The Realities of Recovery
While many mothers in the studies learned about childbirth by taking classes or asking questions, few moms were ready for those first few days home from the hospital. Muscles ache, stitches hurt, exhaustion sets in, and going to the bathroom becomes something to dread. Some moms are also dealing with nausea, incision pain, nasty headaches, and wild mood swings. Don't be surprised if you feel very emotional during those first few days, it is common for new moms to feel that way, but if you feel out of control of those emotions, you should talk to your doctor.
Feeling the Weight of Responsibility
Many new moms feel that they are responsible for the bulk of the baby care and still expected to meet everyone else's needs too - partners, other kids, friends, family and pets! The weight of all that responsibility can be overwhelming. It is interesting that many of the moms in the studies asked their health care providers how to manage all the responsibility rather than how to get more support. Secrets readers know that we think all moms should ask for help from family and friends so that they can get the time they need for their own physical recovery and to connect with their babies. Even the most independent and organized mom can't multitask enough to make those exhausting first few weeks easy; moms need help. It would be better for moms to use their organizational abilities to make a nice chore chart to share with helpful friends and family. These days, so many moms think they'll be able to go back to their regular routines in a short time - unfortunately, babies can't cooperate with any of moms' plans until they are older.
Dealing with the Fear
Babies are so tiny and they look so fragile, many mothers are worried that they'll make a mistake and somehow hurt their babies. They worry that they won't know if they don't have enough milk, or what to do if their baby gets sick, or if anything else is wrong. Since most new moms find themselves on an emotional roller coaster, the fear that they feel can be extreme. Some mothers question their ability to cope with it all and aren't reassured by their partners telling them "You'll be fine." Anxiety can be a tough thing; new mothers may need to talk about their fears with professionals they trust. Moms in the studies felt better if they knew they could call their health care providers or the one of the hospital nurses whenever they had questions.
A New Normal
I really don't know if anyone can be prepared adequately for life with a newborn. Routines, relationships, and day-to-day activities will need to be replaced with a "new normal" that won't ever be the same as before the baby came along. Many of the moms in the studies wanted to get back to their "normal" lives but they realized fairly soon that wasn't going to happen. Part of their transition to motherhood involved their acceptance of the "new normal."
The idea that you will never go back to what life was like before baby may sound intimidating to those of you still awaiting your special day but we can reassure you that the "new normal" will (eventually)be even better than the old one. Even though both my children are adults, my life is not like it was before they were born and I am thankful for that everyday. While I don't miss the fatigue or the scarier moments, I have thousands of precious memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. We hope that this series has helped shed some light on the challenges of the transition to parenthood. The transition is a rough and rocky road but the rewards are worth the ride. Be sure get some help at home! Help won't make it easy but support from family and friends will make a huge difference, to mom, to dad, and to baby.
Next time: Back to Basics!
Barnes et al. Learning about babies: what new mothers want to know. J Perinatal Educ. 2008; 17:3:33-41.
Forster et al. The early postpartum period:Exploring women's views, expectations, and experiences of care using focus groups in Victoria, Australia. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2008; 8:27.