By Dishaa Desai
Becoming a mother for the first time can be extremely exciting, overwhelming and stressful all at the same time. It entails physical and emotional adjustments that are quite difficult to deal with. From sleep deprivation, feeding, crying to coping with one’s bodily changes post-delivery and a new way of life, there are a lot of stresses that new mothers face that may take away from experiencing the joys of motherhood.
Here are a few ways to cope with this exciting and (initially) nerve wracking phase of life:
Acknowledge the uniqueness of your journey
There are certain perceptions of how motherhood ‘should be’ that can cause one to feel they are not doing enough or not doing it a particular way. It is essential to acknowledge that every journey is unique to each woman; it is one of exploration and learning, not just for your baby but also for yourself, as a new mother. Comparing your journey to that of other mothers is unfair and unhealthy. It creates a sense of negativity that simply adds to stress. So, don’t compare. Motherhood is not a competition. Spend some time being kind to yourself and appreciating the effort you’re putting in for your baby.
Remember to look after your needs
As a parent and especially a new mother, it is natural to always put your child’s needs before yours and overlook and/or delay your own. However, you can only look after your child’s needs effectively if you are looking after your own, emotionally and physically.
So, make time for yourself as well – sleep, meditate, exercise, go out with friends, read a book you’ve wanted to but haven’t had the time to, carve out some time to spend with your partner without your child once in a while. Taking care of your needs can also serve as a good reminder of your own individual identity, apart from being a mother.
Communicate with your partner
The period right after your child is born is marked with a variety of emotions and changes. It is extremely vital to talk to your partner about what you’re experiencing. It can be very easy to fall into the pattern of non-communication, which leads to a build-up and then, an explosion of anger, disappointment and resentment towards your partner and relationship. Fleshing this out with each other will make the process smoother and ultimately, happier and less stressful.
Share the responsibilities
Since the immediate needs of a baby are primarily fulfilled by the woman, there is usually more responsibility on her, which can continue through life. As a result of gendered role expectations ingrained in our society, it can easy to forget the role of your partner as a co-parent with just as much responsibility. It is absolutely okay and in fact necessary, to hand the reins to your partner and have them equally share the responsibilities. After all, your child is a product of you and your partner.
Ask for help
Societal expectation has created this perception of all mothers being perfect and/or superhuman. While the intention was probably to value a mother’s strength and effort, sometimes it may have the opposite effect. Due to this perception, reaching out for help feels like failing at being a mother. There is a sense of inadequacy when thinking about assistance which prevents the help from reaching you in the first place. Childbirth and its aftermath can be quite an emotional roller-coaster initially and your loved ones will most likely value the chance to help and be involved. It can also give you the opportunity to be rejuvenated and feel less overwhelmed.
(The writer is Psychologist & Outreach Associate at Mpower -The Centre, Mumbai.)