Dealing with New Parent Expectations and Post Partum Depression
By Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD
Becoming a new parent is an all encompassing experience that can be filled with both incredible joy as well as surprising lows.
Too often new parents are unprepared for the range of emotions that can develop during pregnacy and the postpartum.
Society tells you that this SHOULD be the happiest time ever. These messages can make it harder for new Mom’s or Dad’s to seek help.
The physical and emotional changes of pregnancy and the postpartum period impact more than mom alone. Couples get stressed as well with the demands of new parenthood managing new tasks, changes in roles, and shifts in work and family relationships. On top of that, there are the constant demands of a newborn along with lack of sleep.
This can be overwhelming and lead to:
- self doubt in either or both partners
- a sense of isolation
- feeling frightened or out of control
- unrealistic expectations
- endless guilt about how you think you should be feeling or functioning
Sometimes new parents struggle with beyond normal emotions
As you transition to parenthood, your own memories and experiences from childhood may return with great intensity. The good memories might create an obsessive pressure to live up to. The bad memories may instill an anger-tinged drive to not repeat hurtful mistakes you might have been subjected to.
If you have abuse or trauma in your own personal history this can be an especially frightening time as you seek to do things differently. It can bring up issues related to self-esteem, sexuality, marital conflict, family of origin issues, fear of failure, and expectations of perfection.
These ghosts of the past can rob you of the joys of discovering who your child is — what she needs, how he responds,what make her laugh with delight, when he wants you to interact with him and when he just wants to be held,and so on.
You owe it to yourself, and to your child, to clear away the pitfalls of the leftover emotional triggers from your own childhood.
Counseling can help you find your way
In new parent counseling, you can learn to navigate the unexpected difficulties that may arise in this new chapter of your life. You can learn to manage the stresses and transcend the patterns of the past.
When a woman, or a couple, makes the decision to get pregnant and start a family, usually only happy thoughts cross their minds. They dream of the beautiful, healthy child they’ll bring into their lives, they plan for the pregnancy, they plan for the delivery, and for the months afterward.
The happy thoughts get challenged if you are struggling with constant sadness, anxiety during pregnancy or after giving birth. It can be debilitating.
You may think that you are going crazy, you are all alone, or that you just weren’t meant to be a mother. You may have thoughts that scare you or made you feel ashamed.
New Moms often blame and doubt themselves. It’s easy to feel weighed down by all the “shoulds” of motherhood.
Approximately 1 in 8 women experiences some form of postpartum depression. There are many reasons a woman may feel depressed or anxious after delivery:
- your body is going through dramatic hormonal changes
- a new baby changes both your sleep schedule and your lifestyle
- higher risk if you have a family history of depression or anxiety
- personal history of depression in your own past for some women the cause is unclear
For everyone who suffers Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, the causes are as unique as she is.
Counseling support can help address the pain of postpartum depression and anxiety in your daily life, while building the coping skills to move though a very challenging time.New Moms or Dads can find their way as a new parent and begin to feel like themselves again.
There are no perfect parents —
just people doing the best that they can.
About the Author:
Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County NJ. She has been providing affirmative, compassionate and individualized help to Individuals, Couples and Families since 1990.