The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood


You're no idiot, of course. You've read all the books on child care and child rearing, heard all about coping with the terrible twos and dealing with teenage angst, and listened to everybody's advice on parenting. But when it comes to learning the real inside scoop on motherhood from a Mom's point of view, there's not a helpful voice to be heard. Don't start looking at boarding schools just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood is here to teach you the secrets of raising children without losing sight of ...

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You're no idiot, of course. You've read all the books on child care and child rearing, heard all about coping with the terrible twos and dealing with teenage angst, and listened to everybody's advice on parenting. But when it comes to learning the real inside scoop on motherhood from a Mom's point of view, there's not a helpful voice to be heard. Don't start looking at boarding schools just yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood is here to teach you the secrets of raising children without losing sight of your own hopes and dreams. In this Complete Idiot's Guide, you get:

"A basic book that addresses the dos and don'ts of p parenting....includes tips for keeping the marriage alive while raising kids and ways to survive your child's most difficult years."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780028631783
  • Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/27/1999
  • Series: Complete Idiot's Guide Series
  • Edition description: Illustrated
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 291
  • Product dimensions: 7.34 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Table of Contents

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood

Part 1 - The Making of a Mom

  • Chapter 1 - So, You're Going to Be a Mom!
    • So You Are Pregnant...Now What?
    • Momhood in the Modern World
    • Making the Motherhood Transition
    • It Takes Two...
    • Taking Care of Yourself During Pregnancy
    • Spiritually Speaking

  • Chapter 2 - It's Showtime! Hospitalization and Labor
    • Getting Ready
    • Dealing with the Real Deal
    • Going Natural, Part I
    • Going Natural, Part II
    • Understanding the Pain
    • Packing for Two
    • Post-Packing Preparation
    • So...Is This Really It?
    • Meeting Baby
    • Hospital Hospitality Options
    • Post-Delivery Details

Part 2 - From Nursery to Preschool

  • Chapter 3 - And Baby Makes Three (or More)
    • Bringing Baby Home
    • Helpers? The Pros and Cons
    • Happy Homecoming!
    • When It All Comes Down to You
    • Adjusting to Your New Life
    • Motherhood I s a Time for Personal Growth
    • Night and Day, You Are the One
    • Expecting the Expectable
    • Wrangling the Wild One
    • Postpartum Depression
    • Proactive Possibilities
    • Even Old Hands Need Help, Sometimes--One Woman's Story
    • Counseling Is Cool
    • Diagnosing PPD
    • The Causes of PPD
    • Babying Yourself, Too

  • Chapter 4 - The Great Nursing Conundrum: Bottle or Breast?
    • The Great Feeding Debate
    • Choices, Choices, Choices
    • Maintaining Mobility
    • The Dual Role of Nursing, from Baby's Point of View
    • Baby versus Dad
    • Nursing Basics
    • Clothing Choices
    • Express Yourself
    • How Long Should I Nurse?
    • Making the Move to "Real Foods"
    • Which Baby Food Is Best?

  • Chapter 5 - Living with a Toddler
    • When Baby Gets Vertical, Expect to Go Crazy
    • Childproofing Basics
    • Life in the War Zone
    • Relating to Your Toddler
    • Sallying Forth--Toddlers on the Town
    • Keeping the Peace
    • Mom, the Great Disciplinarian
    • Creative Correction

  • Chapter 6 - From Potty Training to Preschool
    • Potty Training: A Child's Rite of Passage into the World of Big People
    • Potty Training Preliminaries
    • The Potty-Training Gender Gap
    • The Joys of Life with the Child-in-Training
    • Living with a Preschooler
    • Private Time for Grown-ups? Hardly!
    • Home Alone with the Energizer Bunny
    • Time Out for Mommy
    • Pressure-Free Preschool Prep
    • The "Quality Time" Crazies
    • Introducing Your Child to the World
    • Making the Big Move into Preschool
    • The Bittersweet Process of Loosening the Reins
    • When the Preschool Is a Bad Choice
    • Watch Your Language!
    • Almost Grown, but Still Your Little One

Part 3 - Calling All Super Moms!

  • Chapter 7 - Setting a Schedule for Success
    • Establishing a Secure Home Base
    • Pulling Your Partner into the Center
    • Building to a Balance
    • Bedtime Basics and Beyond
    • Living in Mommy-Time
    • Taking Your Act on the Road
    • Equipment Overkill
    • The Benefits of Breaking Out of the House
    • Getting Back to the Bedroom

  • Chapter 8 - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go
    • The Real-World Rules of Maternity Leave
    • Can You Afford the Time Away from Work?
    • Dealing with the Stay-at-Home Guilts
    • The Modern Return to Traditional Mothering
    • Making the Choice That's Most True to You
    • Merging the Worlds of Work and Home

  • Chapter 9 - School Dazed
    • It's a Brave New World
    • Loosening the Reins
    • School Is Your Child's Business
    • Playing Nicely with Other Moms
    • Developmental Dynamite
    • Managing Your Days When Your Child Is in School
    • Getting a Grip on the Guilt
    • Sick Call
    • The Most Dreaded School Message of All
    • Inside the Little Red Schoolhouse
    • Minivan Mom

  • Chapter 10 - Too Pooped to Pop: Romance After Children
    • Love Among the Diapers
    • What's a Mother to Do?
    • When a Problem Does Arise
    • Pulling Together, Not Apart
    • Finding the Time for Togetherness
    • Express Yourself
    • When the Support Isn't There for You
    • Redefining Your Relationship
    • Accepting Yourself, with Love

  • Chapter 11 - Intuitive Mothering
    • The Natural Chaos of Motherhood
    • Banishing the "Shoulds"
    • A Rude Awakening
    • Finding Your Parenting Style
    • It's Intuitive, Not Permissive
    • Different Strokes for Different Folks
    • It Takes a Village...
    • Defining Your Parenting Goals
    • Fine-Tune Your Intuition

Part 4 - You, Your Kids, and Your Changing Relationship

  • Chapter 12 - Communications 101: Talking About the Tough Stuff
    • Reining in the Wild Child
    • How' s Your Example?
    • Having the "Big Talks" with Your Child
    • Talking to Your Children About Drugs

  • Chapter 13 - Becoming a Dork: Your Preteen and You
    • Bursting Mommy's Bubble
    • Forging a New Mother-Child Relationship
    • Sex and the Preteen's Mom
    • Realizing How Uncool You Have Become
    • Understanding--and Surviving--Preteen Angst
    • Hanging on While Your Child Hangs Out
    • Riding the Preteen Roller Coaster
    • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
    • Dealing with Dork-dom
    • Who Is This Child of Mine?
    • Your Child Is Changing, and So Are You

  • Chapter 14 - Dr. Jekyll and the Teenage Hyde
    • The Traumatic Teen Years
    • A Typical Mom-to-Teen Scenario
    • The Contrarian Country of Adolescence
    • Changing Your Mothering Style to Suit Your Teenager
    • The Two Faces of Teendom
    • A Visit from Dr. Jekyll
    • Respecting Your Teen's Cool
    • Building a New Relationship
    • Confronting Modern-World Fears
    • Discovering Your Teenager's Persona
    • Give Your Teenager the Space to Set the Pace

  • Chapter 15 - Loosening the Reins Without Letting Go
    • Ready or Not, Here Comes a New Adult!
    • Coping with Your Child's Coming of Age
    • Creating a Healthy New Dynamic with Your Child
    • Adjusting Your Mothe ring Style Once Again
    • The Dos and Don'ts of Mothering an Adult
    • Evaluating Your New Role
    • Staying Connected
    • Spreading Your Own Wings
    • When You Just Can't Seem to Move On

  • Chapter 16 - Varsity Blues: Helping Your Child Prepare for College
    • Matriculation into Maturity
    • Containing the High Cost of College
    • The Social Side of Education
    • Goal Setting: Theirs, Not Yours
    • Checking Out the Campus
    • Last-Chance Lectures
    • Keep Listening to and Loving Your Child
    • Moving On Up--to the Dorm
    • Letting Them Go, a Little at a Time

Part 5 - Special Issues on the Motherhood Trail

  • Chapter 17 - Living with a Special Needs Child
    • When Your Child Has Special Needs
    • It's No Reflection on You
    • The Quest for Answers
    • When in Doubt, Ask!
    • The Importance of Being Proactive
    • A Mother's Crusade
    • Living with the Solutions
    • Recognize Your Own Limits
    • Knowing When to Let Go

  • Chapter 18 - Dealing with Divorce
    • Giving Your Marriage Your Best Shot
    • Fantasy versus Reality--Reality Loses
    • Beware the Grass-Is-Greener Syndrome
    • Just a Phase?
    • Uncoupling
    • Early Steps to Separate Lives
    • Consider the Children
    • Your Child N eeds the Two of You
    • Calming Down the Combativeness
    • Custody Concerns
    • Helping Children Cope with Divorce
    • Don't Forget Yourself
    • New Relationships

  • Chapter 19 - Single Mom Survival
    • When You Know It's Over
    • Dealing with the Initial Shock
    • Creating a New Identity
    • Kid Crazies
    • Establishing a Visitation Routine
    • Building a Better Balance
    • Learning to Say No
    • Working on Your Single Mom Skills
    • Keeping an Eye on Your Child's Reactions
    • Fitting In

  • Chapter 20 - Getting Back into the Dating Game
    • Are You Dating-Ready?
    • Getting Started...Slowly
    • The Six-Month, No-Sex Rule
    • Welcome to the Brave New World of Dating
    • Checking Out the Dating Venues
    • Attitude Check, Please!
    • Will History Repeat Itself?
    • Taking Inventory
    • Red-Flagging Your Dates
    • Keeping Your Eye on the Prize
    • Involving Your Children in Your Relationship
    • Managing a Slow Merge

  • Chapter 21 - Blended Families
    • Meeting Each Other with Love
    • Making the Introductions All Around
    • Reading the Reactions
    • Avoiding Cat Fights
    • Slow and Steady Wins the Race
    • Brady-Bunching It
    • Striking a Balance: The Chocolate Incident
    • Helping Everyone Feel at Home
    • Creating a Family Forum

Part 6 - Getting to Know You

  • Chapter 22 - Friends at Last
    • When Your Child Leaves the Nest...
    • ...And Builds a Nest of Her Own
    • Cutting the Ties That Bind
    • When Your Child Flies Back Home
    • Breaking the Old Motherhood Mold
    • Making Friends with Your Adult Child

  • Chapter 23 - Reclaiming Your Nest
    • Finding Yourself When the Children Have Gone
    • Creating a New Life for Yourself
    • Creating a New You
    • Discovering Your Spiritual Path
    • Your Old Husband
    • Starting Your New Life

  • Chapter 24 - Celebrating a Job Well Done
    • Charting Your Life's Course
    • Carving Out a New Role, One More Time
    • Grandmothering with Style
    • Applying Your Principles of Spiritual Growth

Appendix A - Bibliography


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First Chapter

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood

- 3 -

And Baby Makes Three (or More)

In This Chapter

  • Back from the hospital: the early days
  • Adjusting to your new life
  • Dealing with postpartum depression

Relish your time in the hospital. Get plenty of rest and allow the nurses to attendto your every need. God knows when you go home and the new-baby frenzy dies down,you will be on your own with a new little bald-headed person who expects you to knowwhat you're doing. But don't worry--you will catch on. Babies look fragile but theyare not that difficult to handle. And besides, as far as they know, you aredoing it right.

Bringing Baby Home

If you can, arrange for someone to help you out when you first come home withyour baby--you'll welcome the assistance. But decide ahead of time what kind of helpyou need. Some new moms would welcome some personal care but don't want to give uptaking care of their new baby. Be clear with yourself--and with would-be helpfulfamily members--about just what kind of help you're willing to accept.

Helpers? The Pros and Cons

If you're looking for a litt le help with the cooking and laundry, but want tobe the one to sponge bathe and cuddle the baby, make sure that everyone knows howyou feel. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling guilty for looking a gift-nursein the mouth, and having to fight to reclaim your nest.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

When I had my first baby my mother-in-law arranged for a nurse to come help me when I first came home. I envisioned someone who would bring me trays of mystery meat and green Jell-O while I got used to being a mom. What I got, however, was a baby nurse who had very little interest in my welfare. She basically took over with my infant, and I felt very threatened.

Setting Limits

If you had a difficult delivery or a C-section and want to have help with babycare, just set the parameters for the help you need, and make sure you are compatiblewith your caregiver. Make it clear that you need help with housekeeping, meals, andlaundry or whatever it is you need help with--and make clear those areas where you'drather they didn't intrude. Above all, get involved with the selection and do notfeel you have to accept someone's gift, no matter how gracious, if it conflicts withwhat you expect or need.

Womanly Wisdom

Follow your own instincts when it comes to how you wish to care for your baby when you first come home. Becoming a mom is a difficult enough adjustment without trying to make everyone else happy first. Be gracious but keep control over your baby.

Th e Times, They've Been A-Changing

Some mothers, particularly in generations past, wanted to delegate baby care.If you examine the social climate of the 40s, 50s, and even the 60s, women didn'thave the choices we have now. It was expected that a woman would marry young andhave children.

Women have options now that include career and motherhood or career without motherhood.It's great that women can add personal fulfillment to the list of things they canhope for in a lifetime. But these options also create a difference in attitude betweenyoung women today and the women of previous generations. In other words, your momor mother-in-law may believe she's really doing you a favor by freeing you of theresponsibility of baby care for a week or two. But if you want nothing more thanto care for your newborn yourself, you can feel overwhelmed by the generational differencein attitude.

And remember--hired help is not the only option available to you. Friends areusually willing to help and new grandmothers can be a wonderful blessing.

Happy Homecoming!

It is great if your mate is there with you when you bring the baby home. You shouldcelebrate your blessing together and share as much as you can. Some families havea homecoming, complete with a grandparent motorcade. If that's your style, go forit: I personally love a reason to make everything as special as possible, so foreach of my back-from-the-hospital celebrations I always had picked out a specialbaby outfit and made it an occasion.

Remember this: It is important for your morale to have some type of transitioncelebration before you settle in to your new life. You spent nine months anticipatingthis day. You sh ouldn't let everything fizzle into an anticlimax--there'll be plentyof time later for day-to-day routine to set in.

Inventing Your Own Rituals

Many cultures have rituals marking the arrival of a new life into the family.Why not try creating your own bringing-baby-home-from-the-hospital ritual to showyour gratitude and to mark the occasion in your database of happy memories. You won'tfeel like entertaining a ton of guests, so keep it simple. Lighting a candle, havinga toast, and enjoying a visit from the baby's nearest relatives are more than enough.The goal is to help you feel special; to reinforce your support-system, and to postponeany anxiety you might have when you are left to your own devices.

When It All Comes Down to You

You and your mate can experience baby care together, but chances are he will haveto return to work before you will. This is not sexist--it's just a practical outcomeof the fact that you are the designated keeper of the womb. Your obstetrician willhave recommended you take it relatively easy at first, and he'll probably suggestthat you put off resuming your normal activities for about six weeks. On the otherhand, it's rare for a man to be given such a generous amount of parental leave.

Womanly Wisdom

Parental leave for fathers is a relatively new concept, so take what you can get but don't expect as much as you would like.

After a while you will find yourself the primary caregiver. As much as you mighthave believed this would not happen, welcome to motherhood. It is a fact of lifethat no matter how liberated and open-minded your partne r is, you will most likelybe the one primarily responsible for the care and raising of your offspring. Thereare always exceptions, of course--and with the high rate of divorce these days, it'seven becoming common for men to take over the so-called mothering role completely.They tend to apply their own distinctive styles to the task, and they do a fabulousjob. Nurturing is nurturing, after all, and fathers are fully equipped to raise achild.

Nonetheless, in the division of child-rearing responsibilities, it is more thanlikely that you will be the one doing more than 50 percent. But this is not necessarilya bad thing--it's hard to raise a child by committee, so sometimes it's better ifyou are the majority partner in the deal. You may have more than 51 percent of thework to do, but it is worth it if you have more voting leverage in certain decisions.

The key is this: Negotiate your parenting responsibilities so that you have thesupport of your partner when it counts. If you've got that, it's just fineif you have to change more poopy diapers than he does. Just make sure he is changingenough of them so he can share a feeling of involvement in the job, and so he canearn his bragging rights to everyone about how much of a help he is. Most of allyou want your partner to have a relationship with your children that goes beyonda baby-sitting role.

Adjusting to Your New Life

At some point you are going to be on your own with your baby. Unless you havea live-in grandmother or Mary Poppins helping you out, you are going to have manydays when your baby looks into your eyes and you think to yourself, "Well, Idon't know what to do, so what are you looking at me for?"

Try to develop a support system of friends and family for advice, a good laugh,or to just hear another adult voice. You want to develop a support system independentof your mate so you won't find yourself overly dependent at a time when you feelmost vulnerable.

Mom Alert!

The worst thing you can do for your morale is to become isolated. Take the baby for a stroll whenever you can. A simple change of scenery will often work wonders.

Motherhood Is a Time for Personal Growth

First-time motherhood isn't easy, and second-, third-, or even fifth-time Momssometimes have trouble making the adjustment to bringing a new baby home. A new babybrings changes in your self-concept in addition to changes in your role, and anyunresolved issues of ego and security that you bring into your new role are goingto become exacerbated.

How does this happen? Well, if you are like many of us, you might be a productof several generations in need of healing. The pain and sorrow of one generationis often brought to bear on the succeeding ones. And so you bring into your new experience--motherhood--manyinsecurities, doubts, and fears. But remember--you can also bring into it many hopesand renewed expectations.

Here's the great news: You really can create a whole new method of raisingchildren. Just because previous generations of your (or your partner's) family haddysfunctional dynamics, you don't have to follow along the same path. With this littleperson you bring home from the hospital all wrapped up in receiving blankets withweak neck muscles and a cry that sounds like a kitten, y ou can create a newpattern of mothering that will change a generation. There is only one problem: Todo this, you have to personally create the new rules.

Ultimately, whatever personal fears and insecurity you bring into being a mothercan be converted into the source of your greatest strength if you learn to listento your higher mother's voice--the part of you that knows the truth of whatis best for you and for your baby.

Moving Beyond the Basics

While you're still at the hospital the nurses will teach you all you need to knowabout the basics of baby care. They will teach you how to diaper, feed, swaddle,and bathe your little one. By the time you leave you will feel like an expert--untilyou get home and have to do it on your own. Here's where a good support system comesin handy. You can rely on your supporters as you make new adjustments, but you needto remember that the best support is what you give to yourself.


Newborns like to feel secure, so it is comforting for them to be swaddled, or wrapped, so that their limbs are close to their sides. To swaddle the baby, take a square blanket, fold up the edge, and place the baby's feet on top of it. Then cross one side of the blanket over the baby and tuck it under. Next, cross and tuck the other side, and then use the unfolded edge to cover baby's head.

Making the Shift from a Twosome to a Threesome

When it was just you and your partner, you babied each other. You played wheneveryou wanted to play; you stayed up and slept late whenever you wanted to. But as soonas you b ring your baby home, life, as you used to know it, changes. You and yourpartner now have a whole new person, with his or her own needs, to accommodate.

The first night you have an infant in the house will be the strangest. First ofall, you are going to keep checking on the baby to see whether she's breathing, warmlycovered--and, because having a baby is so amazing and awesome, you'll even find yourselfchecking to make sure she's really there. I always kept my newborns in a bassinetin the room with me--it saved me a lot of getting up in the night when I wanted totake a quick peek.

Night and Day, You Are the One

Babies look so angelic when they are sleeping. The first night you have baby homeyou will rock her to sleep, put her to bed, and crawl into your own bed. The endof a perfect day. Then, at about 2 a.m., you'll hear "wah wah wah," andyou will shoot out of your bed like a rocket. In the interests of keeping your partnerinvolved in the child-rearing process, you will elbow him to make sure he sharesyour experience.

"The baby is crying," you'll moan. "What do you think is wrong?"Then you'll go through your list. Is the baby wet? Probably. You change her. Willrocking put her back to sleep? Hmmm, that's not working. Maybe you should try feedingher? Ah, yes--that works. (Don't forget to burp her.) Then you put her back to bed.Blissful sleep. Until the next time.

Womanly Wisdom

If you've got a handy friend, see if he or she will build you a special cradle like the one I borrowed from a friend. It had a wood plank attached that slid under the mattress of my own bed. The cradle w as open on one side so the baby could easily be lifted into my bed for a late-night feeding and put back to bed without much disruption. It was really ingenious and tremendously helpful.

Sleep? What's Sleep?

At about 6 a.m. you hear "wah wah wah" again, so you stumble out ofbed and go through the whole 2 a.m. routine all over again. Somehow at the hospitalit didn't seem so tiring. You know you had to get up as many times but you seemedto be able to sleep longer in between. And, of course, that was true--in fact, inthe hospital you could sleep just as much between feedings as your baby did. Butthose restful days are over.

By the second day, you've probably already figured out a few survival tips. Younap when the baby naps and take care of your physical needs in between baby's cries.You are still sore from childbirth and tired from lack of sleep. After you put thebaby down for the night you fall asleep with the television on and have weird dreams.At approximately 2 a.m. you hear the now-familiar "wah wah wah," and thecycle starts again.

A Momma's Work Is Never Done...

Just dealing with a newborn's normal feeding schedule is exhausting enough, butyou've got many other adventures in sleeplessness in store, as well. For example,babies often get colic, a gassy stomach condition that's liable to wake herevery hour, on the hour. No matter what you do--feeding, burping, walkingaround the room in circles, rocking, singing, making stupid faces--nothing makesa difference. One thing that usually does work (no one knows quite why) isto drive the baby around the block in the car. Presto! This usuall y makes even colickybabies fall asleep.

After about a week, you may begin to feel a bit more energetic (if still a littlebrain dead) and start trying to do things around the house. So instead of nappingwhen the baby naps you decide to clean. You start in one room and wander to the nextbut you don't seem to be getting anywhere. The house seems as messy as when you started.Then you decide you need to nap after all. You lie down, start to snore, and hear"wah wah wah."

When your partner comes home and sees the mess in each room, your disheveled hair,and the crazed look in your eyes, and says, "Hi, Hon. How was your day?"you are fully justified in throwing a tissue box at his head and bursting into tears.


Colic is a very common gassy stomach condition that babies are prone to. When the gas pressure builds, the baby wakes up, fussing and crying. Aside from making sure that the baby isn't ingesting too much air with her milk, there's not much you can do except ride this out. It does end, eventually.

Womanly Wisdom

Burping a baby effectively isn't as easy as it seems. Just patting her on the back rarely gets the job done. Try starting with gentle pats at about rear-end level, and moving slowly up to just below the neck. Works like a charm.

Expecting the Expectable

You are bound to have days like this. It is OK. Even better, it will geteasier, and one day you will again know what it is like to get a good night's sleep.The best thing for you to do in these early days is to l ower your expectations. Youare going through a physical and emotional adjustment, so set your priorities accordingly.You need your sleep more than you need a spotless home.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

I didn't have a lot of confidence before I became a mother, and in some ways I had less after the baby was born--I was facing a whole new set of responsibilities, and my first marriage was not a good or stable one. But the baby gave me a kind of strength that I believe is unique to mothers. My instincts as a mother helped me to grow strong enough to protect my child--and that helped me to be strong enough to protect myself.

Shifting Your Focus

If your life before baby involved being busy and productive outside the home,learning to adjust to being at home with the baby can be difficult. Taking care ofa baby can seem like an endless array of nonproductive activities, compared to whatyou used to do at work.

You feed the baby, she gets hungry again. You clean the baby and she poops again.You change her shirt and she spits up on the new one. You change your shirtand she spits up on that. Understandably, you get tired, and there's no onetelling you "good job" as they did at your office or when you were in school.

It's unlikely that your partner is focused on telling you what a good job youare doing--he may not even be sensitive enough to tell you how beautiful you are,as he always used to (before the baby came). And even if he does tell you, you stillcry because when you look in the mirror all you can see is the extra baby wei ght,the lack of grooming since you barely have time to shower, and the bags under youreyes from lack of sleep. You can feel pretty miserable and sorry for yourself rightabout now.

Tips for Self-Validation

What's a new mother to do? If she's wise, she makes a special effort to appreciateherself, and so should you. Here's how:

  • Don't let a day go by without acknowledging what a special and wonderful job you are doing.
  • Remind yourself that you are one of an elite group--you are a Mom! And remember that you are not alone in what you're going through.
  • Keep in touch with other mothers--newbies and veterans of the first-baby blues. They'll help you keep your perspective.
  • Most important, keep your sense of humor. It is very easy to become negative about the less glamorous aspects of caring for a newborn, but try to find ways to see the funny side whenever possible.

Wrangling the Wild One

Occasions for humor abound with newborns, if you keep yourself open to them. Forexample, if you have a baby boy you will inevitably get a shot of pee in your eye.(Now that's funny, really!) You have to remember to cover him at all timeswhen you change him if you want to avoid this.

And no matter what gender baby you have, you will inevitably have to clean a messypoop that leaks out of the diaper and onto somebody's nice skirt or expensive slacks.Well, maybe that's not so funny, but it's not the stuff of high tragedy, either.You will also, occasionally, be covered with spit up and will suffer every baby-causedindignity imaginable. But on the other hand, you will fall in love in a way you havenever experienced. Babies can mesmerize you with a simple smile, even if their smileis just caused by gas.

It's important during this time that you surround yourself with supportive andupbeat people. If you have a mother-in-law who makes you depressed or who is verycritical, avoid contact with her during these crucial first weeks or months of motherhood.Your state of mind is more important than playing family politics.

Similarly, if you have a friend who is always looking for the dark sideof the moon, tell her how busy you plan to be for the next 18 years. Consider thisto be a time of personal and spiritual rebirth. You are a mother now and it is yourduty to create an environment of love and joy for you, your partner, and your baby.

Postpartum Depression

There is always some moodiness associated with having a newborn in your life becauseof the simple fact that you spend the early days and weeks suffering from sleep deprivation.And, as you've already seen, having a baby can bring out a lot of underlying issuesand insecurities that you've never gotten around to addressing. This can lead toa temporary bout of depression caused by the new circumstances of your life. Thisis a very real, well-recognized condition, known as postpartum depression.

Mom Alert!

After weeks of sleep deprivation, it's normal to sometimes think that you could cheerfully strangle your partner for putting you in this position. But it could be a sign of a serious problem if you actually plan when and how to do it. All kidding aside, if you experience dark thoughts or fears that you can't seem to s hake off, contact a psychiatrist immediately--you may have postpartum depression.


Postpartum depression (PPD) is the term for any downswings in mood that women may suffer after giving birth. While a supportive partner and network of friends can help with normal depression, serious PPDs are hormonally induced and require a doctor's attention.

Proactive Possibilities

But there is another situation that is important to consider. When a woman givesbirth her body is subject to tremendous hormonal changes. These changes can disrupther system, resulting in a postpartum depression that will not work itself out overtime. It is actually a very serious matter, and can have some very serious consequencesif left undiagnosed and untreated.

For example, it is not uncommon for a marriage to split up if the mother suffersfrom undiagnosed, and therefore, untreated, postpartum depression. When the disorderis misunderstood or unacknowledged, it can put undue stress on the relationship betweenhusband and wife. The mood swings can become extreme, so that the woman falls victimto rages and even delusions.

Postpartum depression is very real. It can lead to psychosis and has beensadly implicated in the deaths of newborns. People who've never experienced the conditionoften find it hard to understand what the sufferer is going through, but there aresupport groups and well-informed practitioners who have been educating the public.

Even Old Hands Need Help, Sometimes--One Woman's Story

After my third child was born I developed what I thought was p ostpartum depression.I was in a stressful second marriage and noticed that all during this pregnancy (followingso quickly on the heels of my second child's birth) I was more emotionally volatile,insecure, and weepy. I needed a lot of support that my husband did not know how togive me.

Descent into Rage and Weeping

After the birth, things really started to change. I would get bursts of energyand then I would crash into pitiful helplessness, barely able to crawl out of bed.I was so frustrated with my husband for not understanding that something radicalwas happening to me that I would throw our lawn furniture around.

I'm from a fiery Mediterranean background, so it was not totally out of the questionfor me to throw things out of frustration. A pot maybe, or a plate to get someone'sattention. But I was feeling very out of control. I would go quickly from rage intoheartsick weeping. I was unable to cope. Of course I blamed myself and decided Iwas just a terrible mother and an overall worthless person.

What was also frightening was that I had very dark thoughts. I would look at mybaby and worry about the most horrible things happening. It is perfectly normal toworry about your newborn. It is a sign of a possible problem when you become obsessedand immobilized by irrational fears.

Womanly Wisdom

Even if your condition is mild and not chronic, any pervasive mood change after childbirth should be taken seriously and a mental health professional, preferably a psychiatrist familiar with this highly misunderstood disorder, should be consulted.

Dealing with Depression< /B>

My experience wasn't unique, as I quickly learned. My husband and I went to asupport group where we talked to couples who were experiencing postpartum depression,and got some good ideas of how we could better cope. They encouraged us to make surewe stuck to a bedtime schedule for the children, and for ourselves. They also suggestedother ways to reduce stress in our daily lives, and one of the support group memberstold me of her experiences with temporary medication for her postpartum depression.

All these alternatives are worth checking into if you're dealing with dramaticemotional and mood-swing problems after childbirth. For many mothers, as for me,the idea of medication poses immediate problems--drugs are not the best choice whenyou're nursing your newborn. But there were lots of helpful tips to learn at thatsupport group.

For example, I examined my diet and consulted with a macrobiotics counselor. Itried alternative remedies from the health food store and consulted with all kindsof people to help me get a grip on what was happening. Thank goodness I had friendswho were able to help me with the babies, because I was a wreck.

Bottoming Out and Breaking Through

Remember that I said earlier how very serious postpartum depression can be? Well,when you're in its grip, you can suffer some of the lowest of emotional lows. Inmy case, I finally felt so out of control and frightened that I prayed for help.I couldn't deal with my agitated, angry moods because I could blame my husband ormy circumstances and explain it away.

What finally opened my eyes to the seriousness of my condition was that I becamesuicidal. I would sit on the floor in the bathroom wit h the door locked and cry.I found myself contemplating the easiest way a person could kill herself. Then Iwould think about my children, cry some more, and talk myself out of falling intowhat I can only describe as an elevator shaft. I talked to God a lot and said, "God,I may be an angry person, I may have low self-esteem at times, but I love life andI especially love my children. What is wrong with me?"

This is what can happen to you when you have some forms of postpartum depression.It is as though your mind is attacking you from the inside. Your moods go wacky andyour thoughts are not what they would be under normal circumstances. It is importantfor you to understand that this is a biochemical response and should not beignored, and it is not something to be ashamed of. It is not your fault if you becomeill after childbirth. It is your choice whether you take it seriously enoughto get help.

There Is Help for You Out There

I was very stubborn and thought my problems would work themselves out. But oneday I became so frightened that I called a local mental health hotline. The womanwho answered referred me to an expert in dealing with postpartum depression. Afterlistening to my story, she took a very firm line with me and made it clear that thiswas not something that would just go away by itself. She was emphatic when she toldme that if I didn't seek help the condition could worsen and I could become a dangerto myself or to my children. She said some people need medical intervention beforethey can get back on their feet. When I became more frightened of not seeking helpI found my way to an excellent psychiatrist.

Counseling Is Cool< /H2>

Some manifestations of postpartum depression can appear more severe than others--somewomen's experiences are harder to identify because they may be unmasked by otherunderlying, chronic conditions such as bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression--acondition that complicated my own PPD experience). The important thing to rememberis that once you do have a preliminary diagnosis of possible postpartum depression,you need to take action.

Work with Your Doctor

Many women share the attitude I had at the time--I was resistant to admittingthe need for psychological help, and strongly resistant to using medication. My doctortook me through the logical steps of treatment. He told me to wean the baby to seewhether my hormones would right themselves on their own. (Of course, you know theydidn't. I wasn't so lucky.) Next, he suggested mood-stabilizing medication--onlyto come up against my then strongly held rejection of drugs of any kind. But he waspatient with me, and after he completed my medical and family medical history andmade his preliminary diagnosis he said, "Deborah, you deserve this medication.If you were diabetic you would take insulin. You need this medicine to return youto balance."

I responded so well and so thoroughly to the medical intervention that I was sparedwhat could have been years of poor mental health. Even more important, my childrenwere spared the loss of a mother due to a chronic mental disorder, or worse.

After six years in remission I conducted a writer's workshop and recognized onthe roster the name of the woman who had so firmly guided me through the mental healthhot line. At the end of the workshop I told t he story of my foray into manic depressivedisorder and told her how much she was responsible for my stable and happy life.There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

The Many Flavors of PPD

Postpartum depression comes in many forms. If you are suffering from a full-blown,chronic case, you may require medical intervention. If so, it is important that youstick with your treatment. If you are fortunate enough to have the more common formof postpartum depression, your condition will right itself over time.

It is likely that if your condition is severe enough to require intervention,you will need some kind of drug therapy. And the available medications can bringabout dramatic improvements quickly. But do not become cocky and go off your medicationwhen you start to feel better. Follow your doctor's advice on dosages and durationof treatment. For some women, drug intervention is only a temporary necessity. Butfor people like me, who have a more serious underlying biochemical disorder, thetreatment may need to be ongoing. If you go off your medication without a doctor'ssupervision you may have a relapse.

Diagnosing PPD

There is no blood test, at least as yet, to determine whether a person is manic-depressive,has postpartum depression, or a myriad of other mental health issues. The diagnosisis done through taking a history, through observation, and through a knowledgeableand calculated trial-and-error process with appropriate medication. This means, unfortunately,that what works once may not work again as effectively if you have a relapse.

The Causes of PPD

Not long ago, postpartum depression was largely unrecognized as a legitimate medica lcondition--it was called the "baby blues" and dismissed as just anotherof many typical female problems. So research into the condition was rarely done.It is known that PPD, like manic depression, may have a genetic origin, and thatit can be (but is not necessarily) triggered by sustained stress in one's life. Andwe do have enough information now to be good consumers of mental health resources,which can bring relief.

Babying Yourself, Too

Sometimes the circumstances of your life around the time of childbirth can makeyou more prone to crossing the line into the realm of postpartum depression. It isbiochemical in origin, but the impact of stress on our biochemistry has long beenrecognized. You can take steps to minimize your risk before PPD strikes bymaking your home environment as supportive and positive as possible. Make sure youcan take care of your needs.

You need to learn how to take care of you. This may seem to go againstyour mothering instincts to care for your children first, but think about it. Whenyou fly with small children in an airplane, the flight attendants tell you to puton your oxygen mask before you put one on your child, in the event of a midair disaster.Why? Because you have to be safe and healthy before you can truly help your child.It's not selfishness to see to your own needs--it's just good mothering.

Your children depend on you to be as healthy and strong as you can be so you canbe there to guide them through their lives--not to sacrifice yourself. Sodo not be self-sacrificial. Be self-validating. Look at the circumstancesof your life and do whatever you can to make your life good and conducive t o yourcontinued confidence and mental health.

The Least You Need to Know

  • Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to your children.
  • If you get help during the first few weeks, don't be afraid to set the limits that suit your needs.
  • Encourage your partner to share in the baby's care--it's the best beginning of a strong father/child bond.
  • Ultimately it is up to you to develop your own, personal mothering style.
  • The early weeks and months can be exhausting, so don't pass up any chances you get to rest--you'll need all the sleep you can get.
  • Postpartum depression is a real problem for some new Moms--don't hesitate to get help if you need it.
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