Having a baby is an incredible adventure that is both exciting and scary, eliciting a range of mental and emotional responses. During pregnancy it can be hard to imagine how you will feel when the baby arrives. The task of preparing for something unknown can feel elusive. Here are some tips to help you manage various challenges:
There is a learning curve to parenting. It takes time to learn your baby’s signals and figure out routines and rhythms that work. Bring compassion to yourself during this time. Let go of expectations, of how things should look like or feel. Let go of the need to be perfect.
Taking care of yourself will enable you to take care of your baby. Disrupted sleep is one of the most challenging aspects of having a newborn. Prioritize rest and sleep both before and after the baby arrives. Think about what you need to do in a day or in a week in order to feel good (for example walking, swimming, yoga, reading, seeing a friend, painting). Plan to take breaks so that you can partake in self-care activities. Learn to prioritize tasks for each day and set yourself up for success by being realistic with your goals. For example, in the first few weeks postpartum your “To Do” list could include having a shower and eating three healthy meals plus snacks. Slowly, you can add more things to your day. Avoid burnout by noticing your energy levels and checking in with yourself to make sure you are not taking on too much.
Life is full of uncontrollable and sometimes stressful situations. Address current stressors before the baby arrives. For example, prepare a maternity leave budget, complete or delay a home renovation and work on your relationship/marriage to ensure that you are emotionally connected.
Process unresolved issues
Becoming a mom can bring up unresolved issues related to your own mother and how you were raised. Now may be a good time for you to think about how you felt growing up. Are there things you want to do differently as a parent? You may need to set boundaries for your parents or in-laws as you bond with your new nuclear family. If you have a history of infertility, pregnancy loss or infant death, trauma or abuse you may experience stress and grief along with the arrival of your little one. Seek professional support to help you process unresolved anger, grief or sadness.
Examine your new role and identity
Being a mom is a significant departure from previous professional endeavours. You may feel a loss of your professional role and status. You may mourn or grieve the carefree life you led before having a child. You may also feel a loss of connection to yourself and people in your life. Examine how you feel about this shift in identity through reflection, journalling, talking to a close friend or family member, or a therapist. Think about how long you want to spend on maternity leave and what options there are for staying connected to work or working part-time if that is your preference.
Maintain your relationship
Having a baby is hard on relationships. Before the baby arrives spend time with your partner so that you can talk about what life might be like. Discuss any concerns you have about how things might be difficult in the first few weeks, especially if there are complications such as a C-section, challenges breastfeeding, or concerns about the baby’s health. Think about ways in which you can support each other. Plan to schedule dates at home when the baby is sleeping so that you continue to spend time together.
Build a support system
Being on maternity leave can be isolating. Who is in your support system (family, friends, colleagues)? What areas do you imagine you will need help with (childcare, groceries, cooking, cleaning, company)? Think about how you can draw on your support system to help you in areas that you need most. Learn to ask for help and receive support. Make new friends who are also on maternity leave by joining a mom’s group or going to a drop-in program.