You’re going to be a grandmother!
My son spoke these six, long-awaited words last week. They set off an inner fireworks display. With a joyful “What!!??” I jumped up to offer big hugs to him and my daughter-in-law. I don’t think the three of us stopped smiling for the remainder of our visit.
A grandmother. Wow. It’s still settling in.
I’m already picturing how it will be, witnessing a new human grow before my eyes. I can already feel the radiant love, and imagine the wonder, the crying spells and the diaper changes to come.
I’m remembering how thoroughly a tiny, entirely dependent baby turns your grownup life inside out and upside down.
The arrival of a new baby is right up there on the list of major life changes. While often a planned for or happy change, that’s not always the case. That depends on individual circumstances.
This event is one my whole family is thrilled about. As I’ve pictured the changes that will soon be upon us, my thoughts turn to what resilience means when it comes to life’s happy changes.
New Parenthood Changes Everything
One day you’re living your life as usual, or as usual as is possible when awaiting the arrive of a new baby.
Then, the baby is here and it is real. You’ve been catapulted into parenthood; you are someone else’s mother or father. Whatever your priorities once were, now your number one job is loving this new tiny person, and keeping him or her alive.
In spite of the preparations and all the waiting and anticipation, when the baby shows up it’s a shock. Much of the adapting is very practical – getting by on interrupted sleep, working out child care arrangements, accepting that going out on the spur of the moment is — at least for now — a thing of the past. The biggest part though, is emotional. First-time parents are redefining who they are and how they are in a transformed landscape that is utterly different than what they previously knew.
You Can Only Get So Ready
You can only get so ready for a change like this. You may have taken care of all the practical things, but it’s the uncontrollable and unforeseen emotional and practical upheaval that calls upon your capacity for transformational resilience. That’s what lets you cope positively with fundamental, lasting change to life as you have known it.
We need resilience to cope with happy changes as well as the tough ones. Prepared as we might be, the big changes that shake the foundations of our lives require us to adapt and move forward. There’s no going back, ever, to the way things were.
This isn’t bad. It just is. But it helps to be prepared, so it’s worth looking at what makes us resilient in the face of transformational change, even when anticipating a happy change.
We can prepare by making resilience-building part of how we live our lives. This means integrating resilience-building practices into our everyday lives. Here are five ways to do that.
- Being part of network of trusting, supportive others. Nurture your sense of community, establishing and maintaining connections with others. Keeping up with family members and old friends; making a point to connect with others in your community, at work, or through shared interests helps strengthen those connections. Volunteering, joining a religious or secular spiritual group, or attending local events are other ways to do strengthen your support network.
- Being willing to ask for help. In a culture with a strong do-it-yourself ethic, it’s often a lot easier for us to offer help than receive it. Recognizing the need for help, and asking clearly and specifically for what you would like (as a request and not a demand) lets people brings the kind of help that supports your coping. Freely giving help and openly receiving it benefits all who are involved.
- Facing and expressing all the feelings.You won’t feel happy all the time, even after the best of all possible life changes. Some days you’ll be tired, scared, cranky or resentful. All feelings, positive and negative, have their place. When you can, reflect on your feelings, the uplifting ones as well as the struggles. Express them by drawing, painting, dancing writing, or talking openly with someone you trust.
- Having self-compassion. No one is perfect, so why are we so often hard on ourselves when our imperfections show? Speaking to yourself with the voice of your Inner Encourager, rather than the well-known Inner Critic, strengthens your compassion for yourself and for others.
- Taking good care of ourselves. Big changes in life can bring excitement, sometimes causing insomnia or disrupting our self-care routines. Remember that your need for quiet time, exercise, nutritious food, for centering and grounding continue. Keep including those things in your life as you navigate the changes that life brings your way.
What is one thing you do each day to build and strengthen resilience?
Originally published 3/27/18. Revised 2-27-19.