Becoming a parent is one of the most emotionally intense experiences that you’ll go through. Sure, it can be overflowing with sweet moments of joy and total awe, but it can also be incredibly stressful and throw your life into chaos.
This, by the way, is more normal than you think, we just don’t talk about it very much, do we?
Most women plunge into motherhood with the belief that they’ll be naturals, they’ll love it, and that it’ll sprinkle their relationship with some kind of sweet magic.
Sometimes it does… but there’s usually more to the story.
The reality is, becoming a mom is really, really, really hard. So if you’re struggling in this new journey, just know that you’re not alone, and you’re certainly not doing anything wrong. It might be time, however, to consider getting some support so that you can find balance, and even joy in this really challenging time of life.
And even though this might feel like the busiest stage of your life, it could also be the perfect opportunity to get some help.
Because you matter too, mama.
Here’s 6 reasons why new motherhood might actually be the perfect time to finally get some counselling.
6 Reasons Why New Motherhood Is The Perfect Time To Get Counselling
1. Your Entire Worldview Is Turned Upside Down
It might be hard for you to remember what it was like before you were a mom, but here’s a quick snapshot: life revolved around you.
Not so much anymore, am I right?
Even during pregnancy, there was still so much focus on you, your health, your needs and then suddenly you flipped the switch and everything became focused on the baby.
Now of course this is based in survival (your child’s survival, that is), but it can be really shocking to experience this! And during the time when you’re recovering from childbirth (or whatever way your baby came to you and into this world), your well-being is deprioritized.
No matter how eager you were to bring a baby into this world, you might find yourself struggling with having to care for another human being, and being 100% responsible for them. This is one of the biggest paradigm shifts you could go through … you are essentially looking at the world through a different lens now … the new lens that you’ll always look through from now on.
Let that sink in.
When you go through a shift like this, there’s also a loss that occurs: the loss of your old life, the ease, simplicity, self-centeredness (in a completely normal and totally acceptable way) that you’ll no longer have.
2. Your Identity Is Shifting
What moms often don’t expect is the shift in how they see themselves (and how society sees them). In other words, how you feel about being YOU, how you define yourself, how you move through your life, completely changes.
There might be parts of your old self that you miss. Maybe it’s the free-sprirt, stay-up-all-night and soak in the moment part of you, or the spontaneous and wild adventurous part… or even the creative, passionate, and inspired part of you…
And maybe you wonder where that woman went? Is she still there? Is that still you?
You might have longed to become a mother, wanted it so badly, but you’re still allowed to mourn the loss of who you were and how your identity has evolved. You might even love how it’s changed, but you might still feel a sense of loss of how things used to be.
Working through some of these challenges in counselling can help you sort out which parts of you you’d like to pull forward into your current life, and how you could go about doing that. It could also help you reconcile and make peace with how your identity is changing. It can be a beautiful thing to witness, but no doubt challenging.
3. You Face Unrealistic Expectations
I’m willing to bet you used the “What To Expect” app during your pregnancy… I did too, it’s all good:)
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this app (or the book), but it raises the issue of all the expectations women gather throughout their entire lives about what pregnancy and motherhood will be like.
We completely romanticize it, first of all, expecting it to be some kind of honeymoon love-fest with your new snuggly baby and partner who develops a renewed infatuation with you (funny, right?).
We think getting pregnany is as easy as having sex one time…
Then we expect pregnancy to be all about cute maternity clothes, baby showers, nesting, and glowing in our maternal-goddess halo.
And then we think we’ll breathe our way through child-birth, and naturally take to motherhood because after all, we’re built for this, right?
Well, it doesn’t always go that way, does it?
You can probably look back at your pre-mom self and smile at how little you knew, and how different you thought this would all be, and believe me, we’re all in the same boat.
But I want you to know that society hasn’t exactly set you up very well. You probably anticipated an experience that’s so different from what reality actually looks like.
Maybe you don’t feel like a natural. Maybe this isn’t easy. Maybe you don’t even like it.
And guess what? All of that is okay! Really, it is. And it’s more normal than you think.
Most moms feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Most feel shocked about how hard it all is. Most moms worry that they aren’t cut out for this whole mom-thing.
You’re not alone.
4. Your Relationship Has Changed
Yikes, this one might have come as a surprise. But honestly, it would be a challenge to think of a couple who didn’t struggle after having a child.
Just think about it, the beautiful dynamic that you fell in love with, that you created together, that was working is suddenly jumbled up and tossed in the air, and it usually takes some time to settle into a new groove.
During a chat about whether or not we’d have a third child, my husband said to me, “Well, I guess I’d get bumped down on the hierarchy one more time” and my jaw dropped – I hadn’t realized he felt this way. With each child, he felt less and less important to me.
Now, I know that the dynamic in my relationship doesn’t happen for everyone, but there’s inevitable a shift in your relationship that’s often surprising.
Maybe your partner feels like you don’t have enough time for them.
Maybe sex is the last thing on your mind.
Maybe you can’t stand them for some reason.
Maybe you feel “touched-out” at the end of the day and can’t imagine cuddling up together.
Maybe you feel angry at your partner, and can’t pinpoint why.
And maybe the financial stress of having a child is weighing on your relationship.
The relationship dynamic gets jostled when a new baby arrives, and counselling can be a really great way to sort through some of these challenges. Specifically, counselling may be able to help you and your partner learn how to communicate about these challenges, and identify which problems are temporary, and which need to be addressed head on. Navigating relationships can be so sensitive, and working with a therapist can help alleviate some stress.
5. You Might Have Experienced Childbirth Trauma
Despite childbirth being a “normal” experience, many women will go through a traumatic birthing process that’s very challenging to process on their own.
Trauma is typically defined as an experience where a person witnesses or is confronted with serious physical threat or injury to themselves or others, where they experience significant fear, helplessness or horror.
Millions of women develop PTSD from struggling to give birth, although many won’t define it in this way (partly because it’s rarely spoken about).
If you went through an incredibly difficult childbirth, you might actually develop symptoms of PTSD which could include recurring or overwhelming memories, flashbacks or nightmares about the birth. You might also feel considerable stress and anxiety about the experience, and feel panicked when you’re exposed to things that remind you about giving birth.
Childbirth trauma can manifest in many different ways, like subsequent anxiety either about your own safety and wellbeing or about the health and safety of your baby. This kind of prolonged hyper-vigilance can exacerbate the stress and exhaustion that new moms already feel.
Moms can go through many other challenges like disrupted mother-baby bond, relationship challenges with their partner, sexual dysfunction, prolonged fear, emotional dysregulation, changes in physical well-being, mood and behaviour, lack of interest in social interactions, as examples.
Since not all women experience childbirth trauma, what causes it?
Well, it’s not black and white, but childbirth trauma seems to be more likely to result when women experience unexpected interventions, have significant fear about their safety or their baby’s safety, go through prolonged pain leading to helplessness, acquire significant physical injuries, and go through complicated recovery. It’s also noted that women who felt like they lacked control during the process, and didn’t have adequately sensitive or compassionate care during childbirth are more likely to develop PTSD (info from a study by the University of Sussex)
Part of the issue is that immediately after childbirth, the focus quickly shifts to the baby and moms are not often given enough care and support. I’ve also heard many moms question if they are “normal” and wonder if this is just how it goes for everyone.
It’s not essential that you figure out whether or not to categorize your birth experience as “traumatic”, but rather, if any of this discussion resonated with you it could be helpful to talk to a counsellor and receive support. There’s a lot that you can do to alleviate some of the emotional symptoms of childbirth trauma, and you deserve this support.
6. You’re Pressured to be Entirely Self-Sacrificing
It seems like our society encourages moms to be unhealthily self-sacrificing. Women are almost celebrated for giving every last ounce of themselves away in the name of being a “good mom”.
But we all know how this story goes, right?
… Mom gives every drop of energy, love, attention, resources to kids/ husband/ house/ dog/ every-one-but-herself, and then hits a major wall. This way of being is not only totally unfulfilling (because you’re just living for everyone else) it’s also unhealthy and completely unreasonable.
I’m happy to see the landscape shifting as we talk more and more about self-care, the importance of mental wellbeing, of balance and continued personal growth. Mom’s are becoming more willing to say “hey, uh… what about me?”
Taking care of yourself is synonymous with being a good mom. As in, you cannot untangle one from the other.
So if you find it hard to take care of yourself because it feels selfish or unnatural, then do it in the name of being a good mom. Your kids deserve a mother who has energy, who lives her life, who is healthy and models wellness. Who smiles, has fun, enjoys this beautiful life.
And then over time, see if you can reclaim the reason you take care of yourself… see if you can make it about YOU.
In the counselling work that I do with new moms, we dive deep into self-care and get to the core of what gets in the way of truly taking care of your needs (usually it has to do with some old limiting beliefs about worthiness).
Your ability to give yourself care ultimately sets the tone for your family, a tone that sings loudly and clearly, “Mom is worthy of support, love, and energy, because mom matters.” Isn’t that the message you want your family to receive?
Also, the personal challenges that existed before you became a mom are still hanging around… but you already know that, right? No, unfortunately, they don’t usually disappear when we ignore them. And sometimes with the stress and exhaustion of motherhood, our old “stuff” comes to the surface and demands that you pay attention.
So take the cue. It’s okay to do some personal work that has nothing to do with you kiddos. Because believe me, your “stuff” isn’t going anywhere. It’ll patiently wait until you pay attention.
The cool thing is that counselling is a form of self-care in itself. Maybe seeing a therapist could be that first step in prioritizing yourself again, in finding ways to give yourself adequate love and care.
Thankfully, society is shifting into a place where mental health challenges are less stigmatized, and mental wellness is celebrated. Seeking professional help from a trained counsellor is totally normal and equally important as visits with a medical doctor.
Give yourself permission to put self-care at the top of your list, and if you’re struggling in your role as mom, consider reaching out for support. This might be one of the most important decisions you can make to support yourself in this journey.
I offer counselling for women in British Columbia, and it’s entirely done online! With video-based counselling sessions, it’s much easier to weave this into your life, because I know how hard it can be to get to an appointment!
You can learn more about online counselling here.
All my best,