First-time parents, and even parents who already have one or more children, will find that it takes a couple of weeks to adjust to parenting a new born baby. Many first-time parents have reported feeling overwhelmed as they take on the responsibility of caring for a new, tiny little life.
Your lifestyle will take on dramatic changes, and for the first few weeks, you may feel as if all your energy and time is spent caring for baby. The good news is that, if handled correctly and sensibly, this time can be a perfect chance for you and your partner to celebrate the birth of your child and to also adjust to your new roles as parents.
The first few weeks
All major change requires some time and space before one starts to feel comfortable again. Think about when you finished school, moved out of your parents’ house, and started your first job. Everything seemed so exciting but also a little scary. This is the life you wanted, the life you chose, but in the back of your head you kept wondering if you were going to be okay out in the big, wide, world. But you turned out more than just okay. Here you are, expecting your first baby. What a wonderful and exciting experience.
However, it is important to realize that it’s okay and perfectly normal to feel somewhat scared and nervous. Having a baby is a big change, and it will take time for you to be comfortable with your new role as a parent. Give yourself space and time to get to know your baby and to build a bond. Remember, many parents have said that it took them time to fall in love with their baby and to learn how to be a mother, or father. So, time together will give you the opportunity to adjust, and to enable a smooth transition into parenthood.
Got the blues?
You have spent months dreaming about the day baby finally arrives. This is the greatest gift you could ever ask for. So why, now that the time has come, are you feeling sad? You were expecting to feel elated. This is the happiest day of your life, after all. So what gives?
Experts have said that the sudden change in hormone levels following the birth of your baby can cause you to feel somewhat down and out. Soon after you conceive, your hormones rise steeply and remain there for the duration of your pregnancy. However, soon after you give birth, the level of hormones crash and this could lead to you feeling weepy, anxious, irritable and indecisive.
It is perfectly normal to go through a bout of the ‘baby blues’. And it is perfectly normal for a new mom to doubt herself, feel unable to cope and even feel frustrated. The good news is that they only last for a week or two. And, in the meantime, you can try alleviating the symptoms by ensuring you get adequate rest, maintain a proper diet, take gentle exercise, talk about your feelings, avoid stressful situations and be kind to yourself.
It is important for all new moms to note that, if you suspect that it is more than a case of the ‘baby blues’ and that you are in fact going through post natal depression, it is important to seek professional, medical treatment. This does not make you any less of a mother. It is a medical condition that can be treated if given the right care.
You and your partner
Caring for a baby can be demanding and, initially, exhausting. You may suddenly find that there is just not enough time in the day for yourself, let alone for you and your partner. Most parents will say that trying to manage the lack of time is one of the toughest things to handle during the first few weeks of having a baby, as most of your waking and sleeping time goes into caring for the infant. During this period, it is important to make time for yourself and also for your partner and to keep communication lines open between you. Keep talking to one another and explain your thoughts and feelings without letting misunderstandings alienate you.
You may find that the spontaneity as a free, easy-going couple may not always be there now that baby has arrived, so planning to spend time as a couple alone is important. Make use of friends and relatives who are willing to share caring for your baby and schedule time with your partner.
Some days you will both feel so tired and cranky and may bicker endlessly. However it is important to remember that you both created this wonderful new being. A baby brings a whole new dimension to your relationship. It is a wonderful and deeper bond that will develop between you and your partner. Although in the first few weeks you may sometimes feel estranged from one another, the love you share for this new little bundle of joy will bring you closer together.
Lack of sleep is probably the toughest thing to adjust to when baby comes along. Your days, and nights, will merge into what seems like endless diaper changes, feedings and soothing a crying baby. Sharing night duty with your partner could help tremendously. You can try alternate feedings and diaper changing, or you could create a rotating schedule that allows one parent a full night’s sleep while the other sees to baby.
However you may arrange things, the truth is that you will still be sleep deprived and exhausted. Napping is an important way to make up for lost sleep. You can arrange this around baby’s naps, whatever the time of day. Once your baby has settled down, lie down on a bed or make yourself comfortable in a chair. Clear your mind from the tension of the day. Even if you do not sleep, just taking time to relax will be beneficial.
Get back to your former self
A woman who has just had a baby will carry around extra weight, and her body would have gone through some dramatic changes. Your time is limited and you will not have as much freedom to go to the gym or hairdresser. Then, one day you may catch a glimpse in the mirror and be startled at the haggard ghost of your former self staring back at you.
It is important to try and incorporate some time for yourself into your schedule. To treat yourself to a mani or pedi, a yoga class or even just a quiet walk in the park. Some new moms may feel guilty for allowing themselves a bit of ‘me time’ when there is so much to do back at home. However it’s important to realize that, by allowing yourself that little bit of time to centre yourself, you are doing yourself the world of good and enabling yourself to be a calmer and happier parent and partner. Reaching the point where you are so stressed out, sleep deprived and unhappy will lead to feelings of anxiousness, resentment and agitation. Everybody needs a time out. So speak to your family or partner and ask if they can look after baby and see to the household chores for an hour or so every couple of days.
Find a routine
You will find that most of your waking, and sleeping time, is taken up by caring for your baby. However, wherever possible, it is important to try and maintain some sort of routine. Incorporating activities which you would usually do before baby came along can help ease you into parenthood. By allowing yourself to do even small things such as meeting a friend for coffee or taking a ten minute meditation, will prevent your normal day-to-day activities from taking a back seat and therefore easing you into the transition of parenthood. This does not mean having to train your baby to fit into your timetable. You could follow his lead and fit parts of your life in around your baby’s routine.
Although it is not always easy to take the time to appreciate this wonderful change that has come about amidst the crying, diaper changes and sleep deprivation, it is important to relish this time with your baby. Children grow up so fast and before you know it they are moving out and going out into the world to start a family of their own. Cherish this time with baby and with your partner and focus on the positives.