One small baby, many big emotions
You’ve waited months or maybe years for your bundle of joy — and it truly can be a joyful time when you welcome a baby home! But joy is only one in a range of complex emotions that arrive with your new baby.
Because he cries, a lot. And you aren’t sleeping, at all. And it suddenly takes hours to get ready to leave your home, no matter how short the trip. Sometimes, you may not be sure why the baby is crying or how you can soothe her. As fast as it takes to change a diaper, your emotions can vary — along with joy, fear, anxiety and self-doubt are just some of the emotions you might feel.
If you are co-parenting, you also have new and unique stresses in your relationship, while being a single mom or dad can bring entirely different stresses with it. Now let’s add more stress: Work. Finances. Relationships with partners, and with family and friends. Having time to prepare meals, do laundry, clean up dishes, or simply take a shower. And has anyone fed the dog today?
Let’s be honest — while babies are indeed a bundle of joy, they also bring with them a bundle of other emotions, like worry, contentment, doubt, pride, happiness, stress and exhaustion. (Oh, the exhaustion!)
Set your sights on self-care
First, take a deep breath. Go ahead. Breathe in. It might not seem like it, but the baby can wait while you take a few deep breaths. Listen closely. Listen deeply.
Now, a reminder: you are going through one of the greatest, most meaningful changes of your life — it’s not going to be perfect for you or for any new parent. And while there will always be hiccups, bumps, and challenges, for you to be the best mom or dad you can be, you need to make sure you are practicing self-care. What does that mean?
While you may find it easier to ask for physical help such as “can you help me make dinner, it can be harder to ask for emotional help. But right now, your emotional needs are just as important right now as your physical ones — here are just a few suggestions to get your new self-care routines started:
Give it a Rest. Sometimes, just asking a loved one to take care of the baby for a few hours can give you what you need most — consecutive hours of sleep. Don't be afraid to ask for help and be specific, whether it's thirty minutes or three hours.
Express yourself. Talk to your partner about how you are feeling. You may find they have similar emotions. Or, you might learn what other emotions they are having. Sharing perspectives can help raise awareness and understanding of your mutual emotions. If you need a break, talk to a family member or friend. They might provide a perspective that helps – or maybe just a shoulder to cry on if you need one.
Unwind. Can you take a short walk or catch up on a couple of episodes of your favorite show? Maybe you need to take a long shower or to run to the store by yourself. Making time for yourself can renew your excitement for time with baby.
Get Real. Last but not least: it’s time to get real with yourself. Whatever image of a “perfect parent” you developed before you brought baby home just isn’t real —and probably doesn’t look much like what you’re doing now. But the good news is, you are already perfect in the eyes of your baby. Try and let go of that negative inner voice and focus on the truth: you are doing your best — and if your best is good enough for your baby, it is simply good enough.
Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.