Becoming a parent is one of the biggest adjustments and transitions you could go through, which is why new motherhood is the perfect time to start counselling.
Your lifestyle completely changes in such a small window of time. There’s a whole list of new responsibilities suddenly added to your plate. Your relationship changes, as does your identity (part of it anyway!).
You’re probably completely overwhelmed or exhausted, and it can feel like there’s so much conflicting advice coming from everyone and their great aunt. As a new mom, you probably anticipated a great amount of change. You bought the baby clothes, you decorated the nursery, you read the baby sleep guides.
But in preparing for these tangible, obvious things, aspects like mental health and overall wellness can get lost. And then overwhelm and anxiety can hit like a ton of bricks.
That’s why counselling can be so crucial in new motherhood. Many of the below factors are reasons why some women decide to seek out therapy during this time.
1. Societal pressures and expectations can feel unattainable.
Let’s be real: societal expectations are way too high (and totally unrealistic) for women even on an average day. The assumptions that are placed on the newly postpartum woman are absolutely preposterous.
Keeping a tiny human alive and happy is work enough. Having to”bounce back”, keep a neat house, stay on top of the latest parenting advice, love every moment, and also smash your career goals… that’s a pretty tall order. Luckily, therapy is a neutral space where you can share your feelings without judgment.
2. New relationship tension can develop.
When a new member of the family shows up, couples usually have a hard time adjusting. About 70% of couples find that relationship satisfaction decreases during the months and years after having a new baby.
Intimacy and sex can become a point of stress. Splitting responsibilities fairly might feel impossible. And as mom, you might feel like the majority of the mental load of parenting has fallen on you. This might make you really mad (understandably) and even resent your partner. Having an unbiased third party to listen to and help navigate these difficulties can help you and your partner get back on track.
3. Added responsibility can lead to overwhelm.
If you were promoted and took on new responsibilities in your career, it would be pretty standard to need some time to adjust to that longer, more important to-do list, right? If you had to take a second job or launched a side business, it would be natural to have to scale back in other areas in order to accommodate for it. Your stress would feel warranted in those scenarios too, right? So why do we think about motherhood differently?
We sometimes downplay our suffering or assume that we should be able to “do it all.”
This is why some moms can have a hard time advocating for themselves, because they think they “should” be able to handle it all, and they are confused about why it’s actually really hard for them. They mistakenly think that everyone else has it figured out and they’re the only ones suffering. Chatting with a therapist can help you prioritize and give you the tools to find better balance. Outside perspective really can be so valuable at times like these.
An anxious brain might come up with thoughts that scare or surprise you.
If you’ve ever scared yourself with your own thoughts and wondered, “Is it normal for this to cross my mind?” or, “Why am I feeling or thinking this?” then there’s a good chance you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts. There’s a rational reason for why so many moms experience this kind of anxious thinking. No, they don’t make you a bad mother and yes, your therapist has heard it all before.
Past traumas often pop up.
Something that nobody tells you about motherhood is that it can often open up old wounds. When past traumas are triggered, we might not always respond to situations the way we want to. Snapping, constantly being teary-eyed, or feeling as though our emotions are out of proportion to their triggers are all signs that a past experience needs addressing. Counselling can help work through hurtful memories from our past to make sure that they don’t get in the way today.
Self-critical thoughts tend to be at their worst.
Some women find that their perfectionist, self-critical self gets kicked into high gear in the earliest stages of motherhood. It can be easy to get down on yourself when you feel like you can’t live up to the expectations (your own, your family’s or society’s) and when you’re overwhelmed with never-ending tasks.
If you catch yourself judging your postpartum body or internally berating yourself for making little mistakes, this point may speak to you. Therapy can help you to advocate for yourself though and be your own best friend when you need it the most. Caring for yourself is going to better serve you in the long run. Criticizing will only bring you down further.
Past patterns or habits may no longer benefit your new life.
The months after having a baby are such a huge adjustment—and that shouldn’t be downplayed. Parenthood brings on a lot of lifestyle changes. That doesn’t mean that you have to scrap important parts of your identity or do away with activities you love. It does however mean that it could be time to evaluate patterns, habits, or routines that you don’t want to bring forward. A therapist can be a good sounding board for this process.
If motherhood is feeling tough right now, that’s because being a mom *is* challenging! Whatever it is that you’re going through as you adjust to your new role and identity, the team at The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective is qualified to guide you through it. Learn more about our team here.