The messages are flowing, the visitors are frequent and there are huge smiles all round. You’ve just given birth to the most spectacular little human you have ever seen! Life is hectic and tiring, yet somehow you still feel a sense of energy and excitement when you gaze into those sparkling, curious eyes.
Quite quickly your new life settles into its new pattern. Partners go back to work, family and friends visit much less often, and the messages become a slow trickle rather than a tsunami. You are now feeling far more alone than you had ever expected. Who do you talk to? Who do you share your little victories with? What about navigating those inevitable challenges that come along with caring for a baby? Nobody told you how hard this really is.
For parents, this time of life is filled with uncertainty and confusion unlike any other, yet our postnatal services are often time, number and location limited, relying heavily on the willingness and capacity of parents to opt in to access them. During the first couple of weeks, parents often lean on family and friends for practical and emotional support, briefly filling the gaps left by the system. But what next? Many families then describe a feeling akin to falling off a cliff. Where once there was some sense of support within relatively quick and easy reach, suddenly the landscape surrounding them is barren and cracks begin to appear under their feet.
It’s easy to slip into a life of social isolation after having a baby. It’s nobody’s fault – it just happens. However, not many of us realise just how important it is to stay socially connected to support our mental health at this vulnerable time in our lives. There are mothers’ groups, play groups and other online groups that provide invaluable support for many, however these groups are a microcosm of broader society, therefore not all parents will find ‘their tribe’. Without non-judgemental group leadership, those who don’t quite fit in, will drop away and likely become further isolated.
All expecting and new parents deserve support to become or remain socially connected in a way that works for them during the perinatal period – it’s essential for the emotional wellbeing of parents and the next generation. Our PIPPS membership offers access to an extensive array of Possums resources including online and F2F peer support, facilitated by trained and skilled Parent Mentors, ensuring everyone feels valued, respected and included at a time when questioning ourselves can become second nature.
For more information www.possumsonline.com/pipps
Written by Debbie Spink
Board Director, Possums for Parents with Babies
Peer Support Worker