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The Newborn Parent

Becoming a parent for the first time means we enter a phase of life we have never been in before – all new and relatively unknown. New territory means lots to navigate, with all its excitement and uncertainties.

Illustration taken from the self-help book Towards Parenthood: Preparing for the Changes and Challenges of a New Baby (2009): ACER Press.

One aspect of first time parenthood we are often underprepared for are the feelings of incompetence in our role. Often times, we simply do not know the territory or have the answers.

Parenting propels us back to being a novice, to not knowing, to not having the answers: we become ‘newborn parents’.

Returning to novice status can be confronting if you are used to feeling competent and in control in many areas of your adult life. Having a newborn sometimes leaves you feeling out of control and questioning your competence. Not knowing what to do is hard when your baby is utterly dependent on you. Not knowing what to do is uncomfortable – this is an important role and you want to do the best job you can.

It can help if we can lean into those tricky experiences of uncertainty, to grab hold of them. Is it possible to embrace your role as a newborn parent and sit comfortably with not knowing? Can you give yourself permission to not have the answers and to realise some answers will never be found?

It takes time to settle in and to find your way. Any new role involves new discoveries and the consolidation of skill and knowledge over time, and it’s these experiences that provide us a sense of competence in our role. But even that said, the parenting role is unique in that we have ever-shifting sands because babies continue to change and develop over time and it is often the parents who have to paddle fast to keep up!

At the Centre for Perinatal Psychology, we understand the complexities of early parenting and are here to support you as you navigate your way as a ‘newborn parent’. Our Towards Parenthood book can also help as you transition to the changes and challenges of life with a baby. You can read more about the book and purchase a copy here.

This post originally appeared on and it has been published here with permission.


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