New world order
Becoming a mother brings many changes, including how you relate to the other people in your life. Midwife Sharon Weir has some practical advice for adapting to the shifting dynamics.
Having a new baby doesn’t just bring a whole new person into your life, it can also affect your existing relationships with your partner, family and friends – even with your body. A major contributing factor is tiredness from lack of sleep. You will never have been this tired in your life; day after day, week after week, and sometimes month after month. When you couple this with the major hormonal and emotional changes that motherhood brings it’s easy to see why some parents can end up wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake!
Time, or the lack thereof, is also a factor. This impacts on communication, socialising, relaxing and even keeping up with domestic chores. Prioritise them, not everything needs to be done every day. Eat nutritious meals regularly and try to rest/sleep at least an hour each day. Make time to talk with your partner, preferably when neither of you is feeling angry nor resentful. Do not expect your partner to be a mind reader; it works far better for everyone if you ask clearly for what you need before accusations start flying. Try to make time for yourself, even if it’s just the luxury of taking a long shower or bath, going for a walk on your own or attending an evening class or a book club. Try to understand your partner’s perspective too – avoid going down the path of criticism or blame, instead express appreciation, affection and admiration.
When your baby is a little more predictable consider having a date night, even if it’s only getting takeaways or watching a DVD, but better still, prevail upon a doting grandma to babysit and have a night out.
Involve your partner in parenting your baby right from the start so that they also become confident. There’s more than one way of doing things, so don’t have a “my way or the highway” approach. Having a sense of humour is vital to keeping your relationship strong.
It’s difficult to keep up with ‘pre-baby’ friends, especially those who don’t have babies and don’t understand how little time and inclination you may have for socialising.
You may find that the arrival of the baby brings some relationships with family and friends much closer than they were previously, but the opposite is also true. Grandparents, especially grandmothers, can sometimes offer unsolicited advice. Focus on the positive as they are usually well-meaning and you can choose whether or not to accept it. It is often said that we don’t appreciate our mothers until we become one ourselves. If you feel there is conflict with parents or in-laws try discussing this with your partner and working out a strategy for dealing with them by presenting a united front.
Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help from family and friends. Home baking and meals for the freezer are a big help when you’re too tired to think about making them yourself. Most visitors are more than happy to hang a load of washing out or bring it in and fold it.
Talk it out
It’s often difficult to keep up with your ‘pre-baby’ friends, especially those who haven’t had babies and don’t understand how little time and inclination you may have for socialising. Sometimes, if you’ve chosen a different style of parenting to friends, there may be a natural divergence. Antenatal class coffee groups can be a great source of new friends with people going through similar things, and many lifelong friendships are forged here.
Meeting with other people is important for support. Having a conversation with another adult can help combat feelings of isolation, especially if you were previously working full-time. It’s a big adjustment to spend all day ‘talking’ to a baby if you’re more accustomed to a busy work environment. You’ll most likely be adjusting to a single income, which can also be a big stressor: you may feel a loss of financial independence and your partner, the burden of being the sole provider with the added responsibility of an extra mouth to feed.
Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone.
Your body underwent significant changes during the nine months of pregnancy and it is unreasonable to expect it to return to ‘normal’ immediately afterwards; instead you should realistically allow a further nine months to lose weight. Some things, such as stretch marks on your breasts, stomach, buttocks and thighs, will never go away, but they will fade over time. The dark line in the middle of your abdomen (linea nigra) may also take several months to fade. The hormone relaxin, which is produced in pregnancy, also hangs around for a few months and makes you more prone to strains and sprains so it is advisable not to undertake any high-impact exercise during this time. However, after a few weeks it is good for you mentally and physically to get out and start walking 20-30 minutes daily.
If you’ve had perineal stitches these have mostly dissolved by two weeks and should start to feel more comfortable. Stitches in Caesarean wounds take longer to dissolve and sometimes need to be removed as they are not dissolvable. Staples always need removing. Keep the area as clean and dry as possible and start doing pelvic floor exercises early on. It is not uncommon, especially if you’ve had an instrumental birth, to have some bladder and, occasionally, bowel leakage. Seek advice from a specialist physiotherapist if the problem is not resolving by the time you have your six-week check. You can expect to bleed somewhere between two and six weeks, roughly a week for every day of your normal period. Often women who have had Caesareans bleed for less time.
Overall, don’t expect that your life will be the same as it was before the addition of a baby. It will change forever.
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