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The First Year of Parenting

Intro to The Early Months of Parenting

Becoming a mother changes everything in your life—turns it upside down—and makes you wonder who you are and whether you are the same person you used to be. Our feelings range from exhilaration to exhaustion, from confidence to uncertainty. Many factors affect how we experience this time in our lives: our physical and mental health and the health of the baby; our feelings about the birth or adoption experience; our ability to feed and nourish our baby; our readiness to be mothers; and the amount and kind of resources we have and support we receive from partners, families, friends, and health care providers.

Many of us find that being a mother brings deep pleasure, intimacy, and insight. Birth and breastfeeding give us a new respect for our bodies. Caring for and cuddling our babies, we discover new dimensions to loving.

All three of my postpartum experiences have been among the sweetest times of my life. I felt centered and essentially satisfied in a way I have never felt before or since. Being with my babies gave me such incredible joy.

At the same time, almost all women experience some difficulties navigating the changes new motherhood brings.

During those early weeks, sometimes I wasn’t sure where the baby ended and I began. I felt that I had lost my old self and was too tired, physically and emotionally, to find her again. But I was also discovering a new part of myself that I hadn’t known about before: unexpectedly intense feelings for my new baby, a resurgence of love for my mother, connection with other women. I went from despair to overwhelming feelings of tenderness, all within the space of an hour.

This chapter focuses on the first few months of parenting, including the physical recovery from pregnancy and birth; breastfeeding, health, and well-being; changes in our relationships; emotional concerns; and some of the more common mental and physical health conditions we may face during these months.

Excerpted from the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. © 2011, Boston Women's Health Book Collective.


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