Family

Mom's stress guide: babies

Author: Canadian Living

Family

Mom's stress guide: babies

See the other articles in this collection:
Mom's Stress Guide: Pregnancy and birth
Mom's Stress Guide: Toddlers and preschoolers
Mom's Stress Guide: School-aged children
Mom's Stress Guide: Teens and tweens

The early weeks of life with a new baby can bring to mind the plot of a very bad science fiction movie. The people and places may look familiar, but you have this strange sense that your entire world has changed over night -- which, of course, it has. You've just arrived on Planet Mom.

"I honestly had no idea how upside-down my life would be after my first baby," says Danielle Donders, an Ottawa, Ontario, mother of two. "I guess I had just imagined that life would continue on its merry course, except there would be three where there once were two. Instead, I felt like my life had been turned inside out and I didn't recognize anything from my pre-baby life. I couldn't find time to eat, I was getting by on three hours of sleep a night, the chores were stacking up around me, and I felt completely overwhelmed."

While most moms-to-be eagerly devour information on pregnancy, labor, and birth, often those research efforts dwindle off before the true marathon of motherhood begins -- after the baby is born. And even if you do manage to find the time to hit the books before baby makes his grand entrance or to talk to friends about their own postpartum experiences, there's a world of difference between reading about sleep deprivation and actually living it (kind of like the difference between reading a review of a rollercoaster ride and deciding to try it out for yourself).

Here are some mom-proven strategies for weathering the highs and lows of life after baby.

Motherhood is never easy, but it does get easier.
As you spend more time getting to know your baby, you'll become better at reading his signals and your mothering self-confidence will grow. "Even though each stage presents its own challenges, the longer you're a mother, the more practice you've had and, for the most part, the more competent you feel," explains Andrea J. Buchanan, author of Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It (Seal Press, 2003).

Be prepared for the fact that that things could be a little tense between you and your partner right now.
("Having a baby is like throwing a grenade into a relationship," says Andrea O'Reilly, founding president and director of the Association for Research on Mothering at York University.)You're both missing out on sleep, it can be tough to carry on a coherent conversation, and your sex life may be missing in action. Let your partner know that as happy as you are about the new baby, you miss the alone time the two of you once had.

Realize that you're hard-wired to nurture and to reach out for support.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered that females under stress tend to exhibit a "tend and befriend" stress reaction: an urge to tend to their children and to befriend other women -- particularly women who are related to them (Click here to see the study). Reaching out to other women who may be able to support and nurture you is the perfect biological response for a new mom. Even Mother Nature thinks so!

See the other articles in this collection:
Mom's Stress Guide: Pregnancy and birth
Mom's Stress Guide: Toddlers and preschoolers
Mom's Stress Guide: School-aged children
Mom's Stress Guide: Teens and tweens

Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. She can be contacted via her website at having-a-baby.com.

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