Are you a new parent struggling with all the emotions that come with it?
For first time moms, the transition to motherhood brings not only a new baby, but big life changes and big expectations. We might find our new experiences bring a strong emotional and physical response. We may feel happiness, excitement, love, bonding, but also guilt and fear, that can hold us captive. Why are we feeling this way and where did these emotions come from?
Why am I feeling this way?
Your body is constantly processing information, gathering it from all five senses and sending it to our limbic systems, where our brain stores memories, to be interpreted. Everyone has their own “brain template” the place where your previous experiences help to form reactions. This template will process this new information based on your previous experiences and engender emotion. Your emotions are actually part of the process as sensory information moves through your pre-frontal lobe, aiding in your decision-making process. We use our emotions as a tool to better understand ourselves, but our past experiences also create the meaning for those emotions.
The hormonal and physical changes in new mothers can set in motion an incredibly vulnerable period of time where you have all the feels. Preconceived ideas about parenthood, what your partner should be doing and feeling, cultural expectations, societal expectations like worrying about balancing parenthood with a career, how you saw your own parents’ relationship, all these experiences are in our brain template resulting in how we experience these intense emotions. Neuroscience tells us a physical reaction caused by these emotions is not at all uncommon while your mind is still processing. We can sweat or find our heart racing or that we’re “choking up. ” Even though these are all perfectly normal responses it can signal that we may want to understand deeper where those emotions are coming from.
What can I do to better manage these feelings?
What can you do to help manage those emotions? Learn to reset your expectations and check in with yourself. Change the question to adjust your response or take a minute to understand your response. Be mindful in the moment. If you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your child vs. fulfilling your child’s needs, what is it that is making you feel that way? Is it your expectations or societal expectations you think you need to meet?
Parenthood is a journey!
Use this opportunity to get to know yourself better. Parenthood is a journey. It is not a straight line to a destination (see Welcome to Holland). Rather than meeting the goals you’ve been told to expect, use the ability to adjust to meet goals you can manage. No emotions are either good or bad however intense. Let’s learn to see emotions as information only, and it’s a window to get to know yourself better. With the new experience of motherhood, it’s a special time to look into that window and ask yourself what you see.
Listen to Dr. Dana Wang and Dr. Sneha Gazi’s full interview here on the Fit As A Fiddle podcast.