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  • Beth

When Baby Arrives - Change Or Transition? And How To Frame It

I was recently in a workplace team event where the facilitator was taking about transitions and how they are managed. Lots of us are probably familiar with transitions in our working environment whether it is the positives of a promotion or new job or the less than positive restructure and change.

But what struck me was how relevant this was to new parents. You might have had lots of transitions over the few years leading up to this time – moving house, getting married, living with your partner – but often these seem easier to manage than adding a baby to the mix. Maybe they are things you have more control over, that you can adjust to on your own terms and in your own time. A baby doesn’t really allow for things to be on your terms!

We talked about Bridges’ Transition Model. This starts with understanding that change is something that happens fast (the baby arrives and there is your change!) whereas a transition is slow. It is the internal, psychological process you through as you accept and adapt to your new situation.

Even though you have the time of your pregnancy to start this transition I don’t think it is really possible to get very far until the baby arrives. Nearly everyone I speak to postnatally is surprised how much impact the arrival of a baby has; even though they have been to antenatal classes and learnt about newborn behaviour or they have seen close friends or family welcome their first child, until you are living that time day in and day out it is hard to start making that transition yourself and appreciate what it means to you.

Often there are feelings you aren’t expecting. Quite a few mums-to-be plan to leave baby with their partner or the grandparents while they go out, but when the baby arrives there is a shift and you don’t want to leave your baby. Not because you don’t trust the other people, but because you don’t want to leave your baby, and that is totally fine but often it is unexpected and the unexpected feelings are harder to manage.

So what can we learn?

However you feel about this baby arriving it is a time of transition. For some it is an easy change and you glide into a new role without too much bother and for others it is a tough transition as you figure out where this change leaves you.

This is where the model comes in to help us understand what is going on and I think looking at it in this way can help with the psychological transitions.

Starting by thinking about there being an ending might really help you – or it might make you feel sad or anxious but recognising that this change is an ending is an important starting point to do some letting go.

There are lots of things ending and you might find it hard to see the end to spontaneity, nights out, travel, work or your favourite hobbies. But as you start this process of letting go, know that it isn’t forever. This is one of many transitions and changes, and actually as you acknowledge the parts that are really bothering you it is a great way to figure out what you need to find a way to incorporate into your new life with baby. You aren't letting go of everything, just finding your new normal.

It is interesting that the Transition Zone is defined as neutral. That makes it sound like a drifting along, ambivalent kind of place when it can be a messy long phase with lots of backwards and forwards times.

As you move through the transition zone you are easing your way towards the New Beginnings and embracing this new place you are in.

But you won’t usually just make a nice straight line from ending to beginning. There will be ups and downs and back and forwards as you find triggers that you aren’t letting go of or the fear of the new beginnings. Everyone is going to have their own things that are harder to let go of and that is totally fine, none of it is reflecting on your parenting.

In the early days and weeks where everything is all a bit fuzzy and messed up is not the time to make these transitions, it will come with time and as you go through the early days, weeks, months you will find different thoughts and feelings come through.

If you are pregnant now, don’t panic about this. It can be a hugely positive transition too, but sometimes we don’t recognise the significance of this time.  

If you are in the midst of this time I really hope thinking about it in this way can give you some clarity as to where you are and where you are going. Rather than looking back, look forwards - see the life with your baby and the future you plan.

Take some time to think about what is important for you. What makes you you? What do need to do to feel like yourself?

If you are pregnant you might already know what you are missing or if baby is here you know the things you would like to doing.

Make some notes – it could be as taking a bath or shower for as long as you need, reading a book, going for a walk, doing some exercise, meeting a friend, eating out. Now make a list of times and activities so if you find yourself with time you know how to use it and don’t waste it trying to figure out what to do or thinking you’ll just throw a load of laundry on and clear the dishes and oooppps – too late your time is up.

I really want to end by telling you that there is no right or wrong way to do this. Just as you would find different feelings and emotions in a workplace experiencing change, so you will amongst groups of parents. Be gentle on yourself, it is a huge and significant change which you might not be facing in your best state as you recover from birth and deal with a lack of sleep! There is no hurry so take your time and find your way and remember it is ok if your move from ending to new beginning isn’t a smooth straight one. There will be lots back tracking and things you don’t want to see as ending and that is fine, just experiment with different ways to make it work for you. Before you know it you might be facing the next transition if you are returning to work, but now you know more about how to frame it.

Beth x





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