Many cultures mark pregnancy and newborn stages as a period of bliss, enchantment and peacefulness. Advertising and information sharing often show visions of mothers smiling looking down at their infants in a calm and peaceful environment. When working with my clients I usually make a joke about how, when you are pregnant, everyone tells you “being a mother is so magical”, “you are going to be so happy when they finally arrive!” and then in the newborn stages everyone shifts to saying “it’ll get better”, “once you get a routine”, or “sleep when the baby sleeps!”. Wait! What happened to all that magical and enchantment stuff? I felt tired, disconnected, sad, like I wasn’t getting it, it was hard for me, something was obviously wrong with me. That’s how I felt. In reality, I had been sold a lie. By advertisements, general information sharing and social media.
New moms go through a complete upheaval. Why are they not warned about this during pregnancy? I will be offering a class soon that address this very situation. There is evidence that BOTH mom and dad experience emotional complexity and transitions. Also, the roles are changing, someone who is a wife, girlfriend, daughter, business executive, etc, is now adding becoming a mother and the harsh reality of unrealistic expectations that our society puts on that. Add in some financial hurdles and a lack of support, WOAH! So much for enchanting. Then mothers feel like they are not doing it correctly. All because we sell a serenity picture of motherhood.
New moms are hard at work. They have to shift their prior attachments, they are forming some new attachment and figuring out what kind of mom they are (or dad). The coined term for the season is emotional upheaval. I recently completed a quick survey in my area and out of over 100 respondents 80% of them said that they were not screened appropriately during pregnancy nor after for emotional health. As one book put it “even when they [women] are consciously thrilled to be pregnant, regression, conflict, anxiety, transient depression, emotional liability, and ambivalence are inevitable-and profoundly adaptive, as they prepare the mother in a variety of ways for the enormous task before her.” Handbook of Infant Mental Health 4th Edition Ed by Zeanah, pg. 26. So, there you have it, it is completely normal to have ups and downs. It is normal to cry when you’re not sure why and to wonder “where’s all that magical stuff at?”.
Traci Schank, LCSW