How soon after having a baby can you expect ‘return to normal’?
The truth is you will never return to normal, instead you will redefine normal.
From the moment you discover you are pregnant, you begin to change. Not just physically, but your entire being is altered. This is called Matrescence.
Science tells us that pregnancy leaves us with a piece of our child’s DNA, we start to see the world differently, question our values and motives. For some, this change is embraced, welcomed with relief and a sense of becoming ‘something’. For others, these changes rock their being to the core, leaving them shell shocked and feeling robbed of identity.
There are no rules and no way to predict how you will react or adapt to this change. What we do know, is that support makes all the difference. The support of your partner, first and foremost, that of your close family and friends and that of your greater community (such as health care workers, other mothers, and those you interact with regularly).
So what does this support look like?
The support begins with the acknowledgement of the transition that takes place for the parents. It is important for couples to prepare for this change, there are many options here. For example, Dad can participate in a Dads only class such as beer and bubs and access support via PREPARE. Parents can attend Breastfeeding Education Classes, which help set up realistic expectations for the early weeks. Hiring a doula and/or postpartum doula to support your pregnancy, labour and early weeks. Seeking evidence-based, biologically sound information will help you determine where your comfort zone is, and the kind of approach you would like to take.
With realistic expectations in place, parents can set about creating the support network they need. This may mean taking the time to ‘stop and smell the baby’. To take time to get to know themselves as parents and settle into the change. At some point, usually sooner than is desired, at least one partner returns to work. Finding a parents/mothers groups in their area that fits with their philosophy, can lead to wonderful friendships and greater support networks.
If the mother is returning to work, support looks like ‘breastfeeding friendly workplaces’, and for all parents, workplaces with childcare facilities onsite, flexible work hours and leave entitlements that honour family life.
The pace of life changes, if this knocks you for six – seek support from various organisations such as PANDA and Beyond Blue. Start with your GP, or other health carer you trust. Mums and Dads alike are fragile, so take care of each other – keep talking and checking in with each other.
Go well, and a Baby by any name smells sweet.