A lot of moms and partners experience some sort of let down during pregnancy, birth and the first few months with their newborns. Maybe you hoped to have a girl, and felt a twinge when you got the ultrasound results. Maybe breastfeeding was insanely difficult, and you had to switch to formula sooner than you’d planned. Maybe you went in ready for a vaginal delivery, and ended up having a c-section. Maybe you thought your newborn would be a sleeping angel, but he turned out to be a very active night owl. Even the most flexible people have at least a vague idea of how they’d like things to go, and when those hopes and expectations aren’t met, it’s very normal to feel at least a little sad and/or angry. Although we’re usually pretty good at normalizing other people’s struggles, many of us experience guilt when it’s our turn to face our own version of disappointment.
Disappointment, when it’s left bottled up, can make you more susceptible to depression and/or anxiety, so it’s very important to acknowledge it. A common reframe we use in Therapy World is this: “What would you say to a friend who was experiencing the same thing?” Almost always, the answer is some version of this: “I’d tell them I’m sorry it happened that way. I’d hug them and tell them it’s okay to be sad.” I never hear, “What’s wrong with you? Get a grip! What do you have to be upset about?” It feels terrible to even write words like that – I can’t imagine saying them to someone. Yet, somehow, it’s very easy to say to myself when I’m going through difficult emotions.
Here are some strategies for airing out the inevitable changes in your best laid plans, for any stage of parenting:
- Prepare as much as you can mentally for the reality that not everything will go according to plan. Try to “hold on loosely” to your visions of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum months.
- Let it flow. If you notice anger or sadness welling up over unmet expectations, allow yourself a good cry, an intense journal entry, or a venting session with a trusted friend or therapist.
- Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel your feelings, use gentle methods to redirect yourself and assimilate the change. Instead of saying, “Snap out of it!”, try reflecting on something positive. My midwife used to remind me that “chaos creates new flow,” and I still grab for that phrase when I’m going through a change in plans.
Here’s To Sanity and Flow,