Welcome to Parenthood (Now What?)
Learning to live with Baby
You’ve puffed, panted, pushed, and perhaps even let out a shriek or two. Your baby is finally here, more beautiful than you might ever have imagined. Take a second to enjoy it, because you’re about to get caught up in the whirlwind of new parenthood. Before you know it, the nurses will have given you a crash course in newborn care, wished you luck, and whisked you out of the hospital and into the beginning of your life as a mother.
You’re Now a Parent
Suddenly you realize that, although you spent weeks preparing for labor and delivery, there was scant to no preparation for the many life changes that accompany the appearance of that much-anticipated baby. Although people mentioned that you’d be sore and sleep-deprived, no one really told you anything else about what life with a newborn is like. They didn’t warn you about the occasional hours of nonstop crying. They also didn’t mention the indescribable joy of seeing that precious little one asleep in the crib, thumb in mouth, tiny bottom sticking up in the air. There’s no parenthood orientation, no job description—it’s just you, your partner, and baby, all hanging in there as best you can and taking it hour by hour, day by day.
Bonding Takes Time
Don’t be concerned if you don’t feel an instantaneous connection with your baby. Dr. Samuel J. Meisels president of the board of Zero to Three, a national organization for infants, toddlers, children and families, says bonding doesn’t always take place in the immediate postpartum period. Especially if there’s been a difficult delivery or if Mom and Baby are separated immediately after birth; it may take some time for parents to feel the kind of love that we expect to experience right away. “Don’t worry if there isn’t that ecstatic moment after birth,” he says. “You will still attach to your child and develop a loving relationship.”
The transition from not-parent to parent is a huge one, agrees Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok MSW, PhD, founding director of the Institute for Infants, Children, and Families, which is part of the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services in New York City.
“It’s important to recognize that you are not going to be a perfect mother,” she says. “You and your spouse will be cranky and tired at times—it just goes with the territory. You have completely new responsibilities, and holding that fragile-looking infant makes it obvious just how much your baby needs you. It takes time to grow into your new role, to really feel like a parent. It may take six months or even a year,” she explains, adding that, “You need to tell yourself ‘I may not yet feel like a parent but I will develop my capacity to be a good mother by doing what needs to be done, by getting to know my baby, developing a daily routine, and allowing myself to grow into my new role at my own pace.’”
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