Becoming a parent is one of the most significant life experiences a person can have.
It's a huge change in life, and like any major transformation, can trigger a whole range of emotions: wonder, joy, excitement, confusion, fear, and frustration. This is all completely normal. Every parent will find the process of raising a child challenging at some point; this article is about support throughout the process of adapting to your new role.
There are a number of things we can do to look after ourselves and ease the transition to parenting. Here are some of them.
- Allow time to adjust to parenting and get to know your baby.
- Sleep when you can, eat well, and get regular exercise.
- Accept help from family and friends - let them cook meals, do housework, or bring your groceries.
- Take time out from parenting. Even a walk around the block or a quick coffee at the local shops can be revitalising.
- Don't try to be perfect - there is no perfect parenting!
- Talk to others about your experience - Mothers groups or friends with babies are a great source of support. Remember they are probably feeling similar things as you are. Be honest - others will probably appreciate the chance to talk openly about what it is really like to be a parent.
- Don't read too many parenting books - it just gets confusing.
Most new mums will experience fluctuating emotions. It is normal to feel teary, anxious, and irritable in the days following the birth of a baby. These feelings usually pass in the first few weeks. Dads can feel these shifting emotions, too.
For some women, these experiences can be quite intense and may develop into Post Natal Depression (PND). It is estimated 1 in 7 women develop PND (Deloitte 2012). Symptoms of PND include:
- Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby's sleep needs
- Appetite disturbance
- Crying or not being able to cry
- Inability to cope
- Negative, morbid or obsessive thoughts
- Fear of being alone or fear of being with others
- Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
- Feeling guilty and inadequate
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
- Thoughts of harm to self or to the baby
If you think you may be experiencing PND, it is essential you get support to help you through this difficult time. Your doctor or early childhood nurse is a great place to start.
The national perinatal depression helpline can also provide information and support. Their phone number is 1300 726 306, and they are open Monday - Friday from 10am-5pm. Another useful resource for new mothers and fathers is the Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA). Their website is http://www.panda.org.au/.
Whether you are struggling with adjusting to parenthood or dealing with post-natal depression, RWA Family Matters can support you through this time. Helping parents adjust to the demands and joys of parenting is a particular passion of Rebecca Wheeler - Clinical Psychologist.