Date: July 23, 2016

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Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program

Becoming A Parent

This page was reviewed or revised on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 1:11 PM

Becoming a parent is a turning point in a person's life with both positive and negative repercussions. There is no turning back; once a parent, the job never goes away. There is no probationary period and no training. Nothing really prepares you for the never ending 24 hour-a-day job of caring for your own child.

When a new mom brings her baby home, she may experience a number of different issues:

  • The loss of being pregnant. Now less attention is paid to mom and the focus is on the baby.
  • Feelings of disappointment if the labour and delivery didn't turn out as expected.
  • Change in her relationship with her partner. The baby will intrude on the close relationship formerly taken for granted.
  • Change in her role in the family. Now she is not just a wife/partner but his child's mother. What expectations do they have of each other now?
  • The issues of caring for and raising a child.
  • Recovery from childbirth-physically, psychologically, emotionally.

There is a group of physical and emotional feelings which we call "after-baby blues". Fifty to eighty percent of women giving birth in North America have some degree of this.

Typical symptoms include: 

  • lack of energy
  • episodes of crying
  • anxiety
  • mild insomnia
  • poor concentration
  • mood swings

Possible causes:

Changes in hormone and chemical levels; feeling overwhelmed by new roles; fatigue

If these feelings last more than 2 weeks or begin to interfere with your daily functioning, it may indicate a more serious problem. The woman should seek help from a health care professional such as her family doctor. (See postpartum depression).

How to cope

Realize that you are learning. Don't expect too much of yourself. With time and patience, you will get to know and understand what your baby needs.

  • Realize that you are not alone. Talk to people who care about you, especially your partner. Attend a support group.
  • Set aside time for yourself regularly to do some of your favourite activities. Hire a sitter, or leave baby with Dad or a family member.
  • Take baby out with you. Just getting out of the house can improve your outlook and reduce your isolation.
  • Take good care of yourself. Getting enough rest and eating well helps in many ways. Do things that make you feel attractive.
  • Actively search for positive experiences in your day. Watch funny movies; give yourself credit for what you have accomplished each day.
  • Have visitors only when you want to. Put a "Baby and Mom sleeping" sign on the door; let the answering machine pick up calls.
  • Ask for help with household chores. Accept everyones’s offer of help. Even paying for help is worth the price if it helps you.
  • Be realistic. No one needs to be perfect. Sort out your expectations and look at yourself and the situation in realistic terms.

Being a partner too!

Becoming parents is far more than physically and emotionally caring for a child. Ultimately the child will be best cared for if the parents can also care for and nurture each other and work as a team. 

It requires planning, energy, and positive thinking. It requires a couple to look at each other in a new way; not just as partners but as parents. The new roles we must assume of mother and father are foreign to us. Everything is new and unknown.

Common issues

1.  Loss of warmth and closeness with the partner.

  • Most commonly, dad continues to work while mom takes a leave. Mom’s focus is completely different now. It may be hard to relate to the problems each encounters.
  • Dad may feel neglected. The mother’s thoughts and actions are concentrated on the baby. Dad, who formerly received a lot of attention, now plays "second fiddle".
  • The couple may subjugate all their needs to the needs of the baby. Their needs are very important too, and should not be ignored. 

2.  Change in sexual relationship

  • The woman will need to physically recuperate from childbirth before resuming intercourse. The episiotomy must be healed; vaginal flow gone. Psychologically, either partner may not be ready to resume sexual relations for some time even after the physical healing takes place. Either may fear having or causing pain; or may just be too physically or psychologically fatigued to have sexual desire. You need to be fully awake to participate in sex; you need energy to have an orgasm.

3.   Change in social activities/friendships 

  • Social activities, especially spontaneous ones, usually decrease substantially in the first few months after the baby is born. Childless friends may disappear. 

4.  Change in the number of arguments/tension level

  • Many couples report an increase in both. This can be due to differences between expectations and reality; feelings of inadequacy; frustration with new roles.

How to cope

  • Talk to your partner about your feelings, your needs and actively listen to his. Set aside specific time to be together just to talk about yourselves, not the baby. Realize that although the baby is a part of both of you, having a baby does not automatically bring a couple closer together. In fact, just the opposite can happen.
  • Plan activities to do together. Make a pre-planned schedule of fun activities that you both enjoy and stick to it. If you don’t pre-plan, chances are that you’ll never take that afternoon or evening out. Find a babysitter/family member that you are comfortable leaving the baby with. Accept the fact that spontaneity is not possible for a while and make plans which you can look forward to instead. If you don’t want to leave baby behind, schedule an activity like a walk, going to the drive-in, etc.
  • Dad also needs attention. A small gesture, or word of affection goes a long way in reducing tension and making people feel good about themselves. Your efforts often will result in a greater attempt on his part to make the effort for you too.
  • Encourage Dad to become involved in caring for your baby. With practice and patience, he can learn how to calm the baby and take care of many physical needs just as you have learned. His involvement with the baby helps him to understand your involvement. And working as a team helps your entire relationship.
  • Develop friendships with other couples with young children. Your lifestyle and priorities are different now. Seek out couples who have the same general philosophy about child care that you have.

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