When a woman has a new baby, she can sometimes receive too much initial support or the wrong type of support. I have seen this time and time again, and it can contribute to feelings of “baby blues”
A recent client has her baby and felt very at ease – at least initially. Her baby was born and she held him as if she had held him a hundred times before. She smelled him and held his little hand in her palm. Their connection was instant. She offered him the breast in a firm and confident way and they continued to work together to initiate breastfeeding with very little help. Most moms feel afraid of hurting their new babies, but she knew exactly how to handle him.
We spoke several times after her baby was born, but each time we spoke, she seemed sadder and sadder. A couple of weeks after the birth she was quite down and was experiencing baby blues. She was not her chatty self. “I don’t understand,” she told me as she cried, “I love him, but I feel sad and irritable. It can’t be postpartum depression right? I love being a mom, but I can’t stand having all of these people around me.”
My heart went out to her. After talking some more, it was clear to me that her feelings were a result of too much interference with the “baby moon” period. Most of my previous clients had less support and, in some cases, successfully fumbled their way through caring for their babies. More often than not, this gave them a deep sense of accomplishment. In her case, family came from out of town and stayed for 3 weeks! She felt so invaded, but she did not think she had the right to complain – after all, there were so many other women who had no help at all. I often hear new moms discount their need for space from family and friends in the early days because they believe it is unreasonable to ask for it. To me, it sounds an awful lot like when many parents make their kids eat food, even if they aren’t hungry, “because of the starving children in Africa.” Sometimes, you are just not hungry!
Since that time, I have met many other moms who felt the same as my client. It is obvious to me that the initial connection between mother and baby is an intimate one. She needs time and space to learn about her new baby and about herself in this new role. Women often feel that they need to take care of others, so too many visitors often make a woman feel like she has to relate, even if she would rather not.
In the first few weeks, when a mom is surrounded by people and she does not want to be….
- She feels as if her home has to stay tidy, when she really wants to rest.
- She feels like she has to hold back her tears when she feels emotional, so that no one will jump to conclusions about how she is feeling.
- She feels like she has to smile, and make conversation, when she really just wants to look at her baby.
- She feels she needs to explain her choices, when she really believes she knows what her baby wants.
All of these activities take away from her one essential task of opening her heart to herself and her baby.
There is a biological explanation for this as well. Hormones in a woman’s body, prime her to be more open and emotional during this time…how else would she bond with a baby who is non-verbal? At this time, she has to feel more than she has to think. In cave man terms, the best thing a family can do for many women is make sure they keep the lions away, hunt food and cook it for her and give her breaks when she needs them, so that she can continue to grow her love for
her baby. Now, did you notice anything in there about giving her advice that she hasn’t asked for? Or did you hear anything in there about taking her baby away and feeding it formula? Nope. Think cave man, and cave woman – basic needs and basic supports and lots of encouragement.