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I Don't Want to Turn into a Frumpy Mommy!

QUESTION: I am expecting a baby in May. The pregnancy was unplanned, but certainly not unwelcome. My concern is that because I just got married, I will only have 3 months to adjust to married life before the baby arrives. I feel I have no one to ask for advice. I know other young couples, but they are unmarried. My other friends are still single. How can I balance a new baby and marriage at the same time?

My husband has been slower to 'nest' although very loving and supportive, I think he has just gotten over losing his bachelorhood. Will he be ready to support me when the baby gets here? I feel like he's always playing catch-up. Am I being too worried? I think he'll come around in time, he goes to the doctor with me, childbirth classes, etc. but, what to do in the meanwhile?

We are both students, set to graduate the week my baby's due. I must stress, I am excited, I love him very much, I just don't want to lose what we have and turn into a frumpy-grumpy mommy?

It is a sign of health that you are both excited and worried about the changes looming before you! The good news is that this baby is wanted and that you are aware of the stress that even "good" upheavals bring. By naming your concerns, you will be less likely to be overwhelmed and more likely to gain skills and perspective necessary for a successful journey!

The key to handling stress is communication! The more stress, the more time talking and relating with your husband strengthens your relationship to meet the challenges ahead. Do not be afraid of problems. Finding solutions together as they arise is part of the bonding process.

You are off to a good start by involving yourselves in the miracle of the pregnancy together. Continue to learn about labor and childbirth. But don't stop there! Carve out time before the birth to begin talking about child rearing and visualizing your future together. How will you share caretaking responsibilities? What kind of family do you want to have together?

Consider also what kind of mother you want to be and what kind of father you believe your husband will be to this child. Explore with one another what your expectations of a "mother" and "father" are. Naturally, you will share the positive and negative experiences of your own relationships to your parents. Sort through that which you wish to keep and that which you prefer to throw out. Identify strengths you find in one another. But do not shy away from concerns about "weaknesses" you may see in yourself or your partner. Intimacy is about sharing the imperfect places in ourselves as humans and asking for help!

Let your husband know about your fears of becoming "grumpy" and "frumpy" in your role as a mother in the family. It is true that when women become mothers, cultural expectations arise which can obliterate individuality. Discuss this with your husband. Do not forget that you are a woman first with needs, goals and dreams of your own that can include being a "wife" and "mother" without eclipsing your sense of self. Establish activities, interests and goals that you wish to pursue outside of motherhood. Plan on scheduling activity and time for these pursuits as well as couples' time together in the next year following your baby's birth.

Remember, too, that your child's emotional security rests on the strength of your relationship. The quality of your couples' bond is reflected in the very atmosphere in which your baby grows. Take time out for each other during this first exciting and transitional year. Stay connected to one another's feelings about the changes that parenthood brings. Talk together, take walks together and enjoy going out alone when you feel ready to leave your baby in another's care. Your child will benefit from the love that flows between you!

Consider joining a support group for new mothers to ease your way through this transition and suggest your husband seek the emotional affinity of other fathers. Take to heart the popular saying "It takes a village to raise a child". Armed with a perspective of your own needs for emotional support in motherhood will make you less vulnerable to losing yourself. Do not forget to include your own needs in your new maternal role. It is your best insurance that you will be able to stem the cultural tide of "grumpiness and frumpiness"!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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