Becoming a mother and grieving your old life

An analogy I often use with clients who are struggling with motherhood and all the changes it brings is its like the stages of grief. Now I realise that sounds a bit dramatic but bear with me a minute.

The first stage of grief is shock. When we have a baby, we are filled with ideas of how wonderful its going to be. We are going to be the most amazing mum and love every second of it. It’s going to bring you together with your partner because you created this little life. And then the reality hits. You find it really fucking hard. Its relentless and boring. You don’t enjoy it and quite often find yourself questioning why you even had the baby in the first place. You argue more with your partner, you never go out anymore and it feels lonely. Now let’s be clear it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby (for some women it does feel this way but not all) but it’s really really hard.

And that comes as a shock. Its NOT what we expect. It’s not like what the books said. And we don’t know what went wrong.

The next stage of grief is denial. I know so many women, myself included, who do a GREAT job of masking how they feel. They deny how anxious or how low they feel because admitting it might seem like a failure or they worry that if they admit it someone might take their baby away. They manage to paint on a fake smile and say they are ‘ok’ every time some one shows concern.

Next we move to anger.

Anger finds its outlet in different ways. You might feel growing anger or resentment towards your baby. You hold them responsible for the situation you now find yourself in. Maybe if they were an ‘easier’ baby or slept more you wouldn’t feel this bad. Even though you may know that these thoughts are unrealistic it doesn’t stop them coming. Sometimes we might even feel that the baby doesn’t sleep on purpose to spite us or that they don’t like us.
Anger can also find its way towards our partners. The balance of the relationship has tipped and no longer seems equal. Your partner gets to go out each day and have adult conversation and eat a meal in peace whilst you are stuck at home. Even if this is something which you wanted and was discussed prior to the baby arriving it doesn’t make it easier.

Eventually, sometimes with help, we move towards acceptance. Accepting that life will never be the carefree existence it once was. Accepting that things have changed. But that this change is fluid. Its ever changing. What feels like a struggle today by next week or next month that stage will be over you and you will be onto the next. Eventually they do sleep, and you start to recoup. They begin to more and more independent and you gradually claw back tiny amounts of time. You can go to the toilet whilst they sit and watch a cartoon. They will play independently meaning you can get house jobs done or sit and have a coffee that’s still hot.

You will accept that your body is different. You might not like bits of it, but you can accept it is the way it is because you grew a human. Although I struggle still to accept that I pee if I go on the trampoline.

If you stay stuck in denial or anger its not a great place to be. Its not helpful to you in moving forward. So, if you think you are stuck reach out and talk to someone. Your partner, friend, GP or pop me an e mail and I can sign post you some help.

What happens if I decide to have therapy?

What happens when I decide to have therapy?

Deciding to reach out and see a therapist is huge decision for many women. It’s the start of admitting that you are not coping, and you need help. For many they worry that by admitting they need help is an admission of failure. Many, I included, hide the fact that they are even IN therapy once they begin.

For some therapy will come via a GP referral for others they will seek out a therapist privately. Which ever route you go you can congratulate yourself for seeking help in the first place.

But what happens then? A lot of women worry about what therapy will be like, what they will be asked. If they admit to everything they are thinking or feeling the therapist will be shocked, disgusted or worse. Will they make a report that goes their GP or their employer? Will their baby be taken away if they admit to having thoughts of suicide?

So here is my list of things you should know about therapy.

1. All therapists are bound by a code of ethics set out by the Governing body they are members of. This covers confidentiality. You will be given a copy at the start of therapy which outlines the confidentiality terms and the reasons they can be broken.

2. Confidentiality can only be broken under two criteria; there is a risk you will harm yourself or others. Any breaking of confidentiality would be discussed with you by the therapist and would NOT be done without your knowledge.

3. Therapists are trained to listen without judgement. They should work to create what is termed a ‘therapeutic alliance’ between you and them. This should enable you to feel that you can share ANYTHING. There is a safe space in the therapy room and anything shared will be done so without fear of negative judgment. If you need silence that’s ok too. You won’t be rushed.

4. At the start of therapy, you may be asked to complete a form which assesses your level of depression or anxiety. This is so the therapist can monitor your scores as you improve.

5. The therapist will want to know basic information such as your GP details if you are on any medication currently such as anti-depressants, and if you have ever sought therapy before.

6. The therapist will take notes but should ask your permission to do so. Similarly, he may record the session and again would ask permission before doing so.

7. All therapists are required to be in clinical supervision. Your case may be discussed with a supervisor, but your name and personal details are not shared. All supervisors are bound by the same code of ethics and confidentiality applies.

8. Should you be receiving therapy that is being provided via an employee assistance program a report may be required by the EAP from the therapist. This will usually be a basic report and you can request to see the report before it is sent.

9. A session will typically last 50 minutes with time given at the start for a revue of the week and at the end in the case of therapies such as CBT for homework to be given.

10. If you cry that’s fine. If you dont cry ( but think you should) that’s fine too.

11. All therapists become therapists because they want to help people. Be as honest as you possibly can with them. They want to help you get better.

The biggest compliment someone can pay me as a therapist is to say ‘I found you so easy to talk to’ as without this  initial basis therapy will not work. If you have any questions about this or my work please contact me