Myth 1: You always fall madly in love with your baby the minute you meet them.
BUSTED! It is true that many people experience a rush of the love hormone—oxytocin—at the moment of birth. It can make you feel on top of the world. Many people report feeling madly in love with their baby the minute they come out. Yet, there are many others who don’t have this experience. It’s also normal to feel:
· A little freaked out by your baby. It’s OK to wonder if their head is supposed to be that shape. It’s OK to not think they are that cute yet. (They come out looking pretty gnarly…don’t worry they get cuter as days go on!!) It’s OK to be scared to be their parent.
· Indifferent. Depending on how your birth goes, you may feel exhausted and touched out. You may need a good sleep, a shower, a nourishing meal, some self-care and processing of your birth before you feel like you can be emotionally present. That’s OK!
· A little mad at your baby. Maybe birth hurt, or was long, or not what you expected. Though unintentional, some people can’t help feeling a little mad at the little one who caused them pain. This feeling can be normal and is very short lived. Acknowledge it, process your birth with someone you trust, and it will pass!
If you feel anything other than our (often unrealistic!) societal expectation of overwhelming love and adoration for your baby, do not quietly wonder if something is wrong with you or feel secretly guilty. These feelings are very normal human responses. Love is not born, love grows. Spend time with your baby, care for yourself and let others care for you, and process your feelings with someone you trust. If these feelings linger, a mental health professional specializing in the perinatal period can be incredibly helpful and understanding!
Myth 2: I’m going to get that ________ (book read, bathroom remodeled, work project, craft project, …) done with all my extra time during parental leave.
BUSTED! In reality, you will need to do a lot of prioritization of tasks in the first few weeks postpartum. Newborns will initially need to eat every 2-3 hours. It’s amazing how much time we spend caring for someone who only eats, poops, and sleeps! Yet, realistically you will be caring for the baby every couple of hours, which means broken up sleep patterns and only quick periods of time to shower, cook, eat, clean, etc. Tackling big projects is likely not in the cards during those early weeks. As time goes on, feedings will space out and baby may start sleeping longer periods of time. You are not doomed to never finish those projects. But, it’s important to have accurate expectations for the early days of parenting so that it’s not a shock when the time arrives!
Myth 3: The “right” way to parent is found in books.
BUSTED! Books say all sorts of things. “You must breastfeed…Formula is fine…Sleep training is necessary…Sleep training is harmful…Cosleep…Don’t sleep with your baby.” And on and on. The mixed messages don’t stop after infancy, either. You will never find the “right” way to parent because it doesn’t exist. In reality, we learn and negotiate what is right for our family and our child. It will be different from family to family and from child to child. Only you can make parenting decisions and figure out if they are right for your family and child at this time. They may be right for you one day, and completely wrong the next. Books can help give us ideas, but we ultimately must decide if they are right for our own families. The books and other people in our lives (grandparents, nosy neighbors, advice-giving friends…) may have different ideas about parenting and that’s OK. You can listen and thank them for their input, but in the end the only opinions that matter are yours.