The road to, through, and during motherhood is infused with so many conflicting emotions. Women do not always feel comfortable admitting to, or even openly expressing, the extreme emotions which surface. As women fall into the expectations of society, family, and friends, most do not recognize their experiences create a significant change, and therefore a need to grieve.
In the fourth of this five-part series, we explore the motherhood myth. Motherhood may be one of the most important responsibilities a woman can choose. It is also an experience she often enters into with zero first-hand knowledge, followed by a belief her life is changing for the better. The challenging experiences can, and must be, balanced with the moments of pure ecstasy.
Many omit the trails, those which leave any mother, especially a new one, questioning her confidence and blaming herself for the “bad days”. This may leave her grieving the freedom of a previous life as she adapts to this enormous change. Motherhood can be complicated, and it can be riddled with conflicting emotions. Discovering and expressing honestly, the unique emotional challenges of becoming a mom, is essential to being able to fully embrace the experience.
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Part Four: Becoming a Mom
For many, the experience of becoming a new mother is a choice. While some have planned this, for others it may be a surprise. The arrival of a baby can quickly make a woman aware of the subtle and drastic changes in her life.
She may find herself no longer being able to pick up and go the gym, sleep in on a Saturday morning, stay up late, or spontaneously load the kayak onto the truck and head to the lake. The everyday occurrences, once taken for granted, are no longer something she can do on a whim and must now be carefully planned around the baby’s schedule.
Little excursions, such as heading to the corner store for an ice cream cone can become laborious as the baby must be strapped in their car seat, placed in a stroller or the car, and don’t forget the diaper bag just in case there is a diaper emergency while out. I had a friend head off to the ice cream store, when they suddenly realized they had forgotten the baby at home! A date-night not only requires extra planning but once one adds in the cost of perhaps dinner, a movie, and a sitter, it may not seem worth the effort nor, for some, affordable.
It is normal and natural to grieve the loss of the lifestyle. In fact, it is important to express these emotions openly and honestly, especially to someone who will not judge. Burying these emotions can lead to resentment or, even worse, physical symptoms.
If the woman has a partner, there will be changes in their relationship. While both parents are programmed for connection to the baby, one of them has carried this little one within her and a bond has already formed. Partners as a rule, grow into the relationships with the baby, but there is an additional adjustment in the relationship to the birthmother. The birth of the baby, sleeping arrangements, nursing, time demands, etc. may alter the physical relationship the partners previously shared.
Not as much will change for the partner as they continue go to work and engage in activities or routines. Mothers can be left wishing things were better, different, or more as they watch their partner head out the door, one more time, while they remain at home caring for the baby. If these feelings are not shared, in an open and honest conversation, even the strongest of relationships can feel strained.
Some mothers can experience the loss of a dream as their career momentum gets interrupted with the birth of their baby. They may miss promotions, be reassigned responsibilities when they return from mat-leave, all while seeing much of their pay cheque go towards childcare. Accepting these unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations is easier when the unresolved emotions surrounding the disappointment can be completed.
Women, especially those who have waited a long time to become a mother, may feel badly when they long for their old life back. When they are exhausted and possibly angry, at how demanding this little one may be, they are hesitant to share their feelings for fear of being judged.
Every woman should be assured grief is normal and natural when experiencing a loss, in this case the loss of a previous life. It is also normal and natural to experience conflicting emotions with all the changes a new baby brings.
What is not normal is how society reacts to the emotions of a new mother. Society teaches her to bury her feelings, to be strong, to wait for the baby to get bigger and then all be fine. What we don’t encourage her to do is to share these emotions, to ask for help when she needs it, and to know all new mothers will experience a plethora of conflicting emotions and no two mothers will feel the same.
It is OK to have a bad day. It is OK to love this baby more than life itself. It is OK to want your freedom back. The more comfortable a woman becomes expressing these emotions, the more easily she can fully engage in this amazing experience of motherhood.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide. She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at http://tadams.ca/