A recent survey has revealed that 48% of new mums and 33% of first-time dads feel completely unprepared for their baby's first six months. The research, by insurance company Aviva, also found that 17% women panic or feel scared about having a new baby. So you're not alone if you're feeling worried about the life ahead of you.
I’m not ready to be a mum!
Let's face it, having a baby is life-changing, so it’s not surprising to have some doubts as you mark off the days to your due date. You may also feel sad about the life you’re leaving behind, but Dr Sandra Wheatley, social psychologist with a special interest in parenting and families, explains that it’s all perfectly natural: ‘Worrying about whether you’re ready to have a baby is the healthy psychological thing to do, as it shows you’re seriously thinking about how your life will change – it would be more of a concern if you weren’t worried. You know it’s not all going to be easy.'
TOP TIP: Try confiding in a sympathetic friend who’s a mum, who will be able to reassure you. And if you’re finding that worry is getting the better of you, talk to your midwife or GP.
I’ll have no social life!
It’s true that you’ll have a whole new life to get used to with your baby – but that’s something to be excited about! What’s more, there’ll be plenty of new mums in the same boat. Cara, 31, mum to Livvie, 18 months, advises, ‘There are plenty of groups out there to join, from baby massage to baby signing. Toddler groups are a favourite with Livvie, and mums with really young babies also come along. You’ll soon get talking over a cuppa, and you’ll find you’ve got lots in common.
What if there’s something wrong with my baby?
It’s crucial to attend regular midwife appointments and scans, where you’ll get reassurance and anything unusual will be picked up. Catharine Parker-Littler, consultant midwife and director of www.midwivesonline.co.uk advises, ’Don’t let a worry go round and round in your head. If you have a reason for thinking there’s something wrong – if you haven’t felt your baby move in a 24-hour period for example – contact your midwife straight away. On the other hand, if you’re just getting leg cramps or feel a bit uneasy, have a resource like a book or magazine that you trust, where you can read up on the problem and feel reassured.
TOP TIP: Catharine suggests sticking the 24-hour contact number of your local maternity unit on the fridge – that way, you’ll always be able to contact them if you have a worry.
What if I can’t breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for a newborn, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be nervous about getting started – it’s a new skill. The good news is that with the right support, you can do it. Patricia Wise, NCT breastfeeding counsellor: ‘Nearly every mum has the capacity to breastfeed, but getting advice is really important. Remember, too, that babies have instincts and they’re trying to help. Think of it as you and your baby learning to dance together.
TOP TIP: Try the www.breastfeedingnetwork.org for support.
What’s going to happen to ‘us’?
With a new member of the family to care for, you’re unlikely to get much ‘couple time’. You’ll need time to get used to your new role as parents, as well as learning to deal with the demands of a newborn. But if you work at it, your relationship should only get stronger. Mo Kurimbokus, a counsellor for Relate, advises, ‘Communication is really important – it’s OK to have worries and the best thing to do is to talk things through. Support each other and work as a team – remember to keep talking!’
We can’t afford this baby!
Having a baby is an expensive business, but Catherine Torazzo from the Citizens Advice Bureau advises: ‘Be realistic about what you can afford. Keep track of how much money you have coming in, and how much you have to set aside for essentials. If you have debts, make sure you pay the priority ones first, like your mortgage, bills and council tax. The good news is you’ll be entitled to child benefit, and you may be entitled to other benefits, too.
TOP TIP: Sort out what money you have coming in and going out and work out what benefits you’re entitled to. Try www.adviceguide.org.uk or www.hmrc.gov.uk for help.
What if I can’t cope after the birth?
There isn’t a woman out there who isn’t nervous bringing their newborn home for the first time. It’s a steep learning curve, but you’ll be supported by your midwife for the first couple of weeks, and after that you'll have the health visitor on hand for advice. You’ll also be making plenty of baby friends on the way, who’ll understand the problems you face. ‘Confide in a friend who’ll understand what you’re going through,’ advises Dr Wheatley. ‘Remember that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but you will get through it.’
TOP TIP: Think about times in your life when you thought you couldn’t cope with a new challenge – at work, for example – and remind yourself that you did get through it!
I’m putting on too much weight!
You will put on weight – according to NHS Direct, women at a healthy weight for their height tend to put on between 22lb and 28lb during pregnancy. But while this certainly isn’t the time to diet, you still need to go easy on the chocolate biscuits. Dr Joanne Lunn, nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation agrees: ‘Needs of women vary depending on how active they are, but it is generally only in the last three months that an extra 200 kcals a day is recommended. A mum-to-be needs a varied diet to provide her and her baby with a full range of nutrients.’
TOP TIP: Eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, and do gentle exercise such as walking or swimming on a regular basis.
I’m frightened of labour and birth
Planning ahead is the best way to deal with your fears. ‘A birth plan is a good way of confronting your worries so that you can talk them through with your midwife,’ agrees Catharine. ’I also think your choice of birthing partner can make a great difference to how you cope with your labour. Choose carefully – you need someone who’ll really there for you on the day.’
TOP TIP: Talk through coping strategies with your midwife – that way you’ll have a positive outlook about the task ahead. Ask your midwife for details of local antenatal classes in your area.
What if I don’t love the baby?
Every mum-to-be feels different about her bump, and those feelings can vary from day to day! As you start to feel the baby kick and move around inside, you might start to feel a strong bond, but even then things aren’t always straightforward. ‘At first I found it hard to believe I was pregnant, and even at my first scan I didn’t believe there was a baby in there,’ says Vanessa, 34, mum to Zack, eight months. ‘After that, though, I fell in love with my bump, especially when I could feel movement. But when Zack was born it still took a good six weeks to love him as much as my bump – but of course I completely adore him now!’
TOP TIP: Be patient – it takes every mum and baby different lengths of time to build that extra special bond.