It’s Not Me You’re Angry With

Welcoming a new baby into the family is a wonderful occasion for many parents, but not for all. And for most parents it is not wonderful all the time. It doesn’t matter how many parenting books have been read, podcasts have been listened to and advice has been absorbed, for most couples nothing can prepare them for the absolute shock that a baby brings.

The parents we work with talk about the weight of responsibility they feel as they battle through what seems like endless sleep-broken or sleepless nights. The brave ones talk about the grief of losing their ‘before the baby’ life and others talk of their despair that their partner is not the co-parent they had expected them to be.

For some parents the birth of their baby was a shock that needs to be understood and processed. One of the distressing things is that the experience can be very different for each of the parents. The ‘story’ of their baby’s arrival in the world, told and retold by each, can compound the feeling of difference and distance.

“When you describe it like that I wonder if you were even there”, one father said as he wanted to recount his horror of seeing his gravely ill partner rushed to the operating theatre for an emergency caesarian when her account was only the joy of seeing and holding their baby and the nurses and doctors’ exceptional care.

Careful, gentle work was required by the Early Help Worker and the Health Visitor to bring these two versions of events together in a story that they both could tell. In recounting the common story the parents had to understand each other’s experience and fully appreciate what had happened for each of them.

Even without significant trauma the change that a baby’s birth or adoption brings is considerable. The adjustments parents have to make, to their homes, to their work, to their family and social lives can feel tumultuous. The rearrangements can also, sometimes, feel unfair with one parent relinquishing more than the other.

Blame and shame, distance and disappointment are potent emotions and are easily evoked by the baby’s arrival. It’s crucial for couples to remember that they are not the source of each other’s frustration. Rather than allowing anger to drive a wedge between them, we need to help them communicate well and kindly, so that they can support each other to be the best parents they can be.

At times like these practitioners can offer a quiet space, for containment and care, to bolster parents’ abilities to believe they can face their the challenges. Supporting couples navigate this uncharted territory is challenging work. Clinical supervision offers an opportunity for practitioners to find expert support, advice, and guidance to resolve practice dilemmas. It is also a time to consider the impact of this work on ourselves, making us more resilient and more capable of our best reflective practice.

If you or any member your team working with parent-infant relationships, would benefit from the free Supervision Services be offered by NCSPIR to practitioners please get in touch here.