And Baby Makes Three
By Kathi Whitten, LCSW
No. VA Psychotherapy Associates
And Baby Makes Three
There are many important transitions in life. One of the most exciting of these is the addition of a child to a family. Whether it is through birth or adoption, changing from a couple to a family is a great event.
Usually there has been a lot of planning and imagining going on, as prospective parents try to envision their lives as a family of three. Then, one day it happens. The baby is here and suddenly their world has been made different forever. The parents discover that relatives and friends are all eager to see the new little one, to embrace her or him into their lives and hearts. Usually there is celebration with gifts and flowers.
Eventually, the parade of people hurrying to see the “newest addition” will slow down, and the parents will at last be alone with their long-awaited child. For many, this is a magical moment. Sometimes, though, questions and doubts arise Can I handle the responsibility of raising a child? Will I know what to do when new things come up? Will we still have time and energy to be a couple, now that our child is here?
These and many more questions and wonderings often run through new parents minds. The questions range from the practical and concrete, “how do you give a baby a bath or get a colicky baby to sleep?”, to the more emotional, will I be an adequate parent? Can I handle the changes ahead? Will we be able to work together as parents in making decisions?”
Everyone who becomes a parent discovers unexpected aspects of parenting that they couldnt foresee. Many of them are the precious bonding moments with the child, when their hearts feel filled with love and joy as they watch their child growing and discovering the world.
But sometimes, the unexpected comes in a less desirable form. Some mothers experience post-partum depression. Fathers occasionally feel left out as their partner initially spends more time with the infant. Some new parents find themselves caught between trying to follow their own ideas about child-raising and pressure from others to do it differently. Occasionally stress or tension begins between the parents, as they encounter sleepless nights, less time to do the things they used to do, financial concerns or other matters. This is the tough part of becoming a parent.
While these stresses usually get worked out eventually, there are times when seeking outside help is a good idea. If a new mother is experiencing post-partum depression, she needs immediate help. (First she should contact her doctor.) If tensions arising in a couple around this time seem to continue instead of resolving, that is also a good time to seek assistance. Psychotherapy can help with adjustments during family transitions such as this. It can help a couple find ways to lower the stresses and settle confidently into parenthood.