The birth of a child changes lives and will lead to many changes over time. Becoming a parent is growing with your child, learning along with them, growing as a family.
How can you go through this turbulent period without panicking too much? We often call the first month of a baby’s life the “4th trimester.” When preparing for childbirth, it’s a significant issue to deal with, and should be discussed as a couple. Give yourself time to handle the unknown and life together, allow each person to find their role and balance. Sometimes, parents feel overwhelmed, tired, as so much happens in so little time.
The new mother has to recover from giving birth. Of course, she has physical needs to recover, but she also has psychological and emotional needs. Giving birth to a baby is quite an adventure. Mothers often express their need to rest, take a break, eat and care for the discomforts that may follow childbirth.
Mood swings are frequent in the first weeks after childbirth. The new mother can be very emotional; what we call “the baby blues.” This period often occurs within 2 to 4 weeks after birth and is often characterised by crying, an overflow of emotion, a feeling of being overwhelmed. However, if the crying, mood swings, impatience, fatigue and lack of general interest in anything intensifies, this can lead to more profound distress, leading to postpartum depression.
About 10% to 15% of women will experience postpartum depression, and I think it’s important to talk about it. Even if the arrival of a baby is a happy event at a social level, it remains very destabilising for some women.
Expectations are that the new mother will be smiling, happy, able to do everything with a dream body. Often women don’t expect to have negative feelings during this period, and this may lead to them isolating themselves, self-withdraw. It’s not seen as appropriate to complain, to be unhappy after having given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby!
Getting help from people that you love, from those around you, for baby tasks, can make all the difference. Domestic help so that you can rest, of course, but also encouragement, attentive listening without judging, loving touches just for you. It’s not always easy for new parents to ask, but it’s so helpful! A cooked meal, clothes washed, dried and folded, a clean house—these are all extraordinary gifts from the people around you.
If needed, community organisations and resources within the health system are available, offering services to new parents. Using them isn’t a sign of weakness. On the contrary…
A baby takes up a lot of space! Parents are often surprised by the depth of their needs. Each day they require a lot of time and energy, especially during their first months of life. It’s essential for the couple to take care of each other. Effective communications are crucial, but not always easy to achieve.
Every mother and father plays a vital role for their child. The attention, care, stimulation and warmth that you provide them are essential in their development. The simple fact of coming up with new ways to share tasks, talking about your intimacy as a couple, keeping time for each other, will allow you to maintain your energy and keep your love as a couple alive. For the baby, a basic need is happy and loving parents there to take care of them. To achieve this, you have to stop and take the time to care for each other.
I often say to new mothers that taking care of themselves is also taking care of their baby and family at the same time. Because a happy and healthy mother, both physically and mentally, reflects this on the rest of the family. Even if the arrival of a child is the most joyous event in the lives of most women, always remember that getting a bit of help is sometimes necessary to ensure the wellbeing of everyone.
One last thing before we end today…since becoming parents isn’t always easy, give yourself the chance to become better day after day. Over time you will learn to fulfill your role. You won’t be perfect, but then again, no one is!
Wishing you all the best!
To learn more, read these articles:
Or watch these videos (in french):
- Post-Childbirth Recovery for Mothers
- Postpartum Depression
- Support during labour, delivery and when returning home
The Baby Expert