Transition to parenthood

The transition to parenthood for the first time is unsettling, exciting, and profound – when the dust settles things will without doubt be different, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Pregnancy and motherhood is a time when all is in flux – physically, psychologically and interpersonally. For the mother-to-be, she is managing physical changes to her body, changes in identity (e.g. from daughter to mother, from career-woman to motherhood), changes in her relationship with her husband or partner, from being a couple to three, and often there is a turning towards other women. This is a new role in the family and a new role in society. At a subconscious level there are many questions e.g. what will I be like as a parent? Will I be a good enough parent? Can I love this baby? Will he/she love me? Past memories and feelings regarding our own parenting are often reawakened at this time. There is so much uncharted territory – as you get to know your baby, build this new relationship and learn new things about yourself, all in a world where media often has us all reaching for the sky with our unrealistic expectations i.e. I can do it all!

It is no wonder that with such tremendous change occurring at all levels that some distress is inevitable. As world expert on infant mental health, Bruce Perry, has suggested – we were designed to have babies in clans, in those days when there were more adults than children and there was a shared responsibility – in our modern society this idea has been turned on it’s head and mum is often at home with one, two or more children on her own, causing considerable stress. Some anxiety and worry about pregnancy and parenting a new baby is normal and research has shown that increased worries and intrusive thoughts (which for some people can even be quite bizarre or disturbing in nature) are normal at this time. However, if you find that you are worrying for a large part of the day, that you are losing sleep (in addition to waking for the baby) or experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety such as racing heart or muscle tension, then you may need some professional help to reduce anxiety. A visit to your GP is the first place to seek help and they can put you in touch with a number of support agencies or professionals if needed. You can also visit the website for comprehensive information on adjustment to motherhood as well as anxiety and depression in this period. With everything in flux this is also a time of great opportunity – of greater awareness and new perspectives and a baby can provide the motivation to make changes in areas of our life that are not working well.


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