I always get frustrated that as soon as you are pregnant, people instantly offer up their (unrequested) birth stories, telling you everything that went wrong, how awful it is and how you should listen to the doctors and do everything they say. I feel it is a disservice to childbirth and the incredible experience it can be. The Positive Birth Movement is doing amazing work to change this, with people hosting Positive Birth meetings all over the UK where people can share their positive birth stories and encourage other pregnant women that birth can be natural, instinctual and dare I say it – enjoyable.
More recently I am discovering the disservice we are doing to new motherhood, in the opposite way. People always talk about the “terrible twos”, how you won’t sleep again until they’re 10 and how you won’t have any spare cash for the next 20 years. Yet the images we are shown of new motherhood, are of women holding a blissful newborn, asleep in their arms, of two adults – now a family of three, of a toddler gently meeting their new brother or sister. These scenarios aren’t lies, they aren’t false, they do happen – but they are not the full picture.
The disservice we do to new motherhood is not acknowledging that it can incredibly tough, and that doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. Great steps have been taken to raise awareness of postpartum mental health, but even before you step into the realms of postpartum depression, those first few weeks can be remarkably stressful. Your baby cannot even begin to distinguish between night and day until around 6 weeks, so although they may sleep around 21 hours a day, those 3 awakened hours will occur throughout the night and day. In those first few weeks, as you are learning your baby’s signs and cues, there may be times when it doesn’t seem like anything will comfort them.
It will get better. It’s a gigantic learning curve for both you and your baby adjusting to this new dynamic. Be kind to yourself. In today’s society, we’re encouraged to just put on a front and carry on, but I would encourage you to build yourself a support network of friends and family – those loved ones who accept you in your PJs at 3pm, who are happy to give you a hand with the dishes, hold the baby while you shower, or make you a meal. If you are able, consider hiring a postnatal Doula who will gladly do all of these things for you.
In those last few months of pregnancy, read about The Fourth Trimester and having a Babymoon period – recharging yourself emotionally and physically, and bonding with your newborn. The Wonder Weeks is a great encouragement for when you feel like you’ve got everything on track and then suddenly you’re up all night again for no apparent reason – developmental leaps for your baby can sometimes upset routines that they may have settled into.
When they said it takes a village to raise a child, they were right – reach out and find your tribe <3.