Never in my wildest dreams did l think that my journey to motherhood was going to look like this. Saying to self ‘but you are a midwife and child and family health nurse’ (again). I can tell you it’s a lot different when you are the mother and they are your children. Of course the knowledge and experience has helped in a lot of ways but at times l know l set my expectations really high. Being a professional in the industry does not make me immune from the mummy guilt, self-doubt and fear of not being a good mum.
We all have those fears. If you said that you didn’t I’m not sure if I’d believe you but l would certainly revel in your positivity. They may be small fears or massive fears; maybe it’s the unknown that worries you. Is what I’m doing today going to make them a responsible likeable adult? Will they succeed in their chosen career? Will they be happy? What about if they get sick? What will they do if we die? Who will take care of them. I know that seems a bit morbid but these are true fears. I have them. Add anxiety and depression and these escalate 100 fold. Add limited supports, financial stressors and medical conditions just to name a few to the list and again this sky-rockets those fears into outer space.
Ok then, how can we prepare ourselves for parenthood? There are numerous ways which can decrease these anxieties somewhat. It’s such an individual experience and so many factors involved that you can never feel 100% prepared.
For parents who are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, educating yourselves about being healthy and what to expect is very important. There is information out there everywhere. Sometimes finding the right answer can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Where do you look? Dr Google? Hmmm be careful there is a lot of information out there that is not correct and totally misleading. It’s best to visit reputable websites for the best up to date evidence based information (some will be provided at the end of this post). It is also important to read up to date books by reputable authors (ones with credentials in the relevant field). If you are not sure who they are, google them and also look at their websites and reviews. Ask other people you know and talk with your midwife and doctor about what they recommend.
It is also valuable to talk to other mothers and their experiences of preparing for motherhood and their journey so far. They can be a source of valuable information but be careful. I love hearing stories from the mothers l come across and l have learnt many things that you cannot find in a text-book. Unfortunately we do tend to hear a lot of negative stories. Be mindful of what you take in. There are many amazing stories out there and especially ask them about what has helped them throughout their journey. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Talk to people you trust and seek guidance from those who you know are genuine.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
It is worth attending a Preparing for Parenting classes during pregnancy. The information provided is basic factual information to do with pregnancy and labour but unfortunately in my experience there is only a little focus on parenting (which lasts forever)! I have taught some preparing for parenthood classes and would have loved to spend more time on preparing parents for the journey once they get home with a new baby.
YOU ARE FINALLY THERE
Well you are there! Yippee! Your baby is finally here. This is one of the best days of your life… With that in mind some women unfortunately have traumatic birth experiences which can affect physical health, mental health and your journey as a parent. This day for me was very special. I still remember the physical and mental relief when he was out. Looking into those new fresh eyes that l had created was amazing. While that was happening, the post-partum haemorrhage l was experiencing was not. Pain, needles, drugs, stitches…. It was quite traumatic. I’m lucky l had great support and was able to debrief with the doctor and midwives over the coming days. It was not much fun walking for the next week.
If you do require extra support there is often a social worker available for you to talk things through. Debriefing with the midwives and / or doctors about your labour and birth is very helpful and can be healing if you have had a negative experience. It gives you a chance to ask questions and reflect on what just happened because it is like nothing you have experienced ever before (vaginal birth or caesarean birth, labour or no labour, spontaneous or induced).
What do you do next? Well hopefully you have utilised the amazing midwives while you were in hospital to add to your own parenting knowledge bank. Hopefully you are ready to take your little one home feeling a little less anxious but you can never be fully prepared. It is quite daunting having this little human being now that depends on you.
You have to love, feed, cuddle, change, comfort, walk, kiss, read, talk to and bath your baby (this list is far from exhaustive). It is lots of work. You also have to eat, sleep and look after yourself. Where do you fit it all in? Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise…
ADJUSTING TO MOTHERHOOD
Ok so you are at home now. Baby is crying, milk is leaking, partner has gone AWOL. You feel like crying and huddling in a corner somewhere just to have some quietness and shut your eyes for 5 minutes. Sound familiar? It’s not all roses and tears of happiness. Of course you are over the moon, but you have just given birth and your vagina feels like its suffering from burnout, or if you have had a caesarean your tummy feels like you’ve been punched by Mike Tyson a thousand times. Your boobs feel like hard balloons about to burst if you don’t feed your baby soon. Oh and don’t forget you need toothpicks to keep your eyes open. Even if you decide to formula feed your poor boobs still go through the pain of having your ‘milk come in”.
What can make this amazing time of your life just that bit easier?
- Having knowledge about the post-natal journey when you are pregnant (even pre-pregnancy) is very valuable. This includes the general physical information but also how you are going to feel emotionally and what can help.
- Remembering that you will be ok and that no parent is perfect
- Using your supports. If they are limited, engage with your local Child and Family Health centre where you can join up to a new parents group. Some mothers make lifelong friends in these groups.
- Talk to others about how you are feeling. If you have limited sources of emotional support, seek guidance from your local doctor and then you can plan towards some type of counselling to support you.
- Positive affirmations. Make some affirmations that you can say to yourself everyday e.g. “I am doing the best l can”, “I am going to get through today”.
- Playgroups can be a great way to meet other mothers or exercise classes for mothers and babies. There are also music, dance and gym groups.
- It can be awkward for some, but talk to the mother in the change room at the shopping centre. She may be feeling just like you are and you may make her day by talking to her. She may make your day by talking to you.
- Don’t expect too much from yourself. This is all new and it is normal to be unsure of yourself. Confidence comes with time and practice.
- If you are feeling teary and not enjoying parenting please speak to someone as you may have post-natal depression. Early identification and treatment is very beneficial in your recovery. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help.
- If you are unsure if your baby should be seen by a doctor because you feel they are unwell, go see them. Don’t worry if you think that it may be nothing and a waste of time. It could be something and if you go to the doctor and they reassure you that all is well, great! You will feel much better.
- Ignore people who do not support you or tell you things that you don’t want to hear or upset you. You have people out there who have your back.
- Take time out. You need to recharge too.
- Look after and nurture your relationships. Talk with your partner and share your ideas, problems, strategies and comfort one another as you do not get much time together these days.
Some useful websites for further information on adjustment to parenting are: