What does it really mean that families having a child will go through a major transformation? The online dictionary, an easy source of information, defines transformation as the following:
a. to change in composition or structure
b. to change the outward form or appearance
c. to change in character or condition.
So, yes, the whole family, no matter what number baby, transforms on many levels.
But, I do believe we recognize the outer transformations – that we see moms nursing or bottle feeding, carrying the baby with or without a postpartum belly, and seeing another child in the family portrait. What the culture doesn’t see unless we look closely and beyond the superficial is the birth experience and the family bonding experience, the undercurrent of real life.
Some would say that after a marvelous birth, the family flow and unity would ooze and could not be hidden. Some would say a traumatic birth experience would show in lack of bonding and a harried and messy postpartum. It is true that empowering birth experiences typically lead to an easier transition. But for everyone, coming out of an intense experience of birth not only chemically changes the family with oxytocin and / or adrenalin, but the ascent from this experience leaves the family feeling raw, alive, and mindful – each child having a new place in the family, amongst one another and with their parents.
Expectations of household chores and emotional support may also change the dynamic (even with a first child). This is baby time, this is birth time extended where baby and mom have physically separated but are still unified instinctually. They are even unified in ways we cannot explain. Mom, when skin to skin with the baby, regulates her own temperature to support her baby’s needs. Research shows that there is even regulation of heart rate and glucose levels in this process. Milk production is influenced by this bond as well. Some of this can be expected and celebrated.
Yet for every family, the weeks or months following the birth is the family treading their way over possible uncharted territory. Transformation may seem natural, intense and seamless and at other times it can be a period to recognize feelings that may have been ignored. Emotional undercurrents may rise easily to the top. Yet, no matter how a family experiences the birth and immediate postpartum, these experiences will be remembered for life. They are stories and experiences which begin the journey of parenthood and will be (re)cognized over and over.
So for those of you looking to become parents or know someone who is, or even already have: How do you want to approach this change? What have you done through this transformation that has been successful? How have you worked through other transformations in your life before? What has empowered you or others that you know during this transition? How are you going to maintain or improve the quality of your relationships through this transition? How do you want to celebrate it? How do you plan to expect the unexpected with birth and postpartum and parenting and become stronger for it? How do you take responsibility and live life to the fullest?
Transformation means there is no going back, no return. There is no new birth or postpartum to buy or replace or have. It is your birth, your family’s birth. Claim it, no matter how messy or amazing it may be. Learn from it, we usually don’t have a choice. Celebrate it, it is the birth of a family.