Having a baby changes your life forever. There's no doubt that it brings enormous responsibility and a great deal of work; it's also true that the extra work and responsibility give a new meaning to life.
Two years ago, an Australian study of 55 first-time mothers reported that all the women interviewed felt overwhelmed by the massive change in their lives. The new mothers admitted feeling unready for the job of looking after their newborn baby and described the realisation that their lives had now changed in every way, as 'unbelievable'. None of them described themselves as depressed, but they all felt drained by the sheer hard work involved.
Resentment, loss of confidence and 'feeling out of control' were all familiar to these mothers too.
Gradually, though, as they tuned in to their new babies, gained confidence in handling them, and learned to accept the support of helpful people and ignore the criticism of the less-helpful, these new mothers began to enjoy their babies more and feel comfortable in their new life.
The study pinpointed three factors that helped the women adjust:
• Knowing about babies and what to expect beforehand.
• Getting support from friends and family.
• Having a responsive baby - in a way, the babies themselves showed their mothers how to look after them.
All life changes mean extra stress and strain and increased vulnerability, but they also offer enormous potential for growth.
• Girls aren't born to be mothers. It's a skill we have to learn like any other.
• The most intense period of mothering (the first three years) goes by in a flash. Enjoy it while it lasts.
• Mothering was never intended to be a one-person job. Make sure you've got the support you need to enjoy being a mother.