by Becky Pike, MSW, LCSW
Adjusting to parenthood and life with a newborn brings new learning opportunities and significant change. An enormous amount of energy is required to develop these skills and adapt to these changes. You may feel you just don’t have the energy. It can feel very overwhelming and you may have doubts about your ability to cope and adjust. A new little human has entered your life and things will never quite be the same.
You are likely experiencing a wide range of emotions, from amazement to fear to joy to uncertainty. These feelings are all to be expected! Adjustment to a new baby is different for every family and the adjustment to such a big life change does not happen overnight.
It is very common for parents to find the first weeks and months with a new baby very challenging. In our society this is not something that is often talked about openly, so it can leave you wondering if your feelings and experiences are “normal.” Partners can work together to support each other in this big change in their lives. Below are some tips to help you adjust.
Communicate – Take time to talk with your partner or other support person about day to day life. Be real with your partner; it’s more than likely they are also feeling some anxieties and concerns about parenting, and will be relieved to be able to talk openly. A good partnership allows you both to be honest and real with each other in expressing how you feel: no shame or blame – just good communication.
Take Care of Yourself – Meeting your needs will help you meet the needs of your family. Make rest, sleep, showering, nourishment, and hydration a top priority. Self-care expectations may differ depending on the age of your baby, but even a newborn can be left with a caring family member for 20-30 minutes while you go do something that is not on your chore list. Both parents deserve time away at least once a week. Try to make this a balanced and scheduled time you both get to enjoy.
Ask for Help – Be assertive and communicate your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have been misled to believe others did not need help so we shouldn’t either. This is a myth! Be sure to identify and utilize your support network.
Identify a Respite Care Provider – Before the baby is born, designate 1-2 people to be official respite care providers in case of emergency. Before the baby arrives, consider who among your family and friends you can solicit to provide help. Talk with them about what kinds of things they might be able to help with, their availability, and then reach out to them when needed.
Be Flexible – Find a routine that works for you and the family, knowing that even the most well thought out plans may need to be adjusted. Flexibility is critical! You have full permission to let housework slide, adjust plans, let yourself off the hook, and enjoy your new baby and family.
Take Advantage of Community Resources – A quick online search will pull up family centers, play groups, babysitting co-ops and other programs like Mother’s Day Out. These are great ways to share experiences and resources, connect with others, and gain support.
Babies hold the gift of opening us up to great love. Adjusting to parenthood begins before the baby arrives and continues throughout the child’s life. Learning to be a parent is a slow process made up of physical and emotional demands. Parenthood is mostly wonderful, but it can also be very difficult, and it takes patience and support to get from your old life to your new one.
Becky Pike, MSW, LCSW specializes in working with preteen and adolescent girls, women, and parents. Becky often addresses assists clients with issues such as: pregnancy support and postpartum adjustment, infertility & perinatal loss, body image and self-esteem concerns, perfectionism, relationship and parenting concerns, and adjusting to chronic illness and other life transitions (e.g., career changes, separation and divorce, retirement and relocation). With warmth and personal attention, Becky supports clients in moving beyond symptom management to identify and develop deeper understanding of the meaning so healing can occur.