Kathryn November 8th, 2012
You know, before you’re a mother you may hear people say ‘Motherhood is hard!’…. and you get that, but you really have no idea what that means until you fast forward to the time you’re in the drivers seat!
Suddenly those words contain so much more than you could have ever previously imagined! I mean, let’s face it, especially the first time round, you never really know if what you’re doing is right! There’s a lot of guessing, elimination and gut instincts that go into those early weeks, months and years, and it is for that reason that I urge all mothers, and new mothers especially, to be kind to themselves, and to be flexible in their plans!
… handprints on my heart…
When I was pregnant with my first child, my midwife would say ‘Think about your birth plan, and make some notes’ …. I would go home and say to Dallin ‘How am I meant to make a birth plan!? I’ve never been through child birth before! I don’t know what it feels like, or how I’m going to cope… what am I meant to say? what sort of a plan should I have!?’
And so, in preparing for my first child the only thing I had set in my mind was ‘I want to try not to have an epidural’ …. See, I wasn’t even prepared to make a definite ‘I WILL NOT have an epidural’
Now, over 3 years later (and with 2 children!) I’m still convinced that for my first child, that was the best thing for me to say! The second was a whole other story, you see, by then I’d had the experience once, kinda knew what I was in for and so I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted in my labour, and how to achieve it.
The main reason that I feel it was the best ‘plan’ for me is because I’m not a person to make absolute statements about things I know nothing about! If I had been completely determined to NOT have an epidural, and then changed my mind, would I have felt like I had failed? If I had made my plans for a perfect natural delivery, and ended up having a caesarian, would I have somehow felt weak?
Somewhere in recent times, among some circles, there seems to have developed an attitude, or at least a feeling, that having a drug-free, natural birth is the be all and end all of motherhood, and that child birth is a defining factor in what kind of a mother you become, and that anything else is weak…. all I can say is that it is NOT true! I know many mums, mums who have had caesarians, epidurals, drug free births, home births, water births, kitchen floor births…. and they are all amazing mothers who I am proud to know! Please don’t let pure pride take the place of the advice of competent medical professionals and the peace of your own heart!
But this advice extends far beyond child birth….
When we find out we’re pregnant, and often long before that, we start thinking about what sort of a mother we want to be, and start making decisions in regards to things like –
Breast feeding – yes or no? Dummy – yes or no? Do I Self-settle or rock my baby? Feed and sleep on a routine or on demand? Will I co-sleep or have baby in their own bed? In my room or their own room? Baby wearing or not? Child care or not? … the list goes on, and the pressure increases along with the desire to be the ‘perfect’ Mum.
As we consider each of these things we come up with ideals, and with certain expectations of the way things will work, creating for ourselves along the way, expectations of what motherhood will be like and the type of mothers we will be. Looking back now, it was at times wonderful to dream about motherhood, blissfully unaware of the reality that awaited me!
When your child is born, and your life at home together begins, reality starts to set in and you soon start to realise that not all of your ideals and expectations are going to be realised right away, and maybe not at all. The challenges are different for all of us, for some it may be a fussy baby who makes it hard to get a good routine in place, for others it will be a baby with reflux who screams in pain when they’re laid down and so can’t self-settle. It could be that a dummy is the only way to settle a baby when we had hoped to go dummy free or in my case, I found that although I thought I would be the Mum to want our baby in our room forever, I found that after a few of weeks I wanted my baby in his own room and I felt like a horrible mother because of it!
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have these ideals and plans for your children, you SHOULD, they are valuable to you now and will be a reference point when you don’t know what else to do. But, please remember that these ideals are exactly that! They’re ideals, they’re something to work toward and not something that has to happen straight away….sometimes we won’t be able to maintain them and that is ok, it’s even normal, and dare I even say that it’s healthy.
As you’re going along and you find yourself getting stressed and upset about different things, please just ask yourself ‘Is this worth it?’ Sometimes the answer will be yes and others it will be no, and those answers will be different for everyone!
If you want your baby to sleep in your room or bed, but you can’t sleep with them there – then is it worth it?
If breastfeeding is unbearably painful and you get stressed and cry at even the thought of it – then is it worth it?
If you don’t want to use a dummy but your baby is a thumb sucker – then is it worth it?
You will quickly discover the things that are most important to you and you will decide what things are worth the stress and persistence, and what things aren’t…. and some things aren’t important when they’re 6 weeks old, but will be important when they’re 6 months old.
Just remember that if you don’t reach all your ideals, especially with your first, it’s ok! Be kind to yourself, and do things that help you as well as them! In the end, I think we all do things for the same reason – because we love our children! I have taught my children to self-settle from an early age because I believe it helps them sleep better which makes them happier, more content babies… and when they sleep well, I sleep well, and when I sleep well I’m a happier and better Mum to my children… I don’t cope well on little sleep, and lets face it, for me, showing love to and spending time with my children is much easier when I’m not tired and cranky! Others choose to show their love by not letting their children cry at sleep time, and rocking/cuddling them to sleep, and that’s wonderful, and yet others want to have their children self-settle from birth, but find instead that it’s harder than they thought, or their baby is particularly unsettled and so decide to wait until they’re a little older!
You need to do what works for you and helps you be the best mum you can be, there are very few rights (such as feeding your children) and wrongs (like starving your children) in the realm of motherhood, there are mostly just ideals (a baby who sleeps 12 hours a night at 12 weeks old) and opinions (such as the vaccinate or don’t vaccinate debate). Take what you will, leave what you won’t and live a happy, full life with your family knowing that you’re making the choices that you feel are best for your family…. in the end, that’s what counts!