Adding a new child to a family is always an adjustment. For some it’s easier than others. Not everyone adjusts to becoming a parent easily. This can be due to hormonal or chemical reasons, leading beyond baby blues and into postpartum. In other cases it can be situational, when a parent is challenged by learning a new routine.
I have four children and am often asked, as many parents of several children are, which one was the hardest adjustment. My answer is always the first one. Each of my children were wonderfully unique from the beginning. My second slipped into our lives almost seamlessly. Her birth was easy, she breastfed easily, she slept well, and had a very easy to handle temperament. My third is full of energy and feelings and is more challenging to handle. My fourth is adorable and opinionated. With each of these, I had tools in place. I had an understanding of breast-feeding, I knew that I didn’t like feeding pureed food and preferred to do baby led solids, I had other mamas in my life to reach out to and ask for advice when I didn’t know how to handle a situation. I knew what kind of diapers I preferred, how to install a car seat, and what parts of parenting were my strengths and which were their dad’s. With our first we knew none of these and many families don’t. Most of us don’t grow up in big families anymore where we are caring for siblings or cousins. My first baby was the first time I encountered the majority of the skills I would need.
I had severe postpartum depression after my first child was born. I was lucky that the worst of it was over within a month, and I eventually bonded well with my son. I was also blessed with a supportive husband and mother to help guide me when I was lost. I did not, at the time, have a support system of other moms and it took me until I was pregnant with my second to find it, and that is a game changer! But what about those that aren’t so lucky? What about the families where one of the parents is at a loss with how to care for an infant and checks out? When Dad is working 2 jobs and tired at the end of the day, and mom comes home from work to a dirty house and a crying infant. Everyone is stressed and pushed to the edge. We hear sad stories all the time about situations where the pressure is too much sometimes with tragic results. In most cases it doesn’t go that far but it can lead to marital problems, emotional difficulties, and simply not enjoying life for a time!
The greatest moment for me as an educator is when I see a parent come in to a meeting tense, frazzled, and clearly overwhelmed. I work with a lot of new moms and I can often see the fatigue and the tears right behind the eyes. There is often shame in there as well. Moms are supposed to adore their infants, enjoy every coo and smile, and be wrapped up in love and joy. Too often this isn’t the case. This is a mom who doesn’t have the tools to care for herself and her infant at the same time. She has had only rushed showers and meals, she hasn’t had time to go for long walks or exercise, she isn’t able to do the things that make her feel like a whole person because she is pouring herself into caring for this new tiny person with very big needs. When I help that mom into the right carrier and baby settles in snuggled up close, often falling right to sleep, I can visibly see the tension release from her shoulders. I have seen moms and dads cry in relief. It’s as if a vision of a whole different way of life flashes through their minds in that moment. Seeing that moment is why I do what I do.
Babywearing is so much more than pretty fabrics or one more thing to buy. It is a tool that allows us to eat with two hands, go for a walk, take older children to the playground or zoo and actually play with them. It allows us to take long showers with our babies. The close contact with the baby encourages bonding and an increase in the hormones that make us feel relaxed and happy. It encourages breastfeeding and being in tune with babies cues, which also helps with the hormonal drop that occurs after pregnancy. It reduces domestic violence. It helps us feel like we don’t have to sacrifice ourselves to be good parents. We CAN do both!