Tips to prepare yourself for a new baby

A new baby can bring bundles of joy, but be prepared for the changes ahead. By Linda Lewis

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From the moment you receive a positive pregnancy result, the entire map of your life changes. However, for most expectant couples, the perception tends to be that not much will change – apart from the added pleasure of a new baby. The truth is very different. Parenthood is a life-changing journey that may not always be a happy adjustment at first. As a new mother, you’ll be confronted with both positive and negative emotions. Many moms aren’t able to safely express these overwhelming feelings, and may wonder if something is wrong with them. Therefore, it’s wise to be aware of the potential challenges ahead.

Baby steps

Being at home with your little one in the early days can give rise to a range of feelings, from relief and joy, to anxiety and even distress. Your body has been bombarded with fluctuating hormones and biochemicals as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and sleepless nights.
If you’ve had a traumatic birth experience, you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is caused by the perceived threat of death to yourself or your baby. Symptoms may include fear, helplessness, and re-experiencing the birth trauma.

Ever heard of the baby blues?

If you’re suffering from it, you’re not alone; this condition affects around 90% of new moms, and is associated with sadness, tearfulness, a fragile mood, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for your child. If these feelings persist for longer than two weeks, consider the possibility that you’re suffering from Postnatal Depression (PND).

Do I have PND?

PND ranges across a spectrum from mild to severe. The pervasive feeling is that you have lost the self that you know and can’t imagine being the same person again. Every other mother seems to be loving motherhood, looks fantastic and adores her baby, while you feel different.
Once an independent, competent woman, you’ve become a little insecure.
When you’re confronted with an experience that’s different from what you anticipated, it’s not unusual to feel a sense of loss: a loss of identity, freedom, control, intimacy with your partner and more.

Some Symptoms of PND
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Emotions ‘on a roller coaster’
  • Feeling like you’ve made a mistake
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Tearful for no reason
  • Can’t sleep even when your baby is sleeping.

You are still ‘you’

It’s important to remember that you had a full life before your baby arrived, and that life, believe it or not, is still there to be embraced.
You can’t – and aren’t meant to be – a 100% mother, so don’t lose your self to motherhood. This will lead to isolation, loneliness and a questioning of ‘who am I?’ Your identity and self-worth may take a huge knock, especially if you value your independence and career.
Many women feel resentful of their partners, whose days continue unchanged and are still filled with stimulation, adult contact, and the concrete reward of being paid.
You, as a new mom, have to find and assert the indispensable role that you have undertaken, because this internal validation is what will sustain you. The scope of your worth as a mother is immeasurable, and both you and your partner must acknowledge that your contribution to the family is what allows him to do his job.

As you enter this exciting chapter in your life, prepare yourself for the reality rather than the fantasy. Try to embrace both the highs and lows. The beginning phase may feel endless and distressing, but you’ll get through it.

Tips for couples on how to adjust
  • Don’t polarise your family by always doing things apart.
  • Get a baby sitter once a week so that you can go out as a couple together.
  • Surrender to parenthood – allow yourselves time to settle into your new roles.
  • Keep your channels of communication open, kind and honest.
  • Share domestic chores and babycare as much as possible.
  • Give each other a good night’s sleep every fourth night.
  • For most couples, sexual intimacy takes a back seat at this time but non-sexual intimacy is vital.

Maintaining your Identity

  • Engage in soul-filling activities that you love – be it exercise, cooking, prayer, or meeting up with friends.
  • Make routine plans throughout your week which allow you to interact with other moms, for example, visiting the baby clinic the baby clinic, Moms and Tots groups, and mother-support groups.
  • Remember that all your competence from the workplace still exists – you’ll be able to re-enter that world when you choose to.
  • It is mandatory to have time away from your baby every day – without guilt.

*Originally published in July 2012

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