What No One Tells You About the Holidays and a New Baby
Having a new baby during the holidays may seem romantic and almost dream like. Who can deny the appeal of cuddling your newborn by your Christmas tree or a cozy fire? Friends and family will comment that you’ve been given the best gift ever. Strangers will stop you to take a peek at your little bundle while you’re finishing your shopping or sipping an Eggnog Latte at Starbucks.
This perfect holiday may be your reality, but chances are it’s not going to look anything like this. Trying to balance the challenges of new motherhood along with the expectations that come with this time of year can be immensely stressful. As you try to adjust to having a baby and still enjoy the holiday season, you may find you’re feeling anxious, depressed or even angry.
You may wonder why you’re not having the perfect holiday season because after all, you have all the pieces in place to enjoy it. To help make sense of your feelings, there are a few important things to consider that no one told you about the holidays and new babies. These factors can play a major role in your mood and how you experience the Christmas season.
High Expectations and Lack of Routine Can Hurt
Whether you have a new baby or not, the holidays are a time filled with high expectations. As women we feel a lot of pressure to create the perfect holiday experience for our friends and family. This might mean baking 100s of cookies, hosting cocktail parties and running all over to try and find the perfect gifts. It can also mean that we push our own needs for rest and quiet time to the side.
We tend to expect a lot from others too. There might be expectations that partners and other children will be on their best behaviour. It could be that you go the extra mile to try and be ‘happy and bright’ and want the same from everyone else.
The holidays are also a time when our usual daily and weekly routines may be thrown out the door. Late nights, sugary treats, lots of alcohol and travel can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. The rhythms that we usually plan our time around aren’t applicable throughout the season.
When we add these two factors together with the upheaval of a new baby, you might be left feeling like you just can’t make it through the day. Babies require constant care and attention during the first months of life, and it can be difficult to find time to shower, let alone keep up with a busy holiday season.
Adjusting your expectations can help, but so can finding a trusted friend or professional to talk with. Being mindful of your needs and those of your baby can also help you to cope with the lack of consistency and routine.
Family Issues Don’t Go Away, They’re Only Magnified
Those ideals of a perfect holiday play a big role in how we think family should behave. We want our loved ones gathered around the kitchen table, politely passing turkey and mashed potatoes without complaint. Conflicts that may have been simmering all year long are supposed to take a backseat to the wonder and joy of the season.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t usually work out this way. Bringing together your extended family with the auspices of a relaxed celebration can backfire quickly and leave everyone feeling stressed and angry. Typically, spending time in close quarters with anyone can bring issues to the surface and the holidays are no different.
If it’s your mother-in-law that’s driving you nuts before Christmas, it’s likely that she’ll do the same when the big day arrives. Her advice about breastfeeding or what kind of diapers to use won’t stop.
Conflicts with a partner may become flash points as you both try and manage expectations. If you’re both sleep deprived and feeling pressure to enjoy the holidays with your new baby, it could be that big arguments erupt over small issues. Existing tension or disagreement can be magnified and leave you feeling depressed and anxious.
Stress is Already High and a New Baby Only Adds to This
Stress levels are already heightened during the holiday season and a new baby only adds to this. So many new moms are shocked by the transition to motherhood and the stress that comes along with it. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed you’re certainly not alone now or any time of the year.
While you’re still trying to figure out your baby’s sleeping and feeding cues, there may be additional pressure to come to parties with your little one in tow. Friends and family want to meet your baby, but they often don’t consider (or remember!) the challenge it can be to get out the door with an infant. There are so many additional things to remember (extra blankets, hats, mittens, the diaper bag, and the list goes on) that it may feel like a major accomplishment just to get in the car and start driving down the road.
An important skill to begin working on and building up if you haven’t already, is to learn to set appropriate boundaries. Practicing saying ‘no, thank you’ when something or a situation doesn’t serve you. It may mean that you disappoint friends and family by not attending their annual potluck. This may also see you skip out on other activities in place of a nap or time alone.
The changes and challenges that you’re experiencing as a new parent can have a big impact on your mood at any time of year. When you miss out on favorite holiday traditions and activities it might leave you feeling depressed, sad and alone. You might even be wondering why you decided to have a baby in the first place – and that’s okay!
No one said that parenting would be easy and during the holiday season it can be especially difficult. A Family First, we understand how it feels because we’ve been there.
If you’re struggling with your mood, feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed we can help. Our Postpartum Wellness Program is designed to offer you support and help build community during your postpartum period. Mental health is one of our main priorities and through our flexible wellness check-ins, where we screen for postpartum depression and anxiety, and access to our in-house counselor, we can help you start feeling like yourself again.
Book a consultation with us by clicking here and find out more about the programs and services we offer to help you get on the road to recovery.