Women having difficulity transitioning to Motherhood
When there is a new baby in the house, the focus is on the baby, bringing presents, holding the baby, and sharing the joy of bringing new life into the family. No matter what the situation is, whether it is a difficulty in getting pregnant, having your fourth child, or first, this is culturally just what we do. There are showers before and after the birth to celebrate the baby’s arrival, along with naming ceremonies, christenings, and an abundance of happiness. These celebrations are part of the rituals of our culture and so many other cultures and families in so many other countries. Here is MY QUESTION: What about MOM? Many cultures celebrate the mother and acknowledge her part in the pregnancy and birth. Acknowledgement is key to the start of understanding that the mother is part of the entire celebration. She is not just a work horse to put on the parties, entertain everyone as they come over, basically, like nothing happened to her body or her identity. She is the one who held the baby for 9 months, went through labor and delivery, or a C-Section, and deal with the raging hormones postpartum, and nurture her baby. People forget that she needs rest, relaxation, and some “me” time in order to focus on her baby, rather than worrying about putting food on the table or washing the floors. This background scenario is so common with new moms and goes underground. We expect moms to give birth and go about her business. Her entire identity and lifestyle has been changed. This is not early America where women gave birth in the fields and then went back to the crops without blinking an eyelash. The best-case scenario with welcoming a baby into the world is having the support of friends and family. Friends that understand what help truly means, not just cooing at the baby, but rolling up their sleeves to be there for the mom so that she can indeed take care of herself and her little one.
So, here we are, you are probably questioning, “Difficulty Transitioning to Motherhood.” Yes, they desperately want their babies and are grateful! However, it is important to understand the woman and what “stage” she is going through. I stumbled onto some interesting research about this topic. Now, I have been in the health care field for 50 years and never knew that there was a word or stage to define the motherhood stage. Transitioning to Motherhood is called Ma tres cence.
We are seeing more and more women having this adjustment issue, which is part of a woman’s normal growth and development in being pregnant, labor & delivery, and caring for a baby. Before I take you into the realm of Hopeful Beginnings and how we address this, I want to share a very interesting article that I found written by Jenera Nerenberg, She holds degrees from both the Harvard School of Public Health and University of California, Berkeley.
She tells us, as we all know, that you can find plenty of practical information out there about pregnancy and parenting, but what about the emotional rollercoaster and identity shift that occurs for many women and their partners when they have a child? We don’t talk much about it—and if we do, it’s usually in the context of postpartum depression. In fact, our agency was just doing that, addressing the transition through providing postpartum depression counseling. It was only until we were speaking in a clinical meeting that we were seeing a pattern of women, experiencing the same problems, without a real postpartum depression. We called it Transitioning to Motherhood, but indeed, it is NOW called MA TRES CENSE. It was kind of like an “AHA moment.”
The author goes on to tell us that we really need a new model to talk about this transition to motherhood. That’s the focus of the book, “ What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood” , co-authored by two psychiatrists, Dr.Alexandra Sacks and Dr.Catherine Birndorf.
These authors try and educate readers about the stage of life called “ma tres cence”. Again, it is the process of becoming a mother, which includes the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that women go through before and during motherhood. Basically, this is the normal developmental transition to motherhood. We all look at babies transitioning to toddlerhood and a child transitioning to adolescence, but this transition to motherhood, is mostly misunderstood or more importantly, not acknowledged. Ma tres cence includes the unique biological, hormonal, and emotional needs during this period. This is NOT postpartum depression, although there may be some similarities.
There are physical changes, such in the brain, changes in hormones, and outward physical changes. In society, there is a lack of acknowledge of these changes. Interestingly, in our culture, women are oftentimes anxious to get back to their look, size, and everything before becoming pregnant. Once you are pregnant, and decide to go on with the pregnancy, you and your body cannot go back immediately. Just like adolescence must go through the ups and downs, ma tres cence means you go through sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and being overwhelmed with all there is to do with a new baby. There are some things you can do, though easier said than done, such as time management, taking some personal time and taking time with your partner.
Many women are ignored during this stage. Studies suggest that techniques such as mindfulness can help mothers have a greater sense of self-efficacy during labor and the transition to motherhood, and many psychologists point to the importance of empathy and communication between new parents and their families. Mindfulness is an important skill to be learned to be and put our minds into the present, rather than “what is waiting for me in the next hour.” Breathing techniques are physiologically meant to slow the body down out of the “fight or flight” response. Anxiety brings the fight or flight out and it escalates the situation into fighting, running away, and not being able to think clearly. It is a survival technique.
Things like exercise, social support, healthy food preparation and childcare is part of this self care. It sounds simple, but all of these things involve time. You need time and someone to care for the baby when you exercise unless you walk outside with a stroller. Healthy food preparation is much more difficult than serving processed foods. You cannot go to the store or do much of anything if you do not have a support person, or the ability to get childcare. Many of the women either do not have a support person or do not want to ask anyone for help.
How are you going to share the load—the emotional load, financial load, and domestic load?
How will you have time to take care of yourself as individuals and as a couple, and what are the ways in which you will continue to nurture your relationship that fall under the “romantic” and not under the work of parenting? Is that even possible or are you a single mom struggling with trying to take on this important role as a mom?
New parenthood is also often the biggest stressor in the relationship. If you are not pregnant and want a relationship so badly to be a couple, getting pregnant is not the answer. It escalates to become a larger problem. I have worked with so many teens and women and underneath getting pregnant was the desire to have their boyfriend stay with them. It seems to backfire every time. The woman becomes pregnant and the man goes on to the next girlfriend. So to work on the emotional health of your relationship before becoming parents is really important. Having a baby is the thing that separates couples the most. Part of what we counsel and educate is to talk about good decision-making and healthy relationships.
Now, if you are in a domestic violence situation, you feel and are right in that you are “stuck” in this relationship. We provide strategies to help you get stable and even help you find housing at a “Safe House” in order to leave with your children in a safe manner. There, you will find peace and ongoing counseling with a domestic violence specialist to help you sort out how you can emotionally disengage from this situation. We, at Hopeful Beginnings will continue to counsel you on your healthy transition, as well. We partner with WINGS, one of the finest domestic violence agencies who have safe houses, along with other housing places to remain apart from the violence. Oftentimes, our clients are involved in violent relationships in all of our programming. We are trained to identify these relationships and help empower the woman to make changes and referral to specialists in domestic violence to provide more intense counseling. The roots go deeply in this situation. Many women come from violent relationships within their own family unit where they grew up. They saw their mom be beaten as well as themselves. The cycle must be broken and we are there to start the process.
So, you can see, today I am introducing the idea of Difficulty in Transitioning to motherhood, but there can be so many other facets involved with this issue. I discussed violence, substance abuse, unsafe living conditions, unhealthy relationships, being isolated, being in this country with absolutely no support, and having no one to turn to. Hopeful Beginnings is the beacon of light to help you start the process of identifying what the issues are and helping you to heal. This takes time, mostly weekly counseling sessions and work on the part of you and your counselor. You make a difference in what happens. There are common everyday exercises to help you between times to get better. Journaling, taking 5-10 minutes for yourself, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, all of these little things can be done without people even noticing. We teach you to be discreet and have a voice.
When you call Hopeful Beginnings for help, you don’t have to say that you have difficulty transitioning to motherhood. To be honest, most women don’t really know what is wrong, but they know that something is clearly wrong, and they don’t feel like themselves. At your first appointment, we will gather some data, along with the depression/anxiety scale, which is only 5 questions with a discussion of the situation that you are
This is a very common difficulty for new moms. What we strive to do is talk about the normalcy of what you are going through, validate your feelings, and then come up with strategies that you can do when you have these feelings of being overwhelmed. Something simple, as a shower, is normal for most of us. However, when you are a new mom, it feels like there is no time to shower. This is monumental with multiple children. But, in order to get some normalcy back into your life, a shower is better than going to an exclusive spa on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
When friends ask what they can do and watch the new baby, yes, take advantage of their kindness and take a nice warm shower and take a nap. It will help you relax and take you out of that overwhelming feeling of anxiety that you feel. Making a nice warm meal for you is another precious gift that a friend can give the new mom. A support system is the very best when trying to get out of the race of all the things that need to be done. Some women have not support and we teach them new ways to get involved with groups, provide group counseling sessions in order to talk with other women about what they are going through. That is another powerful empowering technique.
by Joanne Bratta Executive Director
If you can relate to any of the issues that have been discussed, please reach out to Hopeful Beginnings at 847-870-8181.
All counseling is at no charge and you can use telehealth
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