Posted by Debbie Whitehill, LICSW
Director, Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms®
For many parents of newborns, this year has not been what they expected. Plans changed; health concerns increased; outside support became risky, inconsistent, and/or hard to find. Our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms program has been working virtually to offer parents a listening ear—sharing their journeys as their babies grow and change in the first year of life. Read on to find out how Visiting Moms can provide the extra support parents may need to contend with issues around decision-making, family expectations, and so much more!Decision-making is often intense in new parenthood: How long to let a baby cry; what types of bottles to use; how frequently to feed your baby; which pediatrician to choose—all questions that became even more fraught thanks to COVID. And while parents often search for the “right answer,” we know that no single solution works for every baby and every family. In fact, most parenting is trial and error, and it’s inevitable that we will all make mistakes along the way. Discussing decisions like these with unbiased folks like our Visiting Moms can be a valuable, no-judgement way to choose a path for your family.
Family expectations are often difficult to manage in the newborn stage: Who can visit? How long can your mother or mother-in-law stay? Your energy levels and needs will change over time, and tensions can run higher during COVID if family members are not aligned around safety concerns. Finding your voice as a new parent takes time, as does learning to trust yourself. Connecting with an impartial outsider can help you find your voice and the confidence to communicate your needs more clearly to family members.
Many parents of newborns experience anxiety and depression. Sometimes having these strong feelings makes it hard to connect or bond with our newborns, and the pandemic has only exacerbated those feelings. It’s important to seek help if you or your partner are struggling. Whether it’s a support group, a therapist, medication, or a combination, help is available—all virtually, which means you can participate from home. For instance, JF&CS “This Isn’t What I Expected” is a free weekly support group that addresses these and similar issues. JF&CS also recently launched Mental Health Connect— a free, confidential information and referral service.
Having a new baby is almost always isolating and exhausting. COVID has taken it to a new level. New parents may feel cheated of the experience they expected and dreamed about. They are missing the opportunity to share their early parenting time and be witnessed as parents. They may also be missing the home cooked meals supplied by family members, or the extra hands to hold a crying baby. Sharing these feelings with others can be an important release, even if it can’t change the feelings themselves.
Working from home does have benefits for parents of newborns, but it isn't without challenges. Leaving your baby to return to work often comes with mixed emotions and involves many decisions. Right now, out-of-home childcare is more limited, and having someone come into your home may not be an option for you. Even if it is, listening to someone else take care of your baby while you're trying to work is often distracting. No matter what you choose it will involve a big adjustment—give yourself time to settle into that next phase of your lives as a family.
No matter how much you prepared, having a baby is likely to bring intense waves of feelings: joy, doubt, fear, excitement, anxiety, exhaustion, elation… and some indescribable and confusing combination of them all. Visiting Moms remember how it felt in the early months! They are here to listen, to understand and encourage, and most of all to accompany you as you find your way with your baby. Learn more about Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms.