What were we thinking?
May 13, 2011
When we decide to have a baby (or the idea was placed upon us by an unexpected positive pregnancy test), we start to think about the idea of what it means to have a baby. We imagine all these wonderful thoughts of a sweet baby sleeping and walks in the park with a stroller. We also start to look at our friends who have children. You know, those children who whine, complain and throw temper tantrums and the exasperated parents then just give the child what they want to quiet them down. We think to ourselves, “That won’t be us. We’ll do things differently.”
Now, we find ourselves back on our couch after the monumental event of giving birth and a way too short stay where we had room service and a nurse call button 24 hours a day.
We look at each other, then at the beautiful baby in our arms and simultaneously say, “Now what?”.
Let’s look at the changes for everyone involved to gain some perspective.
| Changes || Mom || Partner || Baby |
| Physical || Yes, Labor || Yes, Stress || Everything changed |
| Hormonal || Yes || Yes || |
| Psychological || Yes (now a mom) || Yes (now a dad) || |
| Emotional || Yes || See above || |
| Disturbed Sleep || Yes || Yes || |
How do we navigate the concurrently tumultuous and joyous waters that is being a new parent? How do we keep our relationship strong while enduring the impact of having a baby?
To start, we need to get back to basics:
- Take time to allow our bodies to heal.
- Take time to bond with the baby.
- Take time to relax and transition into what will become our ‘new normal’ as a new family.
- Turn off electronics and the internet.
- Sleep when we can.
- Ask for help with the laundry and dishes from good friends and family, and allow them to help.
Our culture in the U.S. encourages independence, but look back at all the changes we’re going through and imagine trying to take care of a newborn while recovering all by yourself. That type of attitude may be potentially destructive and set new moms at a higher risk for postpartum mood disorders including depression. It can put too much pressure on partners to feel as though they need to provide everything putting them at risk for depression, as well.
Studies show that 2/3rds of couples report a dissatisfaction in their relationship 1 year out after a baby has been born. Other studies show that a depressed mom may effect how the child functions on up into school age. We owe it to ourselves and our children to get educated about what it means physiologically to have a baby. If you’re pregnant, or just had a baby, there are events, classes, and books that can help teach you the tools to (maybe) end up not asking “What were we thinking?”.