Having a baby can be one of the most challenging times in a woman’s, and a man’s life. It represents a time where we are entering a new world, where our outlook and life can change significantly, and often we might find that things were not quite as we expected, and we never knew any differently, because often people are not talking about the real highs and lows of becoming a parent.
The fact is each stage of the journey to parenthood is different for everyone. For example, think for a moment about even becoming pregnant. For some people they seem able to fall pregnant effortlessly, whilst others will learn the hard way that it is not so straightforward for them, and that they need to go through the journey of IVF. This can be an emotional roller-coaster as you try to be positive and hopeful with each cycle that you will be pregnant, yet at the same time trying not to get your hopes up too much, for fear that even if you do become pregnant you may be at risk of pregnancy loss.
And these types of challenges can occur all the way along the journey to parenthood – and when you get there with your new baby. For some pregnancy may be filled with positive hormones and looking radiant, whilst for others pregnancy can leave them feeling overwhelmed, swollen and feeling distressed. It is also important to note that one in ten women will actually develop depression in pregnancy, and rates of anxiety are much higher.
Then there is the preparation for birth. Here we may have high expectations of a perfect birth with laid out plans, but again the reality may be quite different. Too often women are left feeling grief, disappointment and even angry, that they did not have the birth experience that they had planned or hoped for. It is important to remember that whatever happens, it is not your fault, and there are important ways that you can prepare yourself for birth, as well as steps you can take if things don’t go to plan.
The postnatal period can also bring a whole range of challenges – which are common, but often no-one is talking about, leaving many mums and dads feeling like they are the only ones who are finding it hard to cope when adjusting to parenthood. For example just some of the challenges that people are struggling with every day include recovering from birth, breast-feeding, coping with an unsettled baby, sleep deprivation, adjusting to your body image, managing priorities, managing advice from well-meaning others.
These are just some of the challenges that individuals and couples go through as their relationships are also trying to adjust to the enormous changes that are going on around them. In light of these changes and challenges, it is not surprising that one in seven women develop postnatal depression and/or anxiety – but again the shame and stigma often prevents women from seeking help early.
To put all these issues on the table, and provide a platform for mums, dads and the community to begin the conversation and learn more about how to support each other COPE has been established.
COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence has an extensive website www.cope.org.au to provide women, men, family and friends and health professionals with the latest high-quality information – all in one place.
We invite you to come with us on the journey to raising awareness and being part of the growing momentum to raise awareness, reduce the stigma and work with us to ‘keep motherhood real’.
For more information visit www.cope.org.au
COPE: Because no one ever tells you, how hard it can be.