By Paula Bendon,MSc, PG dip, PG Cert, MBPsS, MBACP, ACBS, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist
It is very common for mothers to struggle with bonding with their babies. Mothers can be filled with guilt, shame and self-criticism for not instantly bonding with their newborn. It can be even harder when friends and family members seem to easily bond with your baby. Society expects us to be instant perfect mothers, naturally transforming from lawyer, teacher, housewife or trader to doting blissfully happy mother and often combining a full-time career too. Although research indicates otherwise findings suggest that half of the women who give birth experience ‘indifferent’ feelings towards their baby. The bonding process and your feelings of love and joy can take time. Firstly allowing the mother to recover especially if the birth was traumatic and also to allow the baby to grow and become stronger and less vulnerable to becoming unwell.
Having a baby can be the most wonderful experience but for some mothers, it can cause not only bonding issues but anxiety and depression. It is very common to experience ’baby blues’ in the early days after giving birth. However, one in ten women can develop Postnatal Depression, which can be very distressing. Many mothers with postnatal depression suffer in silence, may be not recognising they are depressed or feeling guilty and ashamed that they feel so low after having a baby. Instead of feeling the joy and love we can have feelings of ‘dread, panic, anxiety and anger, or simply feel empty.
Many factors can make us feel more vulnerable to postnatal depression, our upbringing, how closely we bonded with our parents, issues around conception, a course of IVF, quality of the relationship with the father, the birth itself. Other factors that have an impact include high-stress levels, sleep problems and not feeling safe and supported at home. Sometimes it can just seem to come out of the blue.
Using Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), a form of counselling which incorporates Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you can work towards overcoming and gaining control of your difficult emotions (anxiety, depression, sleep problems etc) and learn to enjoy your baby. Firstly you will understand that you are not alone and there are many different natural reasons why our brains can act in this way after having a baby. By getting a deeper understanding of why our brains can cause these difficulties we can begin to develop new ways to think, feel and behave that incorporate kindness, warmth, caring, calmness, safeness and compassion and this, in turn, will reduce the feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness and depression. A therapist can guide you through this process and help you overcome postnatal depression.