the After Glow of Birthing Circles
By Dr. Robert G. Rodriguez
Ask two hundred expectant couples, "what will your life be
like during the days and weeks following the birth of your child?"
and you're likely to hear some fantastic tales. Jules Verne couldn't
have written a better fictional script than some of these soon-to-be
parents. One expectant mom said, "it will be a perfect time
to start my freelance writing career. My baby will sleep blissfully
for hour in a cradle beside my desk while I tirelessly head for
my Pulitzer." Another said, my husband and I will calmly watch
full-length movies on the VCR, the baby serenely lying across my
lap. Time will tick away like a well-wound clock so that my main
challenge will be getting bored once in a while."
you can stop laughing now. After all, some of you may have had a
glimmer of these fantasies while pregnant. However, as you've learned
or will soon learn, nothing goes like clockwork after you've had
a baby. Nights and days turn upside down. You'll discover which
TV shows air at 2 a.m. Your laundry pile skyrockets with onesies
and baby undershirts. You'll wonder if the couch was actually designed
for two adults since your husband and you will rarely share it at
the same time.
some your expectations have changed from when you were pregnant,
you will make some insightful discoveries during your postpartum
days. You'll experience the solid, warm peace of holding your baby
against your shoulder, the indescribable joy of her first smile,
the sweet, clean smell of Johnson baby products and the comforting
woolly softness of receiving blankets.
a baby tops the chart as a long-anticipated milestone, and although
your life will never be the same, it's possible to combine elements
of your new and old life to hang onto the best of both worlds. The
following suggestions are offered for keeping your marriage, and
your life, alive through the postpartum passage.
help avoid postpartum exhaustion, disappointment and alienation
from your spouse, develop a postpartum plan. Consider the usual
responsibilities of a couple and a family, and then decide who is
going to carry out those tasks following the birth. The immediate
family, extended family, neighbors and possibly hired household
help could be included in the plan. When designing this plan, decide
what tasks you can prioritize and cut out, and what must be absolutely
relieve stress, schedule at least one nurturing activity per day
for the new mom, along with lost of rest. Make a commitment to include
stress-relievers such as a massage, reading a book, or soaking in
the tub on a daily basis. The new dad also needs relaxation. If
he's worked all week, come home and helped with housework and baby
care, he deserves a break as well. Allow him to plan a couple of
hours for himself on the weekend. This could be watching a sports
event at a buddy's house, spending some practice time at the driving
range, or simply running the usual errands but at a bit slower pace.
should also continue a weekly date as husband and wife. In the beginning,
this could be simply a walk around the block or a quick drive to
get a soda. But couples need to look for opportunities to still
be husband and wife and purposely set aside time for their personal
relationship. Possibly Grandma or Grandpa can watch the baby while
the new parents have a weekly movie night. A "couple's night"
is one of the most important ingredient to a lasting marriage.
a new baby into the family doesn't just add a person, but also contributes
additional lines of communication. There is not only communication
between Mom and Dad, but between Dad and Baby and Mom and Baby,
along with the interaction of that communication between all of
the people involved in the family.
typically maintain their relationships by service to others and
who serves them, and women maintain most of their friendships by
who they talk to and how long. This may be interpreted by Mom that
if her spouse "isn't talking to her, he's not her friend."
So new parents need to focus on talking about what is positive in
their relationship and in their family or what they are teaching
their child and how it is working. The most important thing is,
keep talking to one another.
husband may feel pushed aside as the wife tends to the needs of
the baby. Mothers should be patient with their husbands and actively
recruit them to be involved in their children's lives. Before the
baby is born, the expectant couple should discuss their expectations
and how they view their parental and personal roles as Mom and Dad.
Then, when the child is born and the father is attempting nurturing
behavior the wife should find ways to compliment his efforts. Complimenting
a man's efforts at baby care is in contrast to over analyzing what
he is doing.
mom who has taken care of a baby night and day may feel "touched
out" - or saturated with touch. The father may get the message
that she is not interested in physical affection, when what she
is feeling is quite normal. The mom is really saying, "I don't
want touch - I need someone to nurture me." Using a lot of
foreplay and nurturing touch can ease back the intimacy following
a birth. For men, giving your spouse more nurturing than usual will
help a mom avoid feeling that her husband is saying, in effect,
"here I am - take care of my needs."
a mom's physiological experience can also help smooth relations.
A new mom may get only two or three hours of sleep every night.
Many new moms experience the symptoms of postpartum depression:
fatigue, anxiety, appetite and sleep disturbances, lack of interest
in the baby, and lack of interest in intimacy. A new mom has elevated
hormones. Her moods are real erratic, which could be taken personally.
It helps for the husband to understand that such reactions are physiological
and often accentuate emotions that will calm after the symptoms
information about relationships, marriage, family life and parenting,
parents are encouraged to contact some of the excellent internet
sites, many of which are listed at www.DrDad.info. You'll find on-line
magazines, useful resources for expectant and new parents, and links
to some of the better health information sites.
moms can also consider seeking or starting a support group to share
ideas for parenting and being a good marriage partner. Three such
groups are Mothers At Home, F.E.M.A.L.E. - which stands for Formerly
Employed Mothers At The Leading Edge, and the Birthing Circle of
which there are local chapters. Of course, as mentioned the internet
abounds with support group for mothers, fathers, and couples who
want to be both good parents and good partners. Visit www.BabiesToday.com
to join a virtual community of new parents.
groups like the Birthing Circle deal in doulas - a Greek word meaning
"women serving women." Although both parents and their
babies are encouraged to attend, women take a central role in the
discussions. These groups do what generations before have done;
namely, they share advice, information, stories, cures, expectations,
and support with one another. It is too easy for new parents to
isolate themselves from the healthy benefits of empathy. New parents
may be surrounded with friends, relatives, and neighbors trying
to give advice and well intentioned counsel, but being with a group
of similar new parents provides reassurance, confidence in parenting
skills, and uncompromised advice.
both new parenthood and marriage, stress often rises from unmet
expectations or from feelings of not meeting goals, or milestones.
New parenthood isn't a time to stretch to complete the most tasks
possible or prove that you can do everything you're always done.
Enjoy the luxury of kicking back a little, of remembering the days
of your won childhood, when the time from morning to afternoon to
evening seemed long, relaxing, and full of unanticipated, surprising
possibilities. Remember if you do one thing you have to, and one
thing you want to, it's been a great day!
Rodriquez, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a psychologist and research expert
with over 30 years experience working with expectant couples. Dr.
Rodriguez is available for conference speaking engagements, seminar
presentations, and training sessions, including Continuing Educations
Unit programs. For more information, visit: www.DrDad.info