While the birth of a new baby is indisputably miraculous, the demands are daunting, making the first year as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Pride and joy jostle with sleep deprivation, frantic scheduling, marital issues, and work pressures. "It's a tidal wave effect," says psychologist Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life, of the enormous adjustments each parent must make. "Adding a new family member is supposed to be a happy event, so people underestimate the profound stress of two people in one magical moment becoming three." It's no wonder that about 80% of new mothers experience some sort of mood disturbance, ranging from the baby blues to postpartum depression. Periodically, such high-profile cases as Andrea Yates's drowning her five children highlight how serious these symptoms can be.
Fortunately, most new parents find creative solutions and support from friends and family to help ease the transition. "It's critical to have your own coping strategies so you don't end up feeling totally overwhelmed," says Dr. Lerner. From music lessons and mountain biking to finding more "me" time, moms and dads divulge their secrets to getting through the first year with more grace and fewer tears:
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.