In their 2010 TED talk, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman talked about parenting taboos. As a new father, Rufus saw his son emerge squalling into the world and as the nurse handed him the child, he recalled friends saying, ‘The moment they put the baby in your hands, you will feel a sense of love that will come over you that is [on] an order of magnitude more powerful than anything you’ve ever experienced in your entire life.” Rufus described bracing himself for the moment, “for this Mack truck of love to just knock me off my feet.”
He did feel love. He felt affection and awe toward his wife along with gratitude for a healthy child. But Griscom also felt incredulous. Having a child of his very own felt utterly surreal – and his wife agreed, albeit in a whole host of different ways. It wasn’t a “Mack truck of love.” It simply was what it was – life – and that was okay.
Childbirth and caring for new mothers after birth is a large adjustment, to say the least. All parents can truly expect to have an intensely emotional experience, yet those emotions may be experienced or displayed in a great variety of ways. The biggest myth about the whole thing is that there is a “one size fits all” experience of welcoming a child.
The first major set of feelings after baby arrives is simply managing childbirth. A woman’s body will have been through a dramatic, traumatic ordeal, whether she delivers vaginally or via Caesarian section – and there are after-effects to all forms and overall experiences of delivery. Women will often feel physically tired, sore, and generally uncomfortable. Their bodies will likely begin producing milk, which is, itself, a new sensation. They may feel a sense of euphoria at meeting their baby, and that elation may be accompanied by joy and gladness that the birth went beautifully. Alternatively, there may be big feelings of great disappointment and frustration when a birth did not, in fact, proceed as hoped for or planned.
There is no one single standard set of “normal” feelings. Whatever a new parent feels is simply how they’re feeling. If a new mother struggles with pain or other uncomfortable physical sensations, her care team can respond with medicine and treatment options. If a new father feels helpless as to how he can support his weeping wife over her breastfeeding difficulties, he can ask a lactation consultant or other care professional about what to do. He can also simply honestly share with his partner that he’s not sure how to help, but he deeply cares and is there for her in what ways he is able. There is no one way to predict postnatal feelings or postpartum depression, but new moms should remember that they may be present, often strong, and can be managed.
Sharing Your Feelings
There is freedom in flexibility. When both partners recognize for themselves and one another that there is no standard set of feelings that either might experience, then the next step is to find ways to intentionally share whatever feelings emerge with one another.
Tell your partner about your expectations for childbirth so he or she can respond sensitively and effectively after the baby has arrived. Giving your partner a clue about what will bring joy, calm, or fulfillment at the birth of your child will allow your partner the ability to accurately respond after the fact. Were you anxious about the pain – but it turned out not to be as bad as you thought? Your partner can help you celebrate! Were you hoping for an all-natural delivery but needed to rely unexpectedly on medication? Your partner can help you come to terms with that piece of the process.
Give your partner updates on how it is that you’re feeling as well. Real-time, up to date reports are essential for good communication and mutual care. It really is necessary to say, “I feel [emotion(s)] because of [description of circumstances].” By sharing this directly, your partner can be able to respond appropriately. Perhaps you report, “I feel frustrated because the way I’m nursing really hurts and I don’t feel like I’m doing it correctly.” Your partner can respond with offers to bottle feed the baby with milk you previously pumped or with formula. He or she can also locate and help to access support among friends and family because it is important that new mothers communicating feelings after pregnancy that can double as a support system.
Working on Your Feelings
Adjusting to parenting is perhaps more like being hit by a Mack truck of expectations rather than a Mack truck of love as parenting taboos might have you believe. Feelings will expand, contract, change, and settle as you move into your roles of parenting together with your new baby. The goal is not to achieve the “right feelings” at any given moment, it is attempting to share your actual thoughts and feelings with your partner. Taking enough time to thoroughly listen to your partner can also go a long way towards practicing effective communication.
Among the greatest gifts you and your partner can share after the birth of a child is calling on home care services. Many of the stressors that new parents experience have to do with completing the normal everyday tasks to be accomplished throughout the day, such as preparing food, managing laundry, going on errands, keeping the house clean, and other activities of daily living (ADLs) parents need to do. These responsibilities are amplified after the birth of a baby, yet new parents often won’t find that they have the margin to fulfill those needs with the same energy or ability as they did prior to baby’s arrival. New parents will often find themselves better able to identify and cope with difficult feelings, and enjoy positive feelings when essential needs are being met. New Mom Assistance is a form of specialized home care that can close the gaps of responsibility around the house so new parents are better able to find the time and energy to consider and cater to the emotional needs of their partner – and their newborn.
Contact Us to Learn More
For more information about communicating postnatal feelings to your partner after pregnancy, please call or contact Caring Hands Matter online for a complimentary consultation where we can paint a picture of how New Mom Assistance home care services can help your family.