Women are often led to believe that motherhood is going to be magical. They will see their child and will instantly love and cherish the wee babe. Labor and delivery will seem just a distant memory as she holds her bundle of joy. And for some women, that’s exactly what happens. But what about when it’s not?
The truth is, labor and delivery take a lot out of a woman. It’s possible that the most overwhelming feeling she may have when handed her baby for the first time is relief that the pregnancy and birth are over, as well as abject terror that this small person is now her responsibility.
The Newborn Baby Blues
New mothers often feel very guilty if they have difficulty adjusting to being a mother. But it’s not that surprising that some women take awhile to get used to the new role. First off, labor and delivery are exhausting. Between the physical and hormonal changes happening the first few days after birth, it’s not surprising that some new moms are more interested in taking a nap or having a little time alone than admiring their baby.
The instant lifestyle change that occurs when a child is born can also make the situation overwhelming. Gone, at least for awhile, are the days of sleeping in, impulsive weekends away and being able to say, take a shower or eat a hot meal whenever the mood strikes. Suddenly, everything revolves around the needs of this small person whose only method of communication is to cry, leaving the parents to figure out if the child needs to eat, be changed or just held.
Asking for Help With a New Baby
Because mothers think they are supposed to instantly and seamlessly transform into a happy and near perfect mom, it’s very hard to ask for help when needed. Please do it anyway. A good place to start is to talk to other new moms or mothers of young children who are more likely to remember the newborn days. Often, just hearing that other new mothers felt just as scared and overwhelmed, in the beginning, can go a long way to easing stress and guilt.
If possible, seek help from family and friends in the early days. Even if grandma comes over for an hour in the morning to allow the new parents to take a shower and a catnap, it can be a big help. Those feelings of love and excitement for the baby will come, it’s just not always instantaneous. The key is to hold on and get through until then.
Know that this stage is temporary. Before long, new routines will be established, the baby will begin sleeping through the night and the parents will be adjusted to their new roles. Parenting also becomes easier and more rewarding after the first few months, as parents learn to differentiate their child’s needs, and even more so when the baby begins smiling and the parents feel there is some feedback from the baby.
If sad or overwhelmed feelings persist or get worse, or if there are any thoughts of harming oneself or the baby, please call a doctor or go to the hospital right away. Postpartum depression can be very serious, and there is no need for a woman to suffer alone. Sometimes, therapy and/or medication are necessary, and there is no shame in this.
Although it’s true that all mothers love their children, not all mothers fall in love instantly. For some, it’s more of a gradual process. Talking to other mothers, being kind to oneself, and asking for help when needed are all important to ease the transition to motherhood.