The next story shows how you might prevent problems before they arise. As you read, think about these questions:
Stefanie is Molly and Ron’s first child. Before Stefanie was born, the couple planned for Molly to take three months of parental leave from her job after the baby was born. Now, only a few weeks after Stefanie’s birth, Molly is having problems caring for the baby.
Molly just doesn’t seem to want to be with Stefanie. There are times when I walk in the door and hear Stef wailing because she’s hungry or needs to be changed; then I find that Molly is sitting in the next room crying, too. Sometimes she forgets to feed Stef—how can you forget to feed a baby? I’m worried that Stefanie isn’t getting get the attention she needs during the day. I mean, sometimes Molly doesn’t even get dressed during the day. I wish I knew how to make things better for all of us.
I know that a lot of women do the mom thing every day, but I’m just not as good at it as they are. Sometimes, it’s like nothing I do is enough for her. I try holding her, rocking her, feeding her, playing with her, but she still cries. I can’t do anything right.
While it’s true that millions of women “do the mom thing” every day, none of them would say it’s easy. Being a mother takes a lot of getting used to; in fact, being a parent takes a lot of getting used to.
But it sounds like Molly is going through more than getting used to being a new mom. For nearly 10 percent of women who are pregnant or give birth, the weight of being a new mom is doubled by post-partum depression, an illness that results from hormonal changes related to pregnancy and giving birth.15 Women with post-partum depression need more help than their spouses or partners can give, more than they can give themselves, actually. For many women like Molly, professional treatment from a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is the best way to beat the so-called “baby blues.”
If any parent, no matter what their gender is, finds it hard to relate with their child in a playful, positive way, then they should seek outside help immediately. Molly and Ron might want to talk to her obstetrician about how they are feeling and how things are going. The doctor may have some ideas that could help, like hiring a babysitter a few days each week, or having each parent take “alone time” during the week. The doctor might also refer them to a psychiatrist or another mental health professional so they can get help through counseling and medication.
Having a baby changes every part of parents’ lives, including their relationship to each other. Many times, one or both parents have a hard time adjusting to all the changes. Parents should know that their emotional health has a big impact on their child’s emotional health. Getting help right away is the best way to ensure the child’s and the parents’ well-being.