The transformation into motherhood is profound. The physical, psychological, emotional, social, as well as, the relationship with your intimate partner-transforms. Everything changes. Because the transformation is so profound; the mother needs time to process and articulate what exactly has changed. The pregnancy, birth, and the aftermath is rapid, and jolting.
If a mother gives birth to her baby rather than adopts, the baby develops while her body adapts, and as the body adapts–psychic changes occur. The mother and baby ‘talk’ through unconscious communication. The interaction of the two is a unique, universal dance that happens but once. If the mother adopts or has a surrogate mother give birth to her baby, the transformation is similar with the exception of the physical. Before a baby is born, all mothers have a relationship with their babies. Mothers imagine their babies. The birth of the baby transforms the imagined relationship into a real relationship.
It is now widely known, accepted, and documented that infants once born recognize their mothers. The speculation is that through their sensory apparatus they know, instinctually, who has nurtured them during their time in the womb. Babies want their mothers. And mothers want their babies. Mothers who adopt will also feel the instinctive pull to bond and nurture. Many women experience a faux-pregnancy: real sensations that seem as if one is pregnant. Our minds are able to convince our bodies of many sensations.
A mother and a newborn will be completely engrossed with each other for some time. This first phase of symbiosis lasts for about 6 weeks. Day and night, and night and day are not quite sorted out for the infant. In addition, the baby will consume nutrients (some form of milk), roughly every 3-4 hours. Mother, especially if she is breast feeding, is interrupted from her sleep quite frequently. Life is about the baby’s needs and mother is tuned in to the baby’s distress signals since she has been communicating with her baby for nine months. Mother knows best for now.
And Dad, what can his role be if mother and child are in this phase of symbiosis for some time? Father plays the crucial role of protector of mother and baby. He shields them from the outside world. His role is to ensure that mother’s needs are met, therefore she can meet the newborn’s needs. He is there to provide a barrier from the outside world and a cocoon for the bond to occur between mother and infant. But father also needs nurturing and help; ideally, this is where the extended family can help. There are no fast and hard rules: father needs support and the home may need some tending while mother is busy with baby.
A wise woman who lived to 102 years of age quipped, when asked what advice would she give a new mother,
“I can tell you what was told to me: ‘don’t be afraid to pick up the baby whenever she cries; and don’t wash her too much.’ ”
You cannot spoil an infant. Get as much rest as possible. Good luck and if you need help-ask!