Mothers and Postpartum Issues

The postpartum period, the first months after the birth of a baby, are notable for many changes and challenges: physical and hormonal changes, changes in identity, changes in relationships with other family members, establishing a new relationship with the baby or babies, changes in old responsibilities and the assumption of many new ones. Not least of these is the pervasiveness of cultural expectations around motherhood that can lead a new mother, whether biological or adoptive, to have unrealistic expectations of herself. She may expect to fall instantly in love with her new baby; she may expect to instinctively know how to care for and feed the baby; and she may expect herself to easily and happily be able to care for the baby as well as the rest of the family in the face of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and feeling overwhelmed. These expectations can be impossible to meet, and can lead to states of anxiety or depression that range from unpleasant to debilitating. The experience of the postpartum woman often includes extreme sensitivity and vulnerability to the point where she may feel like she “has no skin”. Talking about these feelings and expectations can help to put them in perspective and help to make this important time in a woman’s life seem less overwhelming and more enjoyable.