The Parenting Life

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Your new identity as a parent: childcare; reconnecting with your partner; going it alone. Whatever your situation, parenting is a whole new life. 'The Mother of All Baby Books' author, Ann Douglas, joined us on June 29, 2004, to help answer your parenting questions.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome back to WebMD Live, Ann. When you were a new parent, what was your toughest challenge?

DOUGLAS:
Sleep deprivation. I honestly thought I would never sleep again. But about six months later I think I got a decent night's sleep -- not every night, but enough to start feeling semi-human again.

MODERATOR:
So what did you do about it?

DOUGLAS:
I ended up really cutting back on my to-do list. I mean, I'm not exactly Suzy Homemaker at the best of times, but this was a time in my life when I really learned to cut back on my expectations of myself. Menu plans were kept extremely simple. We're talking soup, sandwiches, and salads on those days when I could figure out how to chop vegetables with a baby in a baby sling (with the first baby we're talking about the days before salads were available in plastic bags -- the pioneer days!)

As for luxuries like dusting, forget about it. Vacuuming got done, however, because I quickly discovered that my daughter was lulled to sleep by the sound of the vacuum cleaner. My house has never been so well vacuumed since!

What I think was really tough, however, was finding the emotional energy to connect with my husband. In many ways we felt like two ships that were passing in the night, or perhaps two ships that were adrift on the rocky postpartum seas. It made for a very rough ride, let me tell you.

MEMBER QUESTION:
When will I feel sexy again? Or is this not an option now that I am a mother? I'm so tired and I feel like my breasts are off limits to my husband; they are for feeding my little girl. And every time he approaches me that way I can't focus. I feel like I have one ear listening for the baby. I'm not being fair to him. Help!

DOUGLAS:
What you are feeling is extremely normal. I think 99% of new mothers on the planet have felt this way. I think the other 1% of mothers have live-in hired help. Because when you're battling exhaustion, leaky breasts, and postpartum aches and pains, it's hard to feel like a sex goddess. Trust me, I have been there.

I've also read studies that say that on average it takes seven to eight weeks to get your sex life back on track after the birth of a baby. And remember, we're talking averages. That means that some couples will take much longer to start feeling sexy again. Of course, there will be a few sexual overachievers who can hardly keep their hands off one another within a few days after the birth; I just haven't met very many of them. So please, don't feel like there's anything wrong with you.

Generally, once you start getting sleep and feeling relaxed and confident about your new role as a mother, your sex life will start to resume its normal frequency, or something that resembles its prebaby frequency. Many people find that their sex life after baby is always a bit different than their prebaby sex life, but that's just the way life is at times.

"When you're battling exhaustion, leaky breasts, and postpartum aches and pains, it's hard to feel like a sex goddess. Trust me, I have been there."

MEMBER QUESTION:
I feel like I am on alert every waking minute. My baby is 5 weeks old. When will it get easier and I can relax a bit?

DOUGLAS:
It takes quite awhile, I have found, to start to be able to relax. I remember being on hyper alert for quite a long time. Granted, I have always been the kind of person who worries, dare I say even obsesses, about every new stage my children pass through. Let's just say I haven't quite relaxed about the teen years yet, so I'm still worrying 16 years later.

However, I can tell you that the 'round the clock anxiety does begin to wane after a month or two. Mother Nature couldn't allow you to sustain this level of anxiety indefinitely, or you would quite literally begin to burn out. As you become more comfortable with your baby and more confident in your own mothering abilities, you will find that only brand-new situations put you on hyper alert. The rest of the time you will feel increasingly relaxed and confident and able to enjoy all the joys that mothering brings.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Any tips for handling mom and mom-in-law? I know they both raised children but this is my child. They mean well with the advice, but we want to do it our way. How can I get them to understand this without alienating them? I want to have my cake and eat it too -- I want them to baby-sit sometimes, but not to tell us how to raise our baby.

DOUGLAS:
This is truly the mother of all balancing acts, isn't it? On the one hand, you want their love and support, and baby-sitting skills, but on the other hand you do not want to be bombarded with advice that may leave you feeling like a rank amateur when it comes to raising your own child.

It often works well to establish boundaries on the advice-giving issue -- to let friends and family members know that while you will consider the information that they offer, you are the mummy and therefore you will make the decisions where your child's health and well-being is concerned. People may initially be a little taken back by your stand on this issue, but over time they will come to respect you and realize that you are really only doing your job as your child's parent.

If you are faced with somebody who is particularly aggressive on this front, you may want to use my favorite tactic, which is to tell the person you will check things out with your baby's doctor. Only a true rabid advice giver will not back off at this point. Hope this helps.