After childbirth, one of the most common complaints the partner has is that his wife has changed. The change is more often a rude surprise rather than negative per se. A demure woman may have turned into an authoritative mother, an outgoing personality may have become a more settled and sober one. These aren’t bad qualities in a person. It’s just different from what one was used to. In this day and age where people think it’s their birth right to get life partners custom-made as per their choices, adapting to changes has become passé. Rather than embracing this newness in the next phase of our lives, we want to run for shelter in the familiarities of our past lives. To make this transition into parenthood easier for mothers and fathers, I would like to break down the processes happening in the minds and bodies of new mothers to shed light on their new personalities.

Sleep deprivation, fatigue and the physically taxing nature of the job of the mother leaves her with little patience and understanding for situations reeling out of control.

The hormonal fluctuations add to the temperament without a doubt and so does raging hunger. While these may make the mother snappy and irritable, there is a lot more happening in her brain at a physical level than meets the eye.

A woman has an overdose of touch sensation. On a physical level, a woman has to endure so many new sensations from a strained back to sore nipples to pain in the stitches. Her skin receptors are running on max capacity transmitting sensations to her fuzzy sleepy brain. The dulled mental capacity and overloaded sensory input makes her averse to any more physical touch, and more so, a sexually suggestive one. Your once sensual partner is now a perpetually annoyed person.

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She is also deprived of verbal communication. Life changes within a day on giving birth and the change is a drastic one at that. The mother’s social life is hit the hardest by the new arrival. We are at the peak of our experiences and have zero to negligible vent about our adventures or misfortunes that happen by the minute. Parenting is mind-numbing drudgery and a high intensity challenge all at the same time. Our main mode of communication changes from talking to an adult to interpreting a newborn.

While our senses are deprived of easy-to-understand verbal communication, we are also over stimulated by non-verbal cues from babies. Over a short period of time, in just a few days, a woman begins to master the fine art of interpreting her newborn’s cries, expressions and body language. At first, it is mind-boggling and terrorising. As the weeks roll by, the mother learns to adapt to and understand the needs of her little baby. What starts off as a frustrating, one-way communication, soon turns into longer eye contact and brief acknowledging smiles.

By the time the woman hits the six-week mark, she has tuned into the baby’s frequency and at a subconscious level finds it hard to communicate verbally alone.

This applies more to intimate relationships such as that with her partner. When he talks to her while he absent-mindedly scrolls through his Twitter feed, he will get an alarming snappy reaction from her for not giving her his undivided attention. And there are more feuds over Facebook in households after the child’s birth than you can guess. The woman now seeks validation and importance not through the mere physical presence of her husband but instead by meaningful eye contact and single-minded attention – just the way she communicates with her own baby.

Dr Farah Adam Mukadam

Dr Farah is a family physician based in Bangalore. She is the author of the bestseller Newborns and New Moms, an urban woman’s guide to life after childbirth.

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