Hello Motherhood: Making the Transition to your New Life

Prior to having children, most women imagine motherhood as a warm, fuzzy time filled with lots of baby kisses, adorable outfits and cuddles. You may imagine gazing into that sweet face and going for strolls around the neighborhood where everyone will ooh and aah over that little bundle of joy. All of your friends and family around you are focused on you, the mom-to-be, with lots of attention and gifts. It’s a time of fantasy that makes getting through some of the aches and pains of being pregnant much more bearable and exciting. You can see it on the glowing face of every mom-to-be as she lovingly rubs her belly.

Perhaps your mom friends drop little hints at how much life will change. Perhaps some brave moms even try to warn you about just what life is really going to look like. But you simply brush them off and think “life is too exciting right now with my new little bundle who will be in my arms soon!” You may even reply “of course my life will change but it will be so awesome!”.

Yes, when you choose to become a mother, life does become awesome in many ways but what many women are completely unprepared for is the drastic change they are about to face as well as a type of grieving thrown in the midst of having a newborn.

Many new moms are shocked by just how drastically life changes. Your responsibilities go from things oriented to yourself and your partner, to an abundance of responsibilities for a completely helpless and beautiful creature. It no longer matters if you were the kind of woman who liked everything organized and on a schedule or a woman who enjoyed being spontaneous and carefree. Everything changes for every woman. Unbelievable amounts of pressure are put on mothers to meet every need of their newborn while a mother’s needs are quickly cast aside as if they do not exist. Women receive messages such as “its no longer about you” and “come on, be the superwoman we know you are!”.

This often leaves new mothers feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, fearful, angry and sad. And let’s face the reality of that kind of situation: a sad mom means a sad baby. Over 80% of new moms experience “baby blues”. So what can be done to help new mothers? Mothers need support and the ability to process the intense changes they are experiencing.

Finding the Right Support

This can mean different things to different people but by this I mean having family members, friends, mommy groups, Facebook groups, doulas or any other means of a support system available and ready for you.

Human beings are social creatures and function best when surrounded with strong and healthy social relationships. This important fact becomes imperative as a woman makes the transition to motherhood. In our history and around the world, people usually gather around a new mother and help with mothering responsibilities, household tasks, emotional support or practical support for an extended period of time. This support helps keep mommy happier and healthier as she engages in the task of caring for baby.

Studies have shown that when mommy is receiving the support and help she needs, she is better able to bond with her child and more successfully care for the baby’s needs. A happier mommy equals a happier baby.

Yet, unfortunately, in today’s world, many mothers are left to take on the exhausting tasks of a new mommy alone or with very limited support. Perhaps family may travel over some distance to stay with a new mom for a week or so but they ultimately have to leave much sooner than mom is ready for. This leaves a trail of stress and burden for mothers who have little other supports or resources. The new mommy can begin to feel isolated, lonely, sad and tearful. This in turn causes a weakened bonding time with baby since mommy becomes preoccupied with her feelings and other responsibilities.

So yes today’s society has made it more difficult for new moms to solely focus on bonding with their baby but there are also many positives that the modern mommy has that weren’t available to older generations. Here are just a few examples in which mommies can create and sustain a strong support system: Be open and honest with family members and friends about your needs and what you would like to receive. If meals is where you would like more support, voice that! If you need help with someone caring for your older child, or helping to tidy up the house, let family and friends know that. People will not be able to read your mind and will therefore only offer the help that they think is most important or just wait until you ask for something. Seek out and join support groups through your local hospital, mom groups, neighborhood, friends, Meetup.com, Facebook or any other resources available to you. The resources out there are abundant but you have to seek them out!

Grieve your losses

New mothers in particular, although second and third time mothers must also do a bit of this too, need to grieve the losses and changes they are experiencing. Unfortunately, this important step has become somewhat taboo. Mothers often receive messages such as “you should be thrilled at your baby’s arrival and there is absolutely nothing to be upset about in your life right now”. What we fail to recognize is that although a mother has gained an amazing child, she has also lost much of her freedom, often feels “tied-down”, experiences changes in her self-image and career goals, and faces a significant loss of control. These shifts in identify and thinking have to be grieved and processed in order to heal and move forward in a positive manner.

So how do you grieve your sense of loss? Finding other like-minded mothers who will be open to hearing you process your losses is tremendously helpful. Many of these groups exist, whether they are more formal ones such as therapy groups or informal ones such as a mom’s groups getting together to talk about their “new life”. It is also imperative to leave shame and judgment at the door while you talk about how hard the changes and losses have been. Online communities are also great to join although you will want to make sure it fits what you are looking for. Many women also benefit from journaling and writing down all those feelings of anger, guilt and shame you may be experiencing. Just be sure to let it out somehow in a safe environment.

New and seasoned mothers need all the support they can get. Perinatal mood disorders have unfortunately become all too common in our society but with the right tools and lots of education, mothers and babies can receive the wonderful supports they need and deserve!