One of the most overlooked parts of preparing for a child can be the emotional side of it. It’s a big change and can affect all facets of our lives – particularly relationships! What can we/should we be working on/be aware of to prepare for a baby?
- Pay attention to strengthening your relationship with your partner or spouse
While it’s still just the two of you, it’s the ideal season to strengthen the foundation of your family – your relationship as a couple. The stronger your relationship is, the better. Consider going on a marriage/relationship course (local churches often host these or you could find an online provider). These courses can operate as a WOF for your relationship, trouble-shooting any issues before you enter the intensity of child-rearing together. Remember, prevention is wisdom! Couples that attend to small conflicts or tensions, prevent bigger conflicts later.
- Pay attention to your village
Do you have whānau and friends living nearby who can form part of your village as you raise a baby? If you feel isolated, it is a very good idea to be intentional about finding your village. Join an antenatal group that can turn into a coffee group after the babies are born, or enrol in your local Space group.
It’s amazing how emotionally supportive it is to have people to talk to about any worries you have about your baby, especially if they are people who really love your baby – and love you! It really does take a village to raise a child, and the little gems of insight and encouragement we share with each other can be life-changing. I remember my friend letting me know, “Oh, you've put that nappy on backwards!” And it was my mum who solved for me the mystery of strange brown marks on my toddler’s tee-shirts. Who knew that banana stains?
- Pay attention to your mental health
Most people know a bit about postnatal depression or the ‘baby blues’, but recent research tells us that mental distress can begin at conception or rear its head up to a year after birth. We all need to be aware that this is a vulnerable time for women.
Much can be done to support those experiencing perinatal distress and early detection is extremely helpful. If you have experienced previous mental health concerns, let your midwife and GP know this background. If you feel anxious or depressed, or are experiencing other mental distress during pregnancy or once your baby has arrived, don’t dismiss it. Confide in your ‘village’ (partner, whānau, friends,) but also make sure you speak to your midwife or GP about any symptoms of mental distress. Similarly, dads can be vulnerable to depression during this big life change, particularly if their partner is struggling or depressed.