I often hear that from the second you fall pregnant well meaning friends and family are offering you all sorts of advice; good, bad, helpful, upsetting, condecending and sometimes just plain weird.
I must have had a big sign on my head that said “don’t talk to me about this baby” because very few people offered me any sort of advice. I had a lovely boss, we shared an office, he would always make sure I had the comfortable chair, there was cold water in the fridge, I only had to write an appointment with my OB up on the white board and I had the day off, it was a great environment to work in. He would often talk about the things his 3 year old son was up to and would add at the end, “it’s all ahead of you, so much to look forward to.” And nothing he said was negative, it was about his son’s favourite book or song or what they got up to on the weekend. I was blessed, there were no horror stories about colicky newborns or tantruming toddlers, just a dad who loved his son and wanted to tell the world.
Then I went on maternity leave. My friend had a big baby, she said she’d begged for drugs but they wouldn’t give them to her, she said she’d screamed that the baby was stuck, but they wouldn’t listen until after hours of pushing it was apparent the baby was stuck. She got an infection from the hospital.
I was scared witless. And that fear carried over into my daughter’s birth. I was scared I couldn’t cope with the migraine any longer (after 2 weeks of vommiting and blurry vision) so I opted for an induction at 39+5. I was scared I couldn’t cope with the contractions anymore so I opted for an epidural after just 4 hours. And then after her birth I was scared that her unsettled crying was due to my poor milk supply so I opted for formula the moment it was suggested at her 2 week check up.
Now I look back at the day she was born as one of the best of my life. But I can see room for improvement.
As mothers we are constantly under pressure. Pressure from ourselves, pressure from our partners, our parents, our in laws, our extended families, our friends, our doctors. Is she feeding well? Does she always cry this much? Why isn’t she sleeping through already? Keep doing that and you’ll spoil her rotten.
I was incredibly blessed with the mothers group I found myself in after my daughters birth. They were kind, loving, accepting women who supported me in every decision I made. I was sad to leave them behind when we moved.
It is a shame they aren’t all like that.
We are our own harshest critics. Mothers don’t need anymore criticism of their parenting choices. We’re the first to say that we failed, that we get it right or that we should have done better. What we need are people who support us, acknowledge that we’re doing our very best but also don’t sugar coat the facts.
For example someone once told me that “well I formula fed my baby and he’s totally fine so I reckon it’s just as good, your baby will be fine too.” I found it so dismissive. Someone else said to me, “I’m sorry you weren’t supported in breastfeeding your daughter but you did the best you could.”
This article came up on my news feed this morning. It annoyed me. It reinforces the idea that if you’re struggling with breastfeeding just give it up, don’t look for support or for help, besides font you want dad and grandma to bond with baby too?
Dad and grandma can bond with baby by bathing, cuddling, talking to, and settling baby. Feeding isn’t the only way.
Perhaps if there wasn’t as much pressure to keep the house clean, the husband happy and the baby constantly content breastfeeding wouldn’t be a big deal. If we valued that precious newborn time and weren’t forcing women to get back to it quick smart. If we valued the role of the stay at home mum.
The expectations need to go. We’ll get back to the tidy house one day, our relationship will survive as long as both parties understand the changes that happen when a baby comes along and normal newborn behaviour is recognized, a fussy day doesn’t mean bad milk.
And people kept their horror stories to themselves!
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