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In the last section, we discussed symptoms and factors related to postpartum or postnatal depression. These included characteristics, predispositions, emotional causes, external factors and consequences for the family.
In this section, we will discuss when a woman becomes a mother. This will include a feeling of suffocation, everything revolving around the baby, making motherhood the only source of fulfillment and the "icing on the cake" technique.
As you may know, the arrival of a baby, especially the first, can transform the relationship between a couple. Now there are three people that must share love, time, and energy. The exclusive nature of the couple’s relationship comes to an end. This realization can be overwhelming.
A new mother’s feelings toward her partner can be as varied as her feelings toward her baby, and they are not always positive. Frustration is quite common, usually due to unrealistic expectations. A number of negative reactions are normal.
♦ #1 A Feeling of Suffocation
Many women who had a stimulating professional life before becoming mothers are afraid of losing touch with the outside world, or of becoming "boring" by staying cooped up at home with a baby. Some 90% of couples surveyed go out less after the birth of a child. Have you found, as I have, that this lack of outside recreational activity can quickly become constraining and frustrating for both the mother and the father?
♦ #2 Everything Revolving Around the Baby
Many women experience a decrease in sexual appetite after giving birth. This diminished urge can sometimes last for as long as two years. I have found that there is a pervasive myth that a child will fulfill a woman completely. In reality, however, many women are not entirely satisfied with their new "relationship." Indeed, one aspect of a woman’s femininity may be the fact that she is sexually desired by a man.
♦ #3 Making Motherhood the Only Source of Fulfillment
Bethany and Guy, both 26, were new parents who started coming to me after Bethany experienced postpartum depression. In an individual session, Guy stated to me, "I don’t know what Bethany expects of me! She has become completely mysterious. She’s always telling me how I’ve changed the baby’s diaper wrong or criticizing me for not recognizing which cry means what!" Guy thought that his wife instinctively knew what to do, while in reality, she was feeling as lost as he was.
In an individual session with Bethany I stated, "You may want to keep in mind that Guy will not always guess your needs, especially if you are ashamed of your own doubts."
♦ Technique: Icing on the Cake
I explained that the wishful thinking part, the "It would be nice if he’d say…" part gets in the way. I call this "the principle of cake and icing." I stated, "The cake is the solid part, the act of clearly stating how Guy may have wronged you. Eliciting an apology is like the icing, and it may not always be realistic to expect. You may never get an apology from Guy for certain things."
Bethany stated, "Maybe I can do without the icing…but I would at least like some ‘glaze.’" I asked, "What about when you’re on the other side, when you may have hurt Guy’s feelings and it becomes your turn to make the apology?" Bethany asked, "Well, what if I feel so strongly about something that I don’t want to apologize to Guy?" I stated, "You might consider saying that you’re sorry that the situation occurred, or sorry that you hurt his feelings, even if you’re not sorry for what you actually said."
In this section, we have discussed when a woman becomes a mother. This has included a feeling of suffocation, everything revolving around the baby, making motherhood the only source of fulfillment and misunderstanding the new father’s experience. Would playing this section be beneficial during you next session with a client you are currently treating?
In the next section, we will discuss when a man becomes a father. This will include mixed feelings, misunderstood reactions, the "easing the father’s fears" technique and a father’s two roles.
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