Here’s something few people will tell you when you’re pregnant and about to become a new mom. Among the many new emotions you’ll experience as a parent, guilt is likely to be right up there at the top.
The stakes for parents these days are higher than ever. “We live in an age of high expectations that everything is a Kodak, or nowadays a Facebook, moment,” says Alan Manevitz, MD, a psychiatrist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It’s very easy for mothers of newborns out of love and concern to feel traumatized quickly over all sorts of things.”
Here are five of the most common reasons why new moms feel guilty and even more reasons why they should learn to cut themselves a break.
“One of the more shameful feelings women come to see me for is they don’t feel the instantaneous unconditional mother’s love they were expecting. They feel like that’s what they are supposed to have and feel shame about it,” Manevitz says.
Although most women do feel an immediate bond upon giving birth to their baby, many don’t. Contrary to popular belief, it’s quite understandable, Manevitz says. “Pregnancy and giving birth is a great trauma to the body.”
Think about it: In most cases after surgery or other physical challenges or injuries, we rest, care for ourselves, and perhaps have others tend to our needs until we’re back on our feet. Not the case upon becoming a new mom. Giving birth to a baby sometimes comes with many uncomfortable and even downright painful side effects -- an episiotomy, perhaps a C-section delivery, and the pain and soreness that can come with breastfeeding.
But instead of resting, you face sleepless nights and the physical and emotional demands that come with caring for a newborn baby.
“Many families don’t have the financial means to pay for baby nurses or nannies and may not have extended family support to help care for the newborn. So after going through this unbelievable thing with your body and mind you’re then supposed to be super happy and performing things when you’re exhausted and tired. Not everybody has the means to do this and all of this adds to the stress,” Manevitz says.
To relieve some of the pressure, take a clue from dads. “Sometimes it’s more common that a father doesn’t become emotionally connected until the baby becomes more interactive, but they don’t have the same expectations that women have for themselves,” Manevitz says. For that reason, many don’t struggle with the same level of guilt that new moms often feel.
2. Not breastfeeding every time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends that healthy women breastfeed their babies for the first six to 12 months of life. There is ample evidence that breastfeeding has health benefits both for babies and mothers.