Here’s what I feel are some of the biggest emotions new parents experience.
Speak to most parents and one of the many things they will feel is guilt. Guilt can be over the birth (did I try hard enough for a ‘natural’ birth), feeding (did I try hard enough to breastfeed), wanting ‘me time’ (a shower in peace), that they aren’t good parents or the way they are managing their baby isn’t ‘perfect’. I know so many times I felt guilty that I wasn’t good enough mum, I felt frazzled, crazy, at times shouty and wasn’t managing two/three boys the way I wanted to but then I’d feel guilt for wanting/needing space from them. It can become an all consuming emotion, ruminating self-destructive thoughts in our heads. It’s easier said than done to let go of the guilt.
Being a new parent brings out huge anxiety and worry in us all. There’s anxiety about all their ‘functions’ – we worry about everything including their poo, to how often they are feeding, are they eating enough, gaining enough, sleeping enough, is the house germ free enough? Then we worry about them – are we making them happy, secure, confident, loved babies – are they securely attached? Then bigger thoughts come into play, around risks, accidents, death, grief and coping. It’s very hard to relax into being a parent and realising that what your baby needs is for you to be a ‘good enough’ parent – that is one that is responsive to their needs but also keeping quite relaxed and letting go of the anxieties. It’s also important that moving tots, toddlers and beyond learn to take risks – risks are important life skills we should be encouraging not fearing.
There’s a huge adjustment being a parent and grieving the life you’ve had before children – dancing till dawn, sleeping late, all day hangovers, sunset walks on the beach, reading a book all day, lazy Sunday lunches, being able to up and go at the drop of a hat and more. When you have children, the first few times you leave the house it can feel like major mission to Mars – you need change bags filled to the brim with change of clothes, nappies, muslin squares and whatever else. God forbid if you should forget something – there are of course no shops nearby or you baby might end up with poo up it’s back for 30 minutes until you get home…..
As a new parent, you will have days you’ve not showered, you smell of baby sick (I remember that getting a whiff from my bra of curdled breast milk – lovely), and you just generally feel horrid – gone are the days of make up and hair straighteners.
There’s also a change that the baby is the CENTRAL component to your world – it means a change of relationship with your partner, with your friends and with your family (grandchildren are suddenly more important than you).
Many mums also grieve for the body the had before children – one where their vagina was still in tact (or if you’ve had a section – we all know about the hanging tummy), stretch marks and horrendous tummy skin.
It can be hard to adjust and move forward and come to terms with the reality of this – I still look at my stomach with complete disgust. However, if we change our expectations of being parents and not necessarily try to ‘have it all’ – we can adapt and enjoy. I’m now finding that I am starting to get the parts of my life I want back – some with kids in tow and some on our own again and I realise what a short phase of my life it is.
An emotion that’s rarely talked about but I really believe exists is jealousy – jealousy and competitive parenting. I’m really saddened often with regards to how much competitive parenting there is and the inevitable emotions of jealousy and anxiety it creates in others – feeding is one (formula/breast), sleeping is another (how many times have you heard mums boasting about babies sleeping through or their amazing routines), materialistic things are another (including equipment, classes, activities and more) – it inevitably creates feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, resentment and wondering if you yourself are failing as a parent as you’ve not managed yet to take them to a baby yoga class or got back into your size 8 jeans. Whilst it’s inevitable you will talk about these things as these are your primary focus in those first six months, try supporting each other, understanding that we all parent our unique children differently , have different priorities and listen.
Without any doubt, love is the emotion that conquers all and makes it all worthwhile – every single sleepless night, every bit of anxiety, worry, guilt, change in body. Many mums with PND can often struggle with this and take time to bond and love their baby – that’s a very common symptom of PND, but I’ve still yet to meet a mum who hasn’t managed to find this emotion.
The love you have for your children is endless, unconditional and will last a lifetime.
I specialise in supporting parents on the emotional AND practical aspects of the journey into parenting. Have a look at my Bump, Birth and Baby package to find out how I can support you or come along to the Preparing for Parenting classes or have learn how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). If you’re pregnant, you can download for FREE, 52 Ways to Prepare for Parenting.
Much love, Tricia xxx