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Carolyn Hax: New parents think parenthood is not for them

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am

Are there letter-writers you wonder about to this day? While I’m away, readers nominate some who stayed in mind.

DEAR CAROLYN: Please help; I’m desperate. My husband and I are parents to an 8-month-old son, and while we were very excited to welcome a baby, we have learned over the past eight months that parenthood is not for us. We knew we would be changing our lifestyle, but we had no idea we’d be miserable doing it.

We can’t talk to anyone because it’s so shameful admitting this level of failure at something others do naturally. We are honest only with each other, and it is obvious that what we are doing now won’t work. We can’t imagine what options we have. Please, please help me look at this from a new angle and, hopefully, save my family somehow.

– Md.

DEAR MD.: As visceral as this is, the crucial first steps are clinical ones: Get screened for postpartum depression, and do it today if your OB-GYN can fit you in. It might not explain your misery, but it’s common, it wreaks havoc on mothers’ ability to bond with their babies, and it can lead fathers to turn on infants for “causing” the unhappiness.

Then, as soon as you can, call the first therapist on your doctor’s list to make an appointment. If the therapist can’t meet within a week, then call the next one, and so on through the list. If nothing works, call your doctor again. (Don’t be afraid to go to the emergency room if you ever think you might hurt yourself or your baby.)

When you get in to see someone, tell the truth. This is the safe place to tell it.

You asked me to serve that role, probably because of the anonymity I afford you, but that also means I don’t have the specifics of your health, your marriage, your life context, your baby’s health and temperament, or anything else that factors in. In these most formative days for your son, you need high-percentage guidance from someone who sees you up close.

I will say this, however: Not everyone takes to parenthood “naturally.” What’s unnatural, in fact, is our society’s unspoken expectation that parents tough it out alone. Don’t see it as your personal failing that you need to ask for help. Don’t do that to yourself, or your son. Call in the troops today.


Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.haxor chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.



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