As the saying goes, “When a child is born, so is a mother.” And has anything even been more true? From that single moment onward, your identity shifts in about a million ways. Many changes will make you feel like a rockstar. (Who knew you had a superpower for changing diapers one-handed?!) Other changes will cause you doubt.
Feeling like a new person after becoming a mom isn’t just natural—but is something that should be embraced.
In a newly published story in The New York Times, Alexandra Sacks, M.D., says that opening up the dialogue with women about the emotional changes brought on by motherhood benefits her and the child. “When people have more insight into their emotions, they can be more in control of their behaviors,” she says. “So even when the focus remains on the child, understanding the psychology of pregnant and postpartum women can help promote healthier parenting.”
Specifically, Sacks notes four major ways in which mama may feel like her world has been turned upside-down—for better or worse.
1. Your duo is now a trio
Adding a new baby to the mix will unlock a whole new set of emotions toward your partner: In some moments, you may feel like it isn’t possible to love him more. In other moments, you may wonder why he thinks it’s ok to feed a baby spicy salsa. Through it all, your partnership has taken on a whole new level of importance.
Just be sure to keep the dialogue open—because even though life may now be a bit different, that doesn’t mean your relationship has to suffer.
The silver lining: If communication skills and patience have never been your strongest traits, now is the time to strengthen them!
2. It’s natural to feel the need for your own space
As Sacks says, “Ambivalence is a feeling that comes up in the roles and relationships a person is most invested in, because they’re always a juggling act between giving and taking." And when it comes to motherhood, that can mean desperately wanting an hour of quiet peace—and then spending it aww-ing over the million pictures of your little on stored on your phone.
The silver lining: With a baby in the mix, self-care suddenly becomes a much more intentional action. So, take this opportunity to consider what hobbies are truly valuable uses of your time.
3. Accept your baby for who she is—and yourself for who you are
By the time most of us become mothers, we’ve spent years dreaming about our future family and determining what type of parents we will be. Then baby is born and you can feel thrown for a loop, either because of a child’s disabilities, external life struggles or even simply the this is real-ness that sinks in. It’s more than understandable that this can feel both disappointing and heartbreaking. But then you adjust and realize, yes, you’ve got this, too.
The silver lining: When you begin giving grace to yourself, you’ll find it positively affects all relationships.
4. Know that your child doesn’t need a perfect mother—they just need you
Whether it’s on the first day of your child’s life or a week down the line (because it probably won’t be any longer than that), we all realize at some point that we aren’t perfect parents. And, of course, we really wanted to be! But instead of letting shame take hold, Sacks says aiming to mother “good enough” isn’t about settling, but rather about accepting your humanity and allowing guilt to slide away.
The silver lining: When you dismiss the goal of “perfection,” everyone is happier—and life is, perhaps, a bit more perfect, after all.