“Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs on earth and also one of the most challenging. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the fantasy of what you thought motherhood would be like with reality. Take care of yourself.” Debra Gilbert Rosenberg
Motherhood is a journey; for no two women is this journey the same. When I was pregnant with my first child, my own sister wisely told me “no-one gets it easy.” Everyone has a challenge at some point – whether it be conceiving, pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding. Certainly in my own experience she was right. As women, we are born with an innate desire to nurture and create our own family. We fantasise about an easy conception and pregnancy and that “perfect” baby who will feed, settle and sleep but often the reality of motherhood results in a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience.
During pregnancy, it is so important for a woman to allow herself the time to prepare both mentally and physically for motherhood. This will be different for everyone but may involve a holistic birth preparation course such as Calmbirth, leaving work with enough time to rest and keep up some gentle exercise and spend time talking to your partner about how they can be involved on a practical level when the baby is born.
In our society, new mothers want to be perceived as coping with whatever challenges they may be facing. This is often made worse by what I call the “motherhood myth” – the myth that the woman in your mothers’ group / family / social circle has the perfect baby. Women need to feel more comfortable sharing their stories about motherhood – both the good and the bad – so that we can provide each other with emotional support. Find your “person” – maybe a friend who has had a baby at the same time – somebody who will allow you to be honest about your challenges in adjusting to life as a new mum. As women, we all feel better when we can talk about whatever is going on.
One way to break this myth is to encourage new mums to feel comfortable to say yes to help or support offered by family and friends. Being at home with a baby can be isolating and exhausting – take ‘baby steps’ to allow yourself a break by accepting an offer for somebody to come over to fold your washing, drop off dinner or look after your baby even just for half an hour to allow you the mental space to go out for a walk alone in the sunshine.
The arrival of a child results in a huge shift in the dynamic of every relationship. It is really important, as a couple, to acknowledge this. Men want to be able to help – it is innately important to them to be able to “fix things” – but so often they just don’t know how. Talk to your partner about what you need and how they can help on a practical level – bathing the baby, ensuring you get that quiet half hour to yourself while they take the baby for a walk.
Most importance, remember that motherhood means a huge shift in a woman’s identity which impacts self-esteem. I really believe that creating time to be kind to yourself in whatever way you need makes such a difference.
Lucy Kemp – Counsellor/ Graduate Diploma in Counselling (ACAP)
Specialising in Infertility, Pregnancy Loss, Adjusting to Motherhood and Pre/Post natal Anxiety and Trauma
Lucy Kemp is a mother to two young boys. She is an experienced counsellor who is passionate about providing specialised therapeutic support to women who are experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss as well as the myriad of emotional challenges that can arise both before, during and after pregnancy.