from the relationship center

New mom?

By KIM OLVER
Posted 3/31/21

If you have become a mom for the first time, buckle up—it’s quite an emotional rollercoaster.

First of all, there are hormones running roughshod over your body, which can cause wild …

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from the relationship center

New mom?

Posted

If you have become a mom for the first time, buckle up—it’s quite an emotional rollercoaster.

First of all, there are hormones running roughshod over your body, which can cause wild mood swings. You have been granted a full-time license to care for a frightfully tiny human who can’t communicate with you in any other language other than a high-pitched scream, and it’s likely that you are enormously sleep-deprived. On top of all that, you also have a deep and abiding love for this infant that seems to have miraculously sprung out of nowhere, and you can’t imagine life without your new screaming bundle of amazing goodness. On top of it all, you, and possibly others, are concerned about your mental health. I wonder why.

Mostly, this is all normal. Your baby didn’t come with an instruction manual, and you may be feeling completely ill-equipped for the job. However, there is no need to raise an alarm about your mental health just yet, but it is perfectly normal to ask for help if you have someone in your life willing to help you. Here is where expectations come into play.

Go back in time to when you first thought of having children—which could have been about nine months ago, back when you were a child yourself, or anywhere in between—and remember what your hopes and dreams were. I know that, when I had my first child, I had visions of the baby sleeping, cooing and gazing lovingly into my eyes. My husband was in this vision as well, being a willing parenting partner and ready to anticipate my every need even before I did. That vision was never actually realized.

Both of my babies had a horrible condition called colic and, back then, there was no medication to alleviate those systems, which meant your baby cried a lot, was in some serious pain and there was literally nothing you could do. Add to that a husband who was concerned about how fragile your baby was and his ability to leave the house to just go outside whenever the crying became too much, and I felt quite abandoned in my new mom role.

All of this speaks to expectations. I know there is a real thing called postpartum depression that some women experience, and it’s driven by hormones gone awry. However, I encourage you to assess your circumstances to determine if it seems like there is absolutely no pinpointed cause to your sadness, or if you can find the cause in a mismatch between how you thought things would be in your new motherly role and how they actually are. This is often the cause of depression. There is something we want and expect, but we aren’t getting it, which leads to sadness. The sadness is almost always a cry for help. We are attempting to communicate, not in the most effective way, that someone in our environment needs to act differently so we can be happier.

If you find this is true for you, please try to communicate as directly as you can to your co-parent, “I really need your help. Can you stay with the baby long enough for me to take a shower, cook dinner or take a nap?” If you don’t have a co-parent, ask someone close to you for help. If you are truly all alone without anyone to assist you, then see if you can get involved in a mother’s support group where you can befriend another mother and trade off some time with each other, where you watch her baby for a bit and she could watch yours, so you each get a bit of a break.

It’s also important to adjust your expectations. It would be nice if we had the power to turn the important people in our lives into the perfect representation of them to match our needs. Unfortunately, we don’t have that superpower. Know that every person is going to fall short at some point from those pictures of perfection we hold onto. The best way to combat that disappointment is to find those things you appreciate about your partner and focus on those, instead of the ways they fall short.

And, if all else fails, talk with your physician about your feelings of depression. Do not allow that condition to worsen to the point where you may be having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Get help immediately if you are beginning to feel desperate and there doesn’t seem to be an identified cause.

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