I’d love to speak with you and see if I could help you through this important time in you and your partner’s life, and certainly your new baby’s life. I’m more than happy to offer you a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if I am a good fit for what you need. And, again, congratulations on the birth of your new baby!