My best friend had a really tough time postpartum (traumatic delivery, depression, you name it), and I’m fearful of following in her footsteps. At eight months pregnant, is there anything I can do to steel myself for those first trying months?
A: One of the hardest things about parenting is the need to let go of control. Going into it with the understanding that things may not turn out like we had hoped or imagined is very important. However, having a plan can help make things less stressful early on. What I mean by “plan” is not a detailed description of exactly how you will give birth or how your baby will act, but rather a map for troubleshooting and asking for help if things don’t turn out quite as you had expected.
Even before your baby arrives, you can create a plan for the division of parenting/household tasks with your significant other. Decide how night awakenings will work. This way, when the baby is born, your significant other is not expected to read your mind and know exactly when and how you want things done.
That brings me to my best advice: Ask for help. And when you do, be direct. Say things like, “Can you please hold the baby for the next hour, so I can take a nap?” Cut yourself some slack; you don’t need to do it all. By allowing yourself to delegate tasks, you may have an easier transition to motherhood and become more connected to your little one.
It is normal to struggle with your new role. You don’t need to be happy and smiling all the time. If you feel that way, that’s awesome; but if you don’t that’s OK, too. It does not make you a bad parent. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, learn the warning signs for postpartum mood disorders. If you are having trouble with feeding or just need to run how you are feeling by someone other than a friend or family member, call your pediatrician. You may not realize this, but your pediatrician cares about your entire family’s health—not just your baby’s.
The best gift you can give your baby is a parent who is physically and emotionally healthy. By asking for help when you need it, you are actually being the best parent you can be.
—Deena Blanchard, MD, MPH, board-certified pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics in New York