By Georgianna Donadio, PhD –
As the mother of three children, I remember thinking after the births of my children: “Why doesn’t anyone tell the truth about how stressful having a baby and having multiple children really is?” There were plenty of other new moms I could commiserate with about the reality, opposed to the romanticized version, of childbirth and motherhood.
Parental Reality of Postpartum Life
It took time and many personal adjustments to fit myself into the role of mom, but not without experiencing lots of anxiety, reading many parenting books and having a sense that I was “learning on the job” with no prior training or knowledge of how to do this.
The fact that moms can feel that way comes as no surprise to those of us who have children. What does surprise people, however, is that many dads also can experience high anxiety, stress and postnatal depression after the birth of their children.
In a British population study that obtained psychological questionnaires from 8,431 fathers and 11,833 mothers, interesting data related to postnatal depression in fathers emerged. The study gathered data at three different intervals after the birth of the child: at 8 weeks, 21 months and 3.5 years.
The outcomes demonstrated that children born to fathers who experience postnatal depression are twice as likely at the age of 3 to have behavioral problems as children born to fathers who do not experience postnatal depression. This was found to be consistent even after maternal depression was factored out.
What parents are often not prepared for after the joyful birth of their children is the accompanying loss of their personal identity as both an autonomous individual and a romantic partner. After the birth of a baby, the child becomes, and rightfully so, the center of concern and attention. The personal and social time and activities that had been couple-centered now become baby-centered.
Spouses can feel abandoned, lonely or isolated from their partners after the birth of even the most long-awaited and beloved child. Parenthood brings with it enormous joy and equally enormous stresses. It is healthier to discuss such feelings and express the negative as well as the positive emotions of parenthood than to feel guilty and turn frustrations into potential depression. As always, the three important rules to sustaining a happy relationship and family are: communicate, communicate and communicate. For a free download on relationship communication skills that can keep you well connected with your partner, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/.