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The Unspoken Realities of The Postnatal Period


One thing I hear from the mums I work with all the time is ‘they don’t tell you about this stuff’. And they’re right, I haven’t come across a standard prenatal course that includes the kind of information that, beyond the birth, will support you in this massive shift you are going through. As a postnatal counsellor and mum to two young children, I’ve experienced and witnessed, the emotional rollercoaster that so many mums go through. So, here's a blog post combining some of the unspoken realities of the postnatal period.


The Unspoken Realities of The Postnatal Period


1.The Myth of Instant Bonding


Mum sleeping with baby sleeping on her

It’s become an expectation now, that there should be an immediate and overwhelming bond between mother and baby. And while some mums do experience that instant connection, its essential to know that many do not. This bond can take time and how quickly it comes can depend on so many factors. For instance, unexpected events during the birth that heighten stress, birth injury, hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation and emotional support can all take their toll. Even if you didn’t struggle with any of these, that bond can still take time.


My own bond took time. I think in those early days I was partly in shock that I suddenly had this incredibly vulnerable baby to care for and a realisation that I didn't know what I was doing. In my sleep deprived state it was like I was on automatic pilot, I knew I had to keep my baby alive, keep them warm, fed and clean but an instant bond of love? I’m not sure that’s what it was, it certainly didn’t feel that way.


If your bond is taking time or you’re looking back and wondering if there is something wrong with you because of how long it took, please know you are a good mum and it is ‘normal’.

 

2.Loneliness of Motherhood


A group of mums and babies

Many new mums find themselves grappling with profound loneliness during the postpartum period, despite often being surrounded by family and friends. It might be due to the physical demands of caring for a newborn, changes in relationships with friends, societal expectations that this new chapter of your life should be navigated effortlessly. All of these factors often result in mums not sharing how they feel, their concerns and anxieties. When we don’t share these things we can feel very alone during this period.


Try to find a support network of people you feel you can be open and honest with and if feelings of isolation become overwhelming, seek professional support.

 

3. Anxiety


We probably all expect to be sleep deprived with a newborn but what we don’t always expect is how anxious we might feel. You have this vulnerable new baby, something you’ve never had to care for before and it doesn’t come with a manual. We're often told to trust our ‘mothers instinct’, but what is this and where does it come from? There is no inner switch that means you suddenly know whether your little one just has a sniffle or whether it’s something more serious. You don’t suddenly become a medical professional. And yet there’s an expectation that you just know what to do and how to do it.


As a result, we can often question ourselves relentlessly. Is our baby sleeping too much or too little? Are they breathing oddly? Is this baby acne/eczema or is it a rash? If I stop breastfeeding now, will it harm my baby?


So often, these thoughts are internalised so we may look at other mums and think ‘why don’t they worry like I do?’ ‘what’s wrong with me?’, ‘maybe I’m not cut out for this’.


A certain level of worry and anxiety is completely normal in this early stage, and it might come and go as they get older too. Your new role is all about protecting your baby and that means that is what your mind focuses on.


If, however, your anxiety stops you doing things that you want to do – seeing people, going out – whatever it might be, that’s when you should seek support. Whether it’s a conversation with your health visitor, midwife, GP or someone like myself, you deserve to receive support.

 

4. Unspoken grief and loss.


A women at a rainy window looking sad.

This can often overshadow the postnatal period and it is usually unexpected. It might include mourning the loss of your freedom and independence, career aspirations or even a perceived idealised version of motherhood. If you’re grieving things like these, it doesn’t not mean you don’t love your baby. You can grieve these AND love your baby.


Previous loss through miscarriage and baby loss can also impact us. If you’ve experienced this previous loss, having another baby can often trigger thoughts of guilt or grief around what ‘should’ have been. Be patient with yourself. If you can recognise what is happening for you and be kind to yourself it is a great first step.


If this grief and loss you’re experiencing results in you feeling a total loss of identity, speak to those around you. Work out how you can carve some time for yourself. What did you love doing previously that you haven’t done since having a baby? Can you work this in to your life now? These questions can be difficult to answer by ourselves as feeling low can mean we focus on the barriers before the possibilities.


This is something I regularly support mums with and would recommend speaking to friends, family or a professional to work out what you need to feel like YOU again.

 

5. Relationship Strain


The dynamics in a relationship undergo a huge shift after the arrival of a baby. Sleepless nights, changing roles and the sheer exhaustion of parenting can strain even the strongest partnerships. There might be societal expectations and gender roles that suddenly being to impact you as a couple. The expectation for example that you should be able to do it all, care for the baby, cook meals, touch base with work, keep the house clean, I mean you’re home all day, it should be easy right? But it isn’t easy and it isn’t possible. We put so much pressure on ourselves and it can contribute to feelings of overwhelm.


Something to considering all of this is the role of both parents. You are both responsible for your baby, you can both know how to change nappies, feed the baby, pack the baby bag, put the baby down for a nap. As mum you learn all of this, and your partner can too. If this isn’t happening, remember to take a step back, let your partner work it out just like you did. We’re all too quick to step in sometimes and this means you quickly become the default parent.


Communication is key and I have another blog post on 'How to Strengthen Your Relationship Post Baby' that you can find here.

 

I wish all of these unspoken realities were now common knowledge. The more we talk about them openly, the more new mums will find the support they need. My hope is, that in reading this, you feel somewhat more at ease with what you’re experiencing. Knowing how hard this journey is and being kind to ourselves is so important.


If you’re struggling and need support, lets work together. You can book a free 15 minute consult here to get started.



Image of Claire Judd, Postnatal Counsellor in Harrogate and Online

Postnatal Counsellor in Harrogate & Online

Claire Judd is a fully qualified counsellor in Harrogate, specialising in postnatal wellbeing. If you’re struggling, get in touch for a free 15 min call to find out how we can work together.


You can book online here: https://www.clairejudd.co.uk/contact and can find out more about postnatal counselling here: www.clairejudd.co.uk.


Follow @therapy.for.mums on Instagram for information, tips and advice.

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