NAVIGATING MOTHERHOOD: Sunshine Coast clinical psychologist Sally Shepherd.
NAVIGATING MOTHERHOOD: Sunshine Coast clinical psychologist Sally Shepherd.

Coping with challenges of motherhood

I FIRST became a mum almost four years ago.

Currently pregnant with No. 2, I find myself reflecting on those early days - because they were NOT EASY with a capital NOT EASY for me.

I found myself completely unprepared for the demands of life with a newborn.

I had read one book on giving birth, and nothing on what might actually happen once we got home from the hospital. And more importantly, I hadn't heard much "real person talk" about the challenges associated with new motherhood.

Everyone else seemed, from the outside, to have been there and done that and been fine. I was a capable, resilient person - how hard could it be?

Well …

I found out that there are many potential hurdles that we parents face while adjusting to our new role as mum or dad, and lots of them are quite common.

I was normal after all … who would have thought.

Chronic sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, identity loss, post-partum mental health difficulties, a short fuse, feeding issues, body image issues - these are just some of the potential challenges we might be confronted with.

There are lots more.

Don't get me wrong - that newborn period was also a beautiful, special, amazing time. But it was hard.

And I think it would have been easier, at least a little, if I'd known a bit about what to expect.

If I had known, if I had better prepared, if people spoke more about the "tough stuff", then I think I would have been able to spend more time in the moment and enjoy that phase more, instead of trying to outrun the adjustment.

I think also by being more prepared and knowing that some of these challenges and feelings were normal (whatever that is) that I might have been more likely to reach out for help (without fear of judgment) when I needed it to use my village.

We are so isolated as new parents these days.

A lot of us try to be an entire village on our own (except for the ever-watchful gaze of social media, of course, which is a whole other story).

I summed the post-partum period up as a time when I was never alone, but always felt lonely. A time that I was constantly tired, but unable to rest. A time when I was insanely busy but never felt that I accomplished anything. A time when I had so much new responsibility, but everything seemed out of my control.

I began to delve into what the clinical research says about post-partum adjustment and the challenges I had noticed.

As a Sunshine Coast clinical psychologist, I began to understand that what I was going through was to be expected … that it made perfect sense.

I also spoke to heaps of parents about their experiences post-partum (yep, really should have done that pre-parenthood but hey, 20/20 hindsight and all that).

I became really passionate about helping other new parents with their transition to parenthood.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and write the book that I wish I'd read while I was pregnant.

It's a book that combines my personal (new mum) and professional (psych) experiences, and covers the types of things that I, the parents I'd spoken to, and the clinical literature found hard in the first year post-partum.

It's called Beyond the Bump and I am so excited that it has recently been released.

Writing a book has been a lifelong dream for me.

And I love that I have been able to combine my passions for writing, psychology and parenthood into the one project.

Writing the book was a really amazing experience - getting to connect with and chat to mums (and some dads) all over the country.

I really hope that my words, experiences, and practical strategies, as well as the experiences of all the other parents I interviewed, can help other new parents during their epic life transition.

(I know I will be reviewing it again for a refresher before the arrival of bub No. 2!).

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