A doctor fesses up about what she would do differently
You would think that a doctor would get pregnancy and new motherhood right. But even with all the medical knowledge I’ve garnered as an osteopathic physician and urogynecologist, I still found myself stumbling through the postpartum period after each of my daughters was born.
The weeks after childbirth are a delicate time. Looking back, I can see the mistakes I made in caring for myself as my body healed and my heart and mind adjusted to my new role. To save you from the same fate, I’m sharing the top six mistakes I made as a new mom:
1. Expecting to bond instantly
It is not unusual to feel disconnected to your newborn baby in the weeks following birth. After all, you’re new to one another and it’s going to take some time to learn just what your little one is trying to express. Crying can mean “I am hungry,” “I am tired,” “I have gas,” or “I am overwhelmed.” The first three months after a baby is born is considered the fourth trimester. This is still a time of growth and development. During this time, a baby is not very expressive or interactive and can be hard to figure out. Don’t worry, over time you will learn your munchkin’s language and your baby’s charming personality will emerge around three months. After three months, bonding and interaction becomes easier.
2. Not sleeping when the baby is sleeping
I used to take the time when the baby was sleeping to get things done around the house. This can lead to exhaustion really quickly. The laundry will wait. Get some sleep when you can.
3. Not taking care of yourself
It is not unusual for women to put others’ needs before their own. This is especially prevalent as a new mom. However, you can’t help others until you take care of yourself. Airlines get it right: When flying, flight attendants always instruct adults to put their oxygen masks on first before helping their children. After all, if you can’t take care of yourself first, how can you take care of others? As a new mom, attend to your own needs. Sleep when you need sleep. Eat when you need to eat. Take a shower when you need to be clean. If you are not at your best, you will not be able to address the needs of your little one.
4. Feeling guilty
There are many normal thoughts that occur after the birth of a baby. Every new mom has had these thoughts at one time or another. They do not make you a “bad mother.” These thoughts can include:
- “I’ve changed my mind about having a child.”
- “I am jealous. Everyone is paying attention to the baby, but not to me.”
- “What partner? Now that the baby is here, I don’t even notice my significant other.”
- “My baby is funny-looking.”
As a mother and an osteopathic physician, I can tell you these thoughts are not unusual; however, if these thoughts become intrusive or begin to affect the care of yourself or the baby, then I urge you to discuss them with your physician, the baby’s pediatrician or a mental health provider.
5. Listening to others’ advice
Everyone is going to tell you how to raise your child. Everyone who has had a child has a better way to do things. Basically, everyone has an opinion. My best advice: smile and move on. You are not going to be able to stop others from putting in their two cents; however, you need to do what you feel is best for your baby.
6. Not taking the time to smell the roses (or baby lotion in this case)
You’ve heard it before and it’s true, “children grow fast.” Practice mindfulness. Take the time to soak it all in. Focus on the images, the smells, the sounds, the feelings at any given moment. Hold on to these memories as long as possible. Before you know it, your baby is off to kindergarten and then to college. Enjoy every little minute.
— Betsy Greenleaf, DO, FACOOG
Dr. Betsy Greenleaf is an osteopathic urogynecologist based in New Jersey. She was the first female board certified physician in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery in the nation. Dr. Greenleaf’s deep desire to improve the lives of women, along with her superior surgical skills set her apart as a top urogynecologist.
— Photo credit: Laney Photography