The Joys but Mostly the Pains of New Motherhood
Having a new baby can be one of the most joyous experiences
in a woman’s life. It is a time to fall in love in a
way understood only by others who have experienced it. This
transition, however, creates life changes that often lead new
mothers to feel they are on an emotional roller coaster.
New motherhood can be a time of apprehension, guilt, fear,
self-doubt, and anxiety. New mothers may question their ability
to be a “good” mother. Am I holding the baby too
much? Will I spoil my baby? Am I doing enough to stimulate
my baby? Many first-time moms experience disappointment or
guilt because of ambivalence about becoming a mother or not
feeling enamored with their new full-time job of caring for
a demanding infant.
A new mother’s life suddenly revolves around the feeding
and sleeping habits of her newborn. Some mothers feel pressure
to breast feed their babies, and may feel that breastfeeding
limits their freedom, or do not find it enjoyable. Sleep can
also be one of the most challenging issues in the first months.
Parents may feel angry at their baby for not sleeping well
(and not allowing them to sleep), which can cause guilt.
Having a baby can leave women feeling anxious about bodily
changes and concerned about regaining their “pre-pregnancy” body.
Often this leads to frustration, irritability, and depression,
feelings which can squash sexual desire and contribute to difficulty
in the marriage. Sex is just one of the stresses a couple may
experience following the birth of a baby. Some couples say
that they fight constantly and partners report they often feel
neglected, angry or resentful during a time that they “should” be
New mothers often struggle with sadness and loneliness and
may experience changes in relationships with friends and family.
Caring for an infant leaves limited time to talk on the telephone
or minimal energy to provide support to others. Mothers may
miss some aspects of life including friends at the office or
the intellectual stimulation of a job. Other difficult issues
for new moms include decisions regarding work, parenting, and
It is not surprising that such a significant transition can
trigger so many emotions. One of the most helpful things a
new mother can do to create a healthy adjustment for herself
and her baby is to seek the support of other new mothers. Often
new mothers feel that no one understands them and can find
time spent with other new mothers rejuvenating. It is essential
that they receive support on a regular basis in order to provide
the proper love and care to their babies.
The NYU Child Study Center is offering educational support
groups to help mothers with these changes. New Mothers: New
Lives is open to new mothers and their babies, 0 to 9 months.
The group will be held on Thursdays starting September 8, 2005.
Topics will include: Can you spoil your baby?; changes to your
body post-pregnancy; and work and parenting. For more information,
contact Dr. Carrie Masia at (212) 263-8919 or Dr. Paige Fisher
at (212) 263-3927 or visitwww.aboutourkids.org#
Dr. Carrie Masia-Warner is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
at the New York University Child Study Center and a new mother.