Now that I’ve had L, I’m getting a better idea of what I find helpful and not helpful to say to a parent with a new baby. Having been dealing with learning how to care for a baby in addition to postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I have realized that when I’ve begun to vent or bring up certain frustrations, I’m really trying to open up about how I am feeling mentally and emotionally. I’m looking for understanding, not dismissal, which is what I think some of these lines do. I’ve started wondering if other moms are trying to do the same when they mention having a hard time with this parenting gig. I’d love to know if this is true for you as it is for me.
There have been things I’ve been told (repeatedly) that I don’t want to hear as a new mom, especially as a new mom who has been struggling with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Some of them are:
This is what you wanted
Yes, I did want a baby. Yes, I wanted to be a mom. However, I didn’t want (or expect) to feel a wide range of intense emotions, many of them negative. I need to know that not every mom falls in love with her baby right away, or that wanting to throw my baby out a window, or imagining us being in a car accident, or feelings of complete joy and then resentment within a minute of each other are normal. I need to know you also find parenting challenging. I need to know it’s okay to not like being a parent all the time.
You and your baby are alive and healthy and that’s what matters (re: birthing experience)
I’ve been trying to understand why this line irks me. I mean, other than the obvious being upset things didn’t go your way. I think I’ve figured it out. How a woman is supposed to give birth is pretty much ingrained into her mind from a very young age: you grow a baby in your tummy and push it out. Details are added as you get older. You learn about epidurals and how great they are, you learn that some women may need a c-section and some want to give birth drug free. I’m guessing for the majority of women they have envisioned pushing a baby the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a bagel for at least a decade before getting that chance.
However, typical birth classes don’t fully prepare you for birth. Because of this, many women are caught off guard by hiccups along the way and her experience could be traumatic because of it. Many birthing classes gloss over the “what if” scenarios. They don’t go into detail on emergency C-sections or what to expect if your baby has to stay in the NICU (or that even full term babies can wind up there). They don’t prepare you for how to cope with the contractions should that epidural you’d always dreamed of not work. They don’t explain what happens, exactly, during a c-section. When things take an unexpected turn parents can find these situations traumatic. That should never be dismissed because these situations can increase the chances for perinatal mood disorders down the road, which can affect the entire family. What a person finds traumatic varies from person to person. You might have been okay with your emergency c-section; however, your friend may not be. At the end of the day, mom and baby are alive and healthy. Physically. That doesn’t mean the parents are healthy mentally and emotionally.
So, yes, the birth experience does matter. Let’s start letting mothers vent and open up about how they feel about their birth experiences instead of dismissing them.
Sleep when the baby sleeps
I roll my eyes every time someone tells me this (except for my therapist; I do this mentally when she tells me to do this, though luckily she understands this isn’t usually a reality for me). This is easier said than done and isn’t always possible, which is a shame because adequate sleep actually helps my depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep actually makes my anxiety worse and, unfortunately for me, I’m home with an infant and a toddler. When one sleeps the other is awake — nearly 24 hours a day.
Enjoy them when they are this small. It goes by so fast!
I didn’t realize how much this hurts until I saw it written on a friend’s Facebook page when she mentioned feeling frustrated with her newborn. I find this is something you realize in hindsight. You blink and your baby is 1 and you realize these people are right. But when you’re in the trenches of parenting a new baby, it can be hard to enjoy the creature you created, especially when you aren’t happy yourself. When my PPD with G was at its worst, I wasn’t enjoying anything, especially my baby. During that first year, especially the first six months, time seemed to go by slowly. It’s a lot easier to enjoy your baby when they are happy and you are happy. It does go by fast, but being told I need to enjoy it when I’m not makes me feel guilty. I do feel guilty when I think about G’s first year. I’m not sure that guilt will ever go away. Having someone tell me to enjoy this infant stage tends to remind me that I didn’t enjoy G’s, and I should have. I’d rather express how time has flown and then tell me you totally agree.
I get that people who offer up this advice are just trying to be kind, helpful. These lines seem so innocent. I certainly didn’t think much of them until I started my TTC/pregnancy/parenting journey. I’ve learned you never know what a person is thinking or feeling about their situation, or what their entire situation is.
What about you? Has anyone tried giving you words of wisdom that irked you as a new parent?