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Moms and Moms to be

For Moms to be

You are having a baby. You may be excited. You may be surprised. You may be anxious and fearful. You may be questioning if you have what it takes to be a good mom. In our culture, we assume all women feel excited and are naturally cut out to be mothers, and that pregnancy comes easily. And for some women, that is exactly the case. But it is not so for everyone. So... wherever you are in terms of your readiness to have a baby and how you are feeling about becoming a mom - it is okay.

Some worries or fears you may have:

  • I am afraid of birth.
  • I am anxious about being a mother and not knowing what to do.
  • I am worried that I will disappoint my partner or my family if I don't do things the way they think I should.
  • I am worried how to maintain a good relationship with my partner when my life is consumed by the baby.
  • I am afraid my partner won't find me attractive after giving birth.
  • I am concerned I might not enjoy being a mom the way I am supposed to.
  • I am worried about interference from our families.
  • I am worried I could get Postpartum Depression and don't know how I will cope.

It is normal to feel anxious and unsure when you are doing something new for the first time, especially something as significant as giving birth and caring for a baby. It is important to be prepared with information to help you develop realistic expectations. This is one of the biggest challenges with the women I work with - they have expectations that are impossibly high and then feel like a failure when they cannot meet them. Once I can help them understand that the problem is with their expectations and not with themselves, they can begin to relax into motherhood more smoothly. This is a time to be kind and gentle with ourselves. But new moms are notoriously bad at that!

As you prepare to become a mother, here are a few things you need to know and remember:

  • Birth is unpredictable and not something you can control. Having good education to prepare you for the many ways that birth can unfold can help to ease some of the anxiety. Enlisting good support is also critical. Surround yourself with people who will be there for you emotionally and physically during labour - that may include your partner, other family members or perhaps a doula. Women are most likely to feel positively about their birth when they are emotionally supported and cared for during their labour.

  • Being a mom is really hard work. It can feel wonderful and joyous, but it can also feel hard, overwhelming, and under-stimulating. If you are not loving every minute, it is okay. It does not mean you are not a good mom, it just means this is a hard job, and you may be in a particularly hard stage of it.

  • Taking care of a baby is not a one person job. You will make it easier on yourself if you ask for help...and accept all offers of help. Help could be in the form of taking care of the baby so you can have some alone time, or making a meal, or doing laundry, or vacuuming, or picking up groceries. Whatever help is offered, say, "Yes, that would be great." And if the help is not offered, you or your partner need to ask for the help you need.

  • This is your baby and your new little family and it is for you to decide what works best for you. It is okay to set boundaries about what you need, even if others might not agree.

  • Your relationship with your partner will go through a period of adjustment. Again, realistic expectations, along with communication are really important to keep you feeling connected as your world is turned upside down. Having a baby can be stressful on a relationship. If you and your partner are struggling, getting some therapy support early to help with the adjustment can help to get your relationship back on track.

  • Getting sleep and taking breaks are essential to enhance your coping. I know, you are probably thinking "yeah, right, how it that going to happen with a baby." Your coping will be greatly enhanced if you can enlist the help of family or friends to help you get some longer stretches of sleep and to give you breaks where you are off baby duty. This may go against what you believe it takes to be a good mom, but believe me, these two things - sleep and taking breaks - will make the biggest difference in how you feel physically and emotionally.

  • If you do not like how you are feeling, in pregnancy or postpartum, reach out for help. Talking about what you are feeling with a trained therapist can make all the difference, and get you back to feeling like yourself again.

If you are concerned you may be at risk of developing Postpartum Depression, click here for more information.

For Moms Having Next Babies

As you prepare to expand your family, it is natural to feel a range of emotions from excited, curious, anxious, or perhaps even fearful. As you add more children to your family, the dynamics, energy and attention will naturally shift - and with that can come growing pains for all involved. And of course, there is the reality that more children = more work. And you can be left asking yourself; "how will we do it all?"

The good news is that families all around you are surviving having more than one child, and we can learn from them. You may find it helpful to ask family and friends what helped them to cope with the demands of more than one child.

As with Moms to be, having realistic expectations is critical. It is impossible to think that you can do everything the same with a subsequent baby that you did for your first baby. You will be balancing more than one child so you need to accept that even though it is different, it is still okay. Many moms feel guilty that they are not giving subsequent babies enough time, attention or interaction. The reality is that you cannot, and it is okay. I always encourage moms to consider the special attention subsequent babies get from their older sibling or siblings, that is a cool experience first babies didn't have.

Help and support are also essential in managing the demands of a growing family. We live in a culture that encourages self-reliance and independence but this is a time when we need to set those values aside, as growing families need practical help with childcare, meals, and household tasks. It may feel uncomfortable to ask for help, but doing so will ease your transition.

This is also a time to remember that you matter and you need time for yourself. You cannot be expected to perform and be on-call 24/7. However, many mothers set themselves up for just that and then wonder why they feel overwhelmed and irritable. I encourage weekly breaks for time just for you. It may be to nap, take a bath, go for a walk and meet a friend for tea. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it is time that feels like it fills you up in some way. Doing errands doesn't count as you time!

You may be worried if you had a previous experience of Postpartum Depression (PPD) and you are expecting again. It is scary to think about going through that again. The truth of the matter is that there is a 50% risk of having PPD again after a previous experience. However, with therapy support during pregnancy, you can be assisted to develop a postpartum plan to mitigate PPD symptoms, and to intervene quickly if they should develop. For more information about Postpartum Depression, click here.

The key to feeling well and enhancing your coping as next babies join your family is to reach out for support if things are feeling tough, or you just don't feel like yourself. Talking with a therapist trained in working with the emotions and adjustments of postpartum can calm and comfort you at a time when things may be feeling out of control.

Reach out today so you can feel better.