Adjusting to parenthood

Postpartum | Newborn | Wellbeing | | Elinor Harvey


As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, the worries often begin. When shall I tell work? Will we be ok financially? What if there is a problem with the pregnancy? Am I going to be a good mum? What do I need to do to get ready for birth? What sort of birth do I even want?

The worries can feel endless!

And when your baby is born, the worrying can get even worse! Is it normal for baby to have green poo? Is their room too hot/too cold? Am I giving my baby enough or too much milk?

These worries are so, so common, but also completely exhausting. They can run through your brain like a constant cycle, never reaching a clear answer or getting you anywhere. A constant distraction from the joy of just being there with your baby. And when you’re so focused on your baby’s needs, the chances are that you’re not getting the chance to think about your own needs too. You find yourself drinking cold cups of tea and eating toast for every meal. All basic activities have to be carried out with just one hand while you rock and shush your baby. Even having a shower or putting on clean clothes feels impossible some days.

And as for the old (frustrating) adage ‘sleep while the baby sleeps’, what about all the other household chores that are building up? What about if baby never actually seems to sleep?!

If this sounds like you, then hopefully you realise that you’re not alone! It can feel like everyone else is living some perfect Instagram life without the #babyvomit, but the truth is that this newborn stage is worrying and challenging for nearly everyone.

So I’m here to help you with the following mantras:

1. It’s OK for things to be hard…

Sometimes things are hard, especially when they are new. Especially when they are incredibly important to you. Especially when you’re exhausted. It makes sense that this feels hard right now.

If you’re a first time parent, it’s especially hard because you haven’t done this before. When something is completely new, it’s normal for it to feel hard. After all, if you’d never driven a car before, you wouldn’t expect your first driving lesson to be an instant success. You’d anticipate stalling the car, choosing the wrong gear and some rather bumpy braking. You’d know that it takes time and practice to drive smoothly and to instinctively know what do to with your feet.

When it comes to parenting, it takes time too. Some lucky parents do instinctively know how to respond to their baby’s needs, but for most of us, well, it’s learning on the job! So go easy on yourself. It does get easier (cliché but true!)

2. It’s OK to ask for help….

Asking for help can feel challenging for lots of people. If we’ve grown up being taught to stand on our own two feet and where independence is encouraged, then it can be especially difficult. Many women find it hard going from a full time job where they feel capable and skilled, to feeling vulnerable and lost as a new parent. As a result, asking for help can feel like failure, like giving up. However asking for help is just the opposite: a refusal to give up.

Who could you ask for help from? A parent, your partner, a good friend? Could you speak to your health visitor or midwife? Online forums can also offer advice and reassurance, as well as trusted websites like the NCT. If you’re struggling with your mental health, how about visiting your GP or finding a therapist to talk to? You can search for a qualified counsellor in your area on accredited registers such as the National Counselling Society or the BACP.

3. It’s OK to not know what you’re doing

If you’re used to being in control of your life, full of confidence and self-assurance, then having a newborn can feel like a huge dump of gorgeous, milky chaos in your life. No matter how much you love and adore your little bundle of joy, there will be times when you feel completely flummoxed about what to do. Why are they crying? Surely it can’t be another nappy? Why aren’t they going to sleep like usual? When we don’t know what we are doing it can feel overwhelming.

However, it’s honestly OK if you don’t always know what you’re doing. Sometimes you just have to try different things, at different times, and see what works. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always guess exactly right what your baby needs. It takes time for your instincts to kick in, but you will get there. One day you’ll be anticipating your baby’s every move, knowing exactly when they need to nap, and what time is best for their lunch, and all this will seem like a far off memory.

4. It’s OK to not love all of it, all of the time…

Much of being a parent to a newborn is mundane, messy, and exhausting. Your boss is a small, emotional, and very cute dictator who expects their needs to be met within milliseconds. The laundry pile can feel like it’s reaching the ceiling, especially after a few ‘poonamis’, and having freshly washed hair can feel like a distant dream. So, it’s OK if you don’t love your new life, all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, or that you don’t love your baby. It just means you’re human.

So, try not to worry when life just feels tough and you long for your old job with adult conversation and hot coffee. Give yourself a massive hug and find a small moment of calm: slow deep breathing can really help, or text a friend and arrange to meet up. If you’re in a relationship, then share your feelings with your partner; they are probably feeling the same way and you can have some fun remembering life pre-kids (the long lie ins!) and reminiscing together.

Ultimately, finding a way to be kind to yourself and trust your instincts is going to be key to support you through this stage. Of course, if it feels like your worries are building up and affecting your mental health, then please do seek some support by visiting your GP or speaking to your health visitor.

As always, good luck, and I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions, via my website 

Elinor X