BABIES, TODDLERS, PRESCHOOLERS
A new Mum: "I'm physically exhausted. I'm emotionally drained. I'm struggling to know what to do. I've lost my independence; my previous sources of validation; and my sense of control. I'm grumpy with my partner. And I can't think straight. And I worry all the time, ‘Am I doing this right’?"
Having a baby brings up many practical, emotional and interpersonal issues for the mother and the family. The physical demands alone can leave one feeling low and exhausted and interfere with one's ability to think clearly and respond.
One struggles to get to know and accept a new individual with his/her own unfolding temperament and personality. New relationships need to be developed: Mum and baby, Dad and baby, siblings and baby. As the baby changes, the nature of each of these relationships also change.
The baby also alters all the existing relationships in the family, placing new demands on relationships between Mum and Dad, Mum and Grandma, and Mum and older children.
The challenge of meeting a baby's needs creates echoes of our own vulnerability and how our needs might have been met (or not met) in the past. It also brings into focus our ability (or inability) to obtain support in the present.
New and difficult emotions can be stirred by the loss of independence and loss of previous sources of validation, as well as a loss of a sense of control and competency.
And it is not just the first six months that can be disorientating. The first six years are full of potential challenges: the first parental sustained "no" at the time of weaning from breast or bottle; negotiating who holds the power and control when moving out of nappies; the interplay between sleep, anxiety, exhaustion, and frustration; managing the beginnings of independence and separateness, particularly with day care and preschool; tackling developmental milestones, illness and social interactions.
Working in a therapeutic way with parents-and-babies or parents-and-young-children can involve sessions with parent(s) and baby/young child seen together. At other times, a parent may want to attend without the baby/young child.