Whether you’ve had your first, third or fifth child, anyone can develop negative thought patterns following childbirth. This can have major repercussions on your own health, the health of your child and indeed all the family.
It’s important to note that there is always a period of adjustment when something doesn’t match your expectations and it is normal to be disappointed, flustered and even grieve.
But when those emotions become the most dominant then it may be time to do some work on your mindset.
What causes our emotions to become overwhelming?
We start with a picture in our heads of how things will be when our newborn arrives. When things don’t go according to plan this can trigger a negative mindset that, if left unchecked, can spiral down into challenging and sometimes even dangerous territory.
The trigger could be:
- An unplanned pregnancy that you perceive as a negative impact on your life
- Not being able to accept the way your child was born (a difficult labour)
- Feeling like a failure because you were unable to breastfeed.
- Feeling helpless because your child won’t stop crying.
The stark difference between your expected plans and reality leads to self-judgement and a negative mindset.
This type of thinking can be dangerous, and can easily spiral into depression and anxiety, even long after the baby blues have come and gone because like anything we do repetitively, it becomes a habit. We get into the habit of feeling like everything’s going wrong and we are to blame.
This is how easily we can get overwhelmed and consumed by parenting when our negative mindset takes over and we have difficulty accepting an unexpected and unwanted turn of events.
It starts with this comment,
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way! It was meant to be different. I didn’t sign up for THIS.”
You try to make sense of the unexpected outcomes:
“It was because I didn’t eat well enough, rest enough. It’s because of all those things I did when I didn’t know I was pregnant. It’s because I’m doing it all wrong. It’s because I’m not good at this parenting gig.”
Or look to blame others:
“It’s their fault. They should have taught me how to breastfeed properly. They should have kept me in hospital longer. My partner should be helping more.”
The next stage is we look for evidence of what we are now missing out on.
“I’m not bonding with my child. I feel I’m not giving my baby the love/care/attention they deserve. There is so much more I should be getting from this experience I’m not getting any of this right!”
But it doesn’t just stop there. Now that you’ve seen how ‘wrong’ things are, whose fault it is and what you are missing out on, you start to rate yourself and your life and ask:
“What does this event mean about my life? What does this event mean about me? This is hopeless. I am hopeless. Everyone else is doing okay, why can’t I? I can’t even get a baby to sleep. This is meant to be my forte as a mum. Everyone must think I’m the worst parent in the world. Why can’t I hold it together? There are thousands of parents that cope with these situations everyday, but no, here I am falling apart. I’m such a failure. My life is just horrible right now. I just don’t understand how my life has become so far from the picture I had of having children, or how my life would be. I feel so helpless.”
How to change your mind
To turn your thinking around, you need to work on the process that created the negative emotions in the first place.
You need to train your mind to respond differently to challenging situations and create new habits of thinking when faced with stressful events.
When you have a new baby, and you catch yourself in a situation that is different to the picture you had in your head, be very careful about the mindset of blame and shame. It will only lead to distress.
When you learn how to turn it all around however, you not only think more realistically, but you will feel and act differently (‘This is my reality, so what am I going to DO about it’).
Your mindset is as important as your child’s health. Parenting does not define you.
Need help adjusting to the changes of having a baby – mentally and emotionally?
If you have identified with any of the issues in this article and you will benefit from
our Adjusting to the Change program on September 28, designed to help parents of babies and toddlers.
We can help improve your parenting experience and make it what you want it to be. You will develop a strength of mind that will not only change you but your whole family. .
New Baby. New mindset. It’s time to step into a new you.