18 March 2016
Being a parent to a newborn baby is one of the biggest changes and adjustments a person could ever make, and sometimes it can be hard to know what’s “normal” – especially when your feelings aren’t all rainbows and butterflies about your new baby. Yes, this is something that is rarely talked about, but often felt. It helps to know what’s normal when suddenly nothing is “normal” in your life anymore.
Here are 4 common things new parents face when adjusting to having a newborn in the house and their lives:
1. Coming to the realization that baby is different than what they imagined
In many ways, he or she may be even more incredible and wonderful. But in plenty of ways he or she may be a huge challenge, bigger than anyone can adequately anticipate without having lived it before. It’s one thing to hear or read about – or even witness other peoples’ – crying babies, or sleep deprivation, or not even being able to maintain your own personal hygiene or getting-dressed schedule. It’s quite another, and often a major shock, to actually live it – every day, non-stop, all of a sudden. Don’t worry. This is normal. You will adjust. It will pass. Breathe. This is only temporary. You can do this; it will get better.
2. Having to learn how their baby communicates – and realizing that they do communicate
There are cues, body language, noises, and cries that signify their needs. Each baby is different and it’s very much a journey for the parents and baby to learn to understand each other and what is going on. This also takes time, and experience, with your new baby. This is also ok, normal, and you’re not failing as a parent because he’s wailing and you have NO IDEA WHY OR WHAT TO DO FOR HIM. Remember to breathe. You will learn. So will they.
3. You may have feelings you’re not particularly proud of
You may feel useless and helpless, frustrated, exhausted, and resentful – of your baby, of your partner, of every life decision you’ve ever made. You may not feel that instant “love” or “connection” you thought you would or were supposed to with your baby. Do understand the hormones really are regulating themselves out again after the massive change, and that this plays into much of it, and that there are all those other extenuating circumstances of the new adjustment too. Your baby IS basically a stranger after all, and a demanding one at that. It’s not crazy if you don’t feel particularly fond of this crying, needy little thing in your home at first. It takes some time.
As for your partner, they are likely exhausted as well, which can always cause friction; be as good to and patient with each other as you can, be as good to yourself as you can muster, and know that all this is normal.
4. Baby blues and Postpartum depression
Around 3-10 days after childbirth, many new mothers experience the “baby blues”. Hormonal levels are changing like crazy, which makes everything seem harder or worse than it might otherwise.
Besides that, the sometimes absolutely overwhelming task of fully providing life for an otherwise pretty helpless little human being, on little-to-no sleep, with minimal opportunity to feed even yourself, and seemingly no ability to even shower or be a normal human being like you were just a few days ago – it’s a brilliant cocktail for some serious frustrations, anxieties, and doubts. This is all normal, and the “baby blues” should calm down after the first few weeks.
Of note, postpartum depression is similar, but continues beyond the first six weeks after childbirth, and symptoms are more severe and serious. You may be at a higher risk for postpartum depression if you have a history of depression, so advocate for yourself and speak to your doctor(s) if you’re feeling severely overwhelmed for more than the first few weeks of adjustment, or if feelings and symptoms seem especially strong and concerning.
5. It’s important to ask for help and to set boundaries
Don’t be afraid to utilize all your allies – your partner, the grandparents, your friends and neighbor-friends. If they want to bring you food, let them. That said, don’t think you need to receive everyone who wants to come by all the time. Set specific times that work for you and don’t hesitate to ask them to bring you some lunch or dinner when they come! People really do want to help you, and it’s an easy way for them to be able to.
Hang in there. Being a new parent isn’t easy for anyone straight out of the gate, no matter what you may think or what some people may say. It does get easier, and you do learn what you’re doing, and it’s not all so overwhelming and just pure exhaustion for the rest of your life – just for now.
It’s a big adjustment, and adjustment takes time and experience. Both will eventually be on your side, so just keep swimming in the meantime. Someday you’ll probably even look back with fondness at these early days, and wonder how you got through them. But get through them you can, and you will.
You can do this!