A new role and identity for you
Becoming a mother for the first time can have a massive impact on how you feel about yourself. You may love your new role straight away or you may struggle to adjust to the changes. If you were working before and enjoyed your job, it can be hard to lose that identity and become what some people call “just a mum”. For others, being a mum is really satisfying because it feels like the most important job in the world. It’s OK to have a mix of these feelings.
“I got really annoyed about having this baby attached to me all the time and a little girl running around, clinging to my legs. I felt very trapped by motherhood, which I’d never felt before, so I was really sad about it.”
Laura, mum of one
Loving your baby
Some women fall in love with their babies from the moment they find out they're pregnant, or when the baby's born, and some women find that their love grows slowly over the first few weeks as they get to know and care for their baby. All are normal.
If you don’t feel anything at all for your baby, it could be a sign of postnatal depression. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP about how you feel and your support network of friends and family. You are not alone and you don't have to suffer in silence.
“I loved my children so much, but there were times when I felt I could have easily walked away and left the job of raising them to others who I felt were way more capable than me. It felt hugely overwhelming at times and I truly started to understand the meaning of the phrase, ‘it takes a village’. I now know it was my depression and anxiety talking, and reaching out for support made all the difference.”
Frankie, mum of three
Living on less money
Most women who have been working face a drop in income when they go on maternity leave (or stop work completely). This can be very stressful. There are lots of different maternity and parenting benefits and tax credits available. You can find out about them at Maternity Action or Gov.uk.
Changes to your relationship with your partner
Many couples find that their relationship changes a lot after having a baby. Going from a couple to a family is a huge change and this can put a lot of strain on a relationship. Looking after the baby means you have much less time for each other. There can be arguments over money and who does what in the house. Some women find they lose interest in sex for a long time after having a baby, which can also put pressure on your relationship.
Both of you have a new role to get used to, and it’s easy to lose patience with each other when both of you are exhausted. If you are at home with your baby your partner may be jealous of you having all that time together and see you as ‘doing nothing’ all day. You may be jealous of him going out and getting a break from the baby.
It’s a good idea to talk to each other about your hopes, fears and expectations about life with your baby, what kind of parents you want to be, and how you can support each other. There’s lots of good relationship advice and support at the Couple Connection.
Coping as a single parent
If you are a single parent, it’s very important to think about who you can ask for emotional and practical support in the months after your baby’s born. You may also need to sort out financial support and contact arrangements with the baby's father, and work out your own options for the future. You can get information and support from single parents charity Gingerbread.
Making new friends
Being at home with a new baby can be lonely if you’re by yourself with no adult company all day. Many women find that their pre-baby friends are not available during the day or are not on the same wavelength any more. It can make a big difference to how you feel if you meet other parents by going to local groups or activities for parents and children in your area. You can find out about groups from your health visitor or children’s centre, or there may be exercise classes or even parent-and-baby cinema screenings. There are also lots of internet forums for new mums.
“I've discovered this whole world that I didn't know existed. I used to go to work in the week and now we're going to antenatal classes and groups …It's been so reassuring, being able to talk things through is really helpful.”
Edie, mum of one
Depression and anxiety
Up to 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Low mood, anxiety and depression are common.
It’s very helpful if you, your partner and your family read about the symptoms so that if you do become unwell, you realise what’s happening. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you’ll recover and can fully enjoy the early months with your baby.
What if my baby goes into special care?
If your baby is born early or poorly it can be a huge shock and you may feel that you’re being asked to make big decisions while you’re in a daze. You may find it hard to bond with your baby if you are frightened about whether he or she will be OK. You can be more prepared for what happens if a baby needs to go into the hospital’s special care unit by reading about premature birth.
What if my baby has a disability?
If your baby is born with a physical disability, learning disability or health condition, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that he or she is different from the baby you may have imagined when you were pregnant. There are many specialist charities who can advise and support you as the parent of a disabled child and who help parents to share experiences and support each other.
You can find out more at Contact-a-Family and you can find out about government support here.