We look at the importance of parental mental health if you are raising a child with a visible difference and point you to helpful resources.
Having a baby is a very stressful time for all parents. Whether it is your first or your third, bringing a child into your family is wonderful, but also a big change.
Discovering that your newborn baby has a visible difference can be a shock. It can cause all sorts of feelings and can be a difficult and stressful experience for a new parent.
On this page, we talk you through some of the feelings having a baby with a visible difference may bring up and give our viewpoint on some of the questions you might have.
Having a baby who looks different can trigger powerful emotions that take many parents by surprise. Emotions you might feel include:
These are all common although you may not feel them all. You may find yourself shifting between them, feeling happiness one minute and upset the next.
Some parents describe a sense of loss after having a baby with a visible difference. This can be hard to explain, but you may feel this because you have not had the baby you prepared for. This may cause a sense of guilt about not being grateful for your baby – or shame about the visible difference – or worry that you did something to cause the situation.
You may feel anxious about everything to start with.
The emotions you feel can be complex, wide ranging and baffling. It is understandable that you feel this way. Coming to terms with your baby’s appearance and unexpected medical needs will vary from parent to parent.
Allow yourself time to talk. Find a trusted person – someone who will understand and acknowledge how you are feeling.
The most important thing to remember is that how you are feeling is normal. It is OK to have these feelings. As a parent, it is natural that you are concerned about your baby and what their visible difference will mean for them, for you and for your family.
Having a baby is an emotional experience for everyone. Although it may feel difficult at first, many parents successfully get through this stage and reach a level of acceptance and positivity.
When you are in hospital after having your new baby, you will naturally have a lot of questions. Unfortunately, there may not be answers to all of your questions straight away. This can feel very daunting and frustrating.
In the early days after having a baby the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself, your baby and your family. Focus your time on the things you can control, like spending time with your baby, and time with your loved ones.
Some babies with a visible difference may need surgery due to additional medical needs. This can be very distressing to see and you may feel powerless and scared.
It can help to remind yourself that agreeing to medical treatment is a way of caring for your baby. It can feel difficult, especially if you cannot hold your baby through some of the treatments. However, touching, talking and being close by can all still be very comforting for both of you.
Announcing your baby’s birth can cause uncertainty and anxiety, especially if you are unsure what to say about your baby’s appearance. Perhaps you’re unsure whether to say anything at all.
However, having a baby is an exciting time – and a time to celebrate. It’s understandable that you may feel mixed emotions about how to tell people about your baby.
What should I say to others?
When you introduce your baby to friends and family you might want to share a bit of information about their visible difference, alongside other information.
Here’s an example of something you could say:
There will be times when you might not feel like talking about your baby. That’s OK, and you can let your friends and family know this. For example:
For many parents, Facebook and other social media is a quick way of announcing the birth. You may feel that this way of communicating carries the expectation to share lots of photos of your baby – and you may not want to do that.
What is important is that you do what feels right for you. This is your baby, and it is up to you when you announce the birth, how you do it and who you tell. You may decide to post a picture of your baby or perhaps do it later when you feel more prepared.
Friends and family may vary in the ways they respond to your baby’s appearance and with the level of support they offer.
Some will be caring, accepting and will give invaluable support to you and your baby.
You may find that others are more uncomfortable or don’t behave in the way that you hoped they would. Others may need a bit more time to adapt to the situation. This can be hard to deal with.
Many parents find it helpful to spend time with those who are able to offer more support and understanding to them.
Just because things feel difficult right now doesn’t mean it will always be this way. This can be a very difficult time, and it’s important to look after yourself as well as your baby and your family.
Most new parents do spend a period of time locked away from the world while they get to know their little one and get used to their new routine. No one expects you to be out and about the next day!
You might want to talk to other parents who have children with the same visible difference. Speak to the hospital or health visitor who should be able to connect you with other parents or a local support group.
You can also talk to us here at Changing Faces – we are here to listen to your concerns and support you. You might find it helpful to look at some of our self-care information which can highlight some strategies to help you to look after yourself.