I facilitated a parent craft class last week and what hit home the most was a comment from one Mum to be. She was most worried about making ‘the wrong choices’ in labour and following birth. My heart went out to her but I know hand on heart that she isn’t alone in this feeling.
The pressures of becoming a parent are incredibly high. From the moment you are in a relationship there is already a ticking clock telling you that you should be getting on and starting a family. Whether it is a new or long term relationship almost all of us will raise the subject of children and families at some stage. How many times have I myself been asked over the years about when I am I starting a family; when are my ovaries going to start making me feel maternal; When am I going to make our parents grandparents and sisters and brothers aunties and uncles to be. Long before motherhood and fatherhood begins we already have millions of eyes upon us.
So when you decide to start a family; either long before the first positive two blue lines or after those two blue lines appear suddenly the worries and the anxieties start.
‘What if things don’t go straightforward?’
‘What if all the pregnancy symptoms make me feel rubbish?’
‘What am I going to do about work?’
‘How am I going to tell the family?’
‘How am I going to get through childbirth?’
‘What if I’m not going to be a good parent?’
These are all completely normal feelings to have. And I have never met any woman in my time that hasn’t had even the slightest anxieties surrounding childbirth and parenting. It’s almost as though the moment your motherhood hormones start: The worries and anxieties follow. I’m sure it’s nature’s way of saying this is what you have to look forward to for the rest of your life to ensure your child is always safe, secure and loved.
Our biggest problems in today’s society: The internet and the media. Pick up any newspaper and you can almost guarantee there is a big scare story surrounding childbirth. Look at any advert and there is the perfect Mummy doing it all, being it all and looking like she spends most of her time on a treadmill and eating nothing. Type into google anything related to your pregnancy and you can guarantee you will find the worst case scenario for everything. It provides more anxieties and unrealistic expectations for us all.
Forty years ago we were expected to rest following birth for 5-10 days to recover and mostly be full time housewives or only work part time at the very most with family surrounding us. Now we are expected to be back in our size six jeans, run a pristine household, keep our partners happy and return to work as soon as maternity leave is over. All with a smile on our faces and without being open and honest about how hard those sleepless nights are. Or without feeling guilty for occasionally wanting to change our minds and turn back time to a time where it didn’t take two hours to leave the house or where we actually arrived on time to social events.
But Knowledge can be power. You just have to be selective and take with a pinch of salt the things that don’t relate to you or don’t fit your lifestyle. And there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ in life. We all make decisions on a daily basis that suit us best. Sometimes when there is traffic on the roads we take a shortcut through housing estates to arrive on time to work. That doesn’t mean to say that is ‘wrong’ it’s just that on that particular day route B was quicker and easier than route A. None of us drive or walk a straight path in life and it is absolutely fine to say I’d like to veer off onto another path once in a while. Or that we’ve changed our minds because another road suits us best.
The same goes for childbirth and Parenting. You can change your mind. You can plan for an epidural and come in the advanced stages of labour and decide that you are coping so well that you no longer want it. Alternatively you can come in wanting no pain relief at all and because you are so tired from this little life kicking you at 3am every morning that actually an epidural would suit you best. You can decide that you are going to give your baby pureed foods when you start introducing solid foods but then your baby has other ideas and picks the softened carrots from your plate and eats it. There are no right or wrongs. You’ve just got to make the best decisions for you and your family each and every day. And say to yourself that path D suited us way better than A, B or C on this particular day and this has made our family happier as a result.