Learning to Cope with Your First Baby

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press
Most parents say that raising children is the most rewarding job in the world.

MGN Online

Most parents say that raising children is the most rewarding job in the world.

Watching babies develop is a constant source of joy, and a single smile can sweep away the tiredness of yet another sleepless night.

But whilst it's one of the happiest times in life, bringing up a baby - especially for the fist time - is also one of the most challenging.

Annabel Cundell and her husband Michael are first time parents to baby Tabitha who was born in December 2012.

Annabel says no matter how much they tried to prepare it was only once Tabitha arrived that they started learning what to do.

"I think you can read books and speak to friends who have had children, but really it's not until you get there and you go through the process yourself that you figure out how you are going to handle it."

In addition to dealing with a newborn, Annabel has been planning her wedding and honeymoon. They both took place when Tabitha was 5 months old.

She says the biggest challenge is that the job of baby raising is 24/7. The secret to dealing with it, she believes, is to ensure that both parents work as a team, backing each other other up and allowing one another breaks.

Maria Haunt's son Linden is 7 months old. She says the biggest hurdle for her and her husband Christian was being forced to give up breast feeding because of a medical condition. But she also warns that first time parents to brace themselves for a big life change.

"I think I have found it maybe a bit of a shock to not be in the workplace and not have my life as much as I used to and all of my successes and failures to be down to purees and nappies, but at the same time it's hugely rewarding and with time you realize you must be doing something right, because they are happy and they look well, so the worst thing is also the best thing."

Despite months of preparation, first time parents can often feel that they've been plunged into an abyss of the unknown once the baby arrives. Getting used to sleep deprivation is just one of the challenges new parents face, many say they become stressed because they are unsure about whether they are doing things correctly.

Sometimes when new mums give birth, they can feel very isolated, and alone, and this can lead to symptoms of post natal depression.

Rachael Dobson knows how devastating post natal depression can be.

She has suffered with it for three years, following the birth of her son Andreas.

The 24-year-old mother has now recovered - thanks to support from family and friends - but her journey was a tough one.

"I would sit there some days thinking that nothing could get any worse, I'm making it difficult for my husband, I'm not caring for my son like I'm meant to. So would it be easier if I just ended it? Would that solve it?" she says.

"I viewed it as if I'd done something and done that and ended it, then it would make it easier on my husband because he wouldn't have to come home, as well as looking after a baby, which he loved doing, he wouldn't have to contend with me sort of crying at him or shouting at him."

Dobson is not alone.

Up to 15 percent of women in the UK are reported to suffer from PND, but medics think this figure is likely to be a lot higher because many cases go unreported.

The National Childcare Trust (NCT) is a UK charity that offers help, advice and training to parents and also trains childcare professionals.

Senior policy adviser, Elizabeth Duff says it's vital that new parents know there is support available to them and that is is fine to ask friends and family for help.

"A lot of people now are really adults in the 30's having their first baby, maybe even more than that. They've had a good few years of being totally independent, running their own lives and then suddenly this huge turn of events means you do have to think 'I could do with some help and this is not a failure it's not this is a dreadful thing, it's really sensible and most people will love to help."

The NCT put new parents in touch with other new parents in their area. Many NCT groups stay friends long enough to give each other support in the early months or during maternity leave. Many others become lifelong friends sharing their experience of raising children.

Annabel says being part of a group has been a lifeline and is vital for new parents.

"I think just knowing that other parents are going through the same challenges that you are and I've often used the group to say ' oh my God, this has happened, has anyone else noticed the same thing? Are you having the same experience?' and invariably everyone is, so you do feel that you are not alone."

No matter how content the mother and baby, it's very common for the stay at home parent to get a bout of baby blues in the early months. Duff says this feeling of being very tired and in a low mood can last a few days and is totally normal. She says it often kicks in once partners have gone back to work when the parent looking after baby full time can feel quite alone and overwhelmed.

However Dodds emphasizes that parents should be aware of the difference between baby blues and post natal depression (PND) - a condition that affects one in ten women in the UK and needs to be treated medically (source: NCT). Fathers can also experience paternal depression.

"It's something you might think. 'I'm getting through, but then it kicks it much later and that will be for more extended periods of quite a low mood, feelings of hopelessness and being really overwhelmed. So that's the thing to look out for and with serious depression a mum particularly may even have delusions and thoughts about harming herself or the baby and that's when family members really have to look out for it and try to get her some medical help."

Fortunately the majority of parents will never have to deal with PND. And although raising your baby won't always be this sunny, most parents say they would never look back.

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