Relationships after baby: What to expect

As we grow and reach new milestones in our lives, our relationships with those around us change and evolve. Relationships after baby are no different, but oftentimes new parents are blindsided by how much their relationships change when a new baby is added into the picture. Many are surprised by how much their world shrinks compared to how things were before children. During this time of adjustment, parents may deal with extra stress, tension, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and perhaps even a bit of grief over the loss of freedom to which they were accustomed. All of these feelings are normal, but they don’t have to define you or your relationships!

relationships after baby
Your relationships after baby may change, but you’ve got this.

Relationships after baby: Spouse/Partner

For many couples, marriage and learning how to live together is a big adjustment. You learn how to balance your life with someone else’s in a way that you didn’t have to before you were under one roof- reconciling schedules, household management, meals, habits and idiosyncrasies are parts of truly becoming one unit. When you add a pregnancy and then a baby into the mix, that routine becomes disrupted, particularly in the newborn days. There’s another person to balance now and it takes time to arrive at that new feeling of “normal.”  Becoming a parent changes you, and it will change how you interact with your spouse, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Be patient with each other as you grow into you new roles. Keep the lines of communication open. Take a little time every day to connect, even in a small way. Maybe it’s not quite the same as it was before, but you’ll find more things to love about each other along the way. If you’re struggling, never be ashamed to ask for help! You don’t exist in a vacuum and there is support out there for you if you want and/or need it.

Relationships after baby: Family

When you have a baby, the dynamic of the family you grew up in shifts, too:  It’s your turn to have a crack at this whole parenting business, and your loved ones may deal with that in a variety of ways. Some may be supportive no matter what, while others seem to question every choice you make. When faced with negativity, the important thing to remember is that their feelings are about them and not about you. Respecting where they came from as parents and setting healthy boundaries at the start can free you up to enjoy your relationships with your family. Chances are your family cares about you and your baby and wants to see you succeed, and supportive family is a gift both to you and to your child!

Relationships after baby: Friends

Much in the same way that getting married can change your friendships, so can having a baby. The friends you had in college or when you were single may not be in the same place in life that you are right now. They might seem like they’re in an entirely different world, and you can’t remember the last time you got together, or when you do finally sit down for lunch you may struggle to relate to where they are right now. It’s true that some of your friendships might fizzle out, but your friends don’t have to be in the same stage as you are for you to have a relationship with them. The ones who stick around and weather each change with you? Treasure those friendships. Cultivate them. Include them in the life of your family. I promise you’re not too boring for them. They know that you’ll get your night out soon and that one day you’ll be able to invest in them more, and that’s okay.

Relationships after baby: Your baby (and siblings)

Even your relationship with your baby will change over time- after all, you’ve just met and are starting from scratch! As you learn your baby’s habits and get glimpses of his or her personality, you’ll become more responsive as a parent and will likely find more enjoyment in spending time with your baby. Some parents feel bonded to their baby immediately. Others take extra time, and that’s okay too! You may already have other children and are juggling their needs with the needs of your newborn. Children are forgiving, resilient, and know that you love them and care for them. Time with your older children will look different too, but they’ll also have their own relationships to build with their new brother or sister. Perhaps they’ll even have more chances to build stronger relationships with other loved ones.

You’ll find your way…together.

Part of what we do as postpartum doulas is help you figure out how to integrate your new baby into your existing family and relationships. We’re happy to help care for you and support you as you figure out how it all fits together.  Give us a call at (901) 308-4888 or drop us a line and let’s start a conversation about how we can serve your family!

 

Spring is coming: Getting help with postpartum depression

lion-1145040_640The old kindergarten adage is true again this year: “March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.” We see it around us and feel it in the air that yes, spring is coming in all of its humid, rainy glory. I love a good analogy, and this changing season has me thinking about a time in my life when I thought winter was never going to end.

I should have seen it coming, but suffice it to say that with my firstborn I was the poster child for postpartum depression and anxiety.

We had only been back in Memphis for three months before my son was born. I wish I could say we adjusted well to being parents, and those first few months were magical, but that’s simply not true. It was isolating and it was hard. Really hard.

My baby was well-cared for and I adored him, but I struggled to do daily tasks. I would fly off the handle at the most insignificant things, couldn’t cope with the lack of sleep, and couldn’t seem to make it past showering and getting dressed. I’d sit on my couch with my baby and there I’d stay, until 5pm rolled around and I had nothing to show for my day. I thought it was “just stress,” or that “this is what those first few months are like…after all, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep, right?” I wasn’t crying all the time, so I couldn’t be depressed, right? My precious husband picked up my slack the best he could but while he was my safety net, there wasn’t anyone catching him. 

It was six months before I got help. Six months before I couldn’t take it anymore. Six months before my husband said, “This isn’t normal.”

I felt like I was losing my mind. I was overwhelmed and wracked with guilt. I was terrified of what people would think of me. Nothing sent me running faster than the Standard Southern Greeting of “How are you?” I didn’t know how to answer that question- what if they didn’t actually want to know? Even after I started counseling, it took me more than a year to feel normal again. There were pieces to pick up after months of going it alone.  As I was living day to day with a baby to care for,  it was hard to see any sort of growth. Some days I wondered if I would ever get better. If I would ever feel like myself again…who was I again, anyway? I couldn’t pinpoint a day where I magically felt better, but over time things didn’t seem so difficult anymore. The coping skills I learned in therapy became second nature. My relationship with my husband improved and I was doing a lot more giving and a lot less taking. That time was a lot like little glimpses of spring near the end of a long winter.

spring, postpartum depression

It may not always feel like it, but spring is coming. 

Maybe you’re in a season of your life where you’ve planted the seeds but can’t see the blooms yet. Maybe it’s still raining, raining, raining, and you can’t seem to catch a break. Some days are warm with tastes of sunshine to come, but others are dreary and gray. Nobody flips a switch and turns spring on. March has to come first, in like a lion and out like a lamb. Maybe it’s not today, but one day the flowers will come out. The grass will be green. The chill will leave the air. Spring is coming!

If you’re struggling right now, please know that there is help for you. Don’t wait! You may not hear about postpartum depression and anxiety while you’re out running your errands, but there are warrior moms all around you. You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. I’ll say it again: You are not alone! 

If you want to learn more about getting help with postpartum depression and anxiety, visit Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International. For dads, visit http://www.postpartummen.com. If you need help locally, reach out to us and we’ll help you get connected. 

If only I had a doula while dealing with infertility (a ProDoula challenge)

This is part 2 of a two-part blog series titled, “If only I had a doula.” ProDoula, the certification agency used by Doulas of Memphis, issued a blog challenge to write about a time where we could have used the support of a doula. Today, our own Lindsey Hanna talks about her struggle with infertility.

Lindsey and Thor, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage… I remember singing that song as a child, don’t you? That’s how I expected life to go, but as things often happen that’s not how my life worked out.

infertility, baby carriage


Infertility

Even the sight of the word hurts my heart. I vividly remember every negative pregnancy test, every office visit, and every question as to why we hadn’t had kids yet. Every month my heart would break as the period didn’t come but the tests screamed NEGATIVE. I was barely keeping it together as everyone told me to “just relax” or to start the adoption paperwork and it would all work out.

In it for the long haul

After two years of trying, I was finally referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Numerous tests later I finally got a diagnosis: PCOS. It explained everything, the lack of periods, the extra weight around the middle, and most of all the infertility. I thought getting the answer would fix it, and it did help that I knew what was wrong, but even then the treatments weren’t working. I felt like my body had failed me. Another test, you need to try IUI… failed. Another IUI…failed. Another test, you need surgery…

I was ready to give up

Thankfully my husband wasn’t ready to throw in the towel quite yet. IUI number three worked. It had taken another 8 months to finally see this…

pregnant after infertility

 


If I’d only had a doula

My husband tried to understand the best he could, but he never really understood how deeply it cut me each month. My mom even tried to step in and help. They both spent many an hour with me as I cried. I needed a doula to get me through not only the months, but the hours. A doula would have recommended a reproductive endocrinologist long before I thought to see one two years in. She would have sat with me as I cried so I wasn’t alone on the floor of my bathroom each month. She would have reminded me that I wasn’t alone, even though more than anything that’s how I felt. My doula would have reminded me that just because I couldn’t have a baby it didn’t mean I was a horrible wife and worthless woman. Oh, how I wish I’d known a doula for my infertility journey!

My journey through infertility was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go though and it’s still not over. A part of me wishes that I didn’t have that in my past, but another part is glad I do, because it has helped to make me the person I am. Because of my experience with infertility, I have so much more compassion for other women, no matter their situation. I’ve learned to be more careful of the words I speak, because you never know what the person on the other end of those words is dealing with.

Authored by Lindsey Hanna

If you are dealing with infertility, please know that you are not alone. Doulas of Memphis is here for you if you’d like to reach out for support and/or resources.

If only I had a doula my last year of college (a ProDoula challenge)

This is part 1 of a two-part blog series titled, “If only I had a doula.” ProDoula, the certification agency used by Doulas of Memphis, issued a blog challenge to write about a time where we could have used the support of a doula.

Have you ever been more glad about something being over than about the actual thing you accomplished? That’s exactly how I felt about graduating from college. I play the French horn and have a bachelor’s degree in music performance from The University of Memphis. The program is intense and all-consuming. The smallest amount of credit hours I ever took was 15, and the most I ever took was 21. There is little time for anything outside of classes, rehearsals for the multiple ensembles you wind up in, the many hours holed up in a practice room. It’s an insular culture because it has to be.

Here's a photo from the amazing summer before everything fell apart.
Here’s a photo from the amazing summer before everything fell apart. My husband and I were goofing off on a tour :).

Stretch and grow

I managed to keep myself just above mediocrity until the summer between my junior and senior year, when I was accepted into an orchestral program at a festival. That summer, I blossomed as a musician and came back to my back-to-school auditions on fire and ready to wow my professors- and wow them I did! With my performance came a new set of responsibilities, and suddenly I was frequently being rotated into a position of leadership as principal horn. I’d found a whole new enthusiasm and fervor for my craft, and couldn’t wait to see what the year brought me. I began dating my now-husband and I didn’t think it could get any better. Until…

I woke up and couldn’t move my neck

Not long into the fall semester, I woke up one day screaming in pain. My neck and shoulders were on fire. It hurt to turn my head. I did something I’d only done once in my whole college career that day: I called my conductor and said I couldn’t come to rehearsal. I was devastated. That began the process of appointment after appointment. Doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and even a neurosurgeon…I felt lost, scared, confused, and desperate. I didn’t have the money to take a semester off and heal, so I pushed through the pain and did the best I could. My best wasn’t very good. I was surviving on Lortab, a strong muscle relaxer, and coffee, so much coffee. I probably shouldn’t have driven a car at all that year, but I felt like I had no choice.

I called in favors and extensions. I relied on the good graces of professors who cared about me. My horn professor was the most gracious of all, but I could see that he didn’t always know what to say or how to help.  My husband spent half his time with me, rubbing shoulders so I had a chance at going to sleep at night. Sometimes I look back and wonder why in the world he proposed to me that November, but I’m sure glad he did. My senior recital was pitiful and barely worth the passing grade. I limped my way across the finish line, degree in hand but no real hopes of graduate school or the career I had been working towards for the past 10+ years. I was hurting and I felt like a failure. At least I had my wedding to look forward to a couple weeks later, right?

How a doula would have helped me

My husband did the best he could to help me, but that year was hard on him as well. What I needed-what WE needed-was a doula. A doula would have told me it was okay to take time off for my health and helped me brainstorm ideas on where the money would come from. A doula would have sat with me while I cried so my husband could take some much-needed time for himself. A doula would have brought me a heating pad and a cup of coffee. She would have gone to the grocery store for me so I didn’t have to carry the bags back in the house. I’d like to think she would have typed my homework that I dictated to her since typing was one of the most painful things I did. A doula would have acknowledged how traumatic that time was for me and gently referred me to a therapist to process my feelings, and would have encouraged my husband to do the same. She would have been there for me when our first year of marriage was harder than anything I’d ever imagined (you can guess why). My doula would have told me that I was so much more than the horn I played, that my gifts were so much bigger than the box I’d put myself in. Oh, if only I’d known what a doula was back then!

My last year of college and my time with chronic injury is a part of my journey and while I would never do it again, I can’t say I’d wish it away, either. It’s what caused me to stop and look at what I really wanted, set me on a different path, and it’s ultimately the reason I wound up becoming a doula. Even with all that, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like with a doula there to support me. Can you think of a time when you could have used the support of a doula? Tell us in the comments!