I've been a mother five months and I'm strangely confident. Maybe it's not so strange. Perhaps I'm hard wired for it. In my extensive experience thus far I have learned how important confidence really is for a new momma. There is no shame in it. Here are my notes on why it is ok to be a confident new mom.
Everyone expects you to have a new mum meltdown. Doubtless you will. Mine was provoked by a barrage of well meaning encouragement to give baby a dummy. In retrospect it seems ridiculous, but at the time it was earth shatteringly important. It was like I was locked in a battle. A battle to defend my dummy-less stance. A battle I did not need but must fight anyway. It culminated in my husband removing the phone from me as I rather strongly informed my mum-in-law that I would not be taking her advice for the umpteenth time that day. There was to be no dummy I wailed. I didn't feel that confident, but I was. I won my imaginary battle and with it I staked my rightful place as the solo purveyor of what does and does not go in baba's mouth. Meltdowns are necessary. They show you the way. Endure them and move on stronger.
These days confidence can be backed up with numerous google searches that support / help / assist each days new parenting quandary. Though if you aren't careful this can go terribly wrong for you. You could read across the spectrum of parenting styles and come out none the wiser. I say stick to reading what suits you. Be confident about how your heart wants to raise your child. If you are keen on attachment parenting don't go reading info on Ferberising your child to sleep and vice versa. Find websites that support your momma styles and stick to them.
You don't need to explain / excuse / elaborate your choices to anyone. I have spent much time doing all three..."yeah she slept in my bed, but it was because..." Be ok with your choices. I have opted to co-sleep. But for months I was in denial about this. Always full of reasons why it had happened each night. As if it were an accident. But it's no accident. Not now. It works for us. It's nobody's business. And so when folks ask me about my nights sleep I no longer feel a need to present them with a full round up of events. Now I just say that our sleep is getting better... Because it is. And the 'whys and what's' of that don't matter.
Just because people have advice that is different from what is in your heart does not make them right. You and your baby are in a unique relationship and it is ok for you to do what you feel is right. Just because you never had a child before does not make you wrong. It's ok to intuitively know what to do. It's ok to experiment. It's ok to get it wrong sometimes. No one is judging you. Well... Actually they probably are, but don't let that quell your confidence. Let them judge and still allow yourself to know best. Allow yourself to have the final say.
Being a confident mother, is, in my extensive five month experience vital. And if you don't feel confident, fake it till you make it! It's taken me five months to recognise it's fine to be confident. I don't need to simper to anyone's opinion, advice or their experiences. This is my experience and I'd forever regret it if I did not own it. So take charge. Be confident. You are the maestro of baby's life, play on...
I recently gave birth to my first little baby. Prior to this I had written for The Huffington Post UK about the possibilities of a pain free, empowering natural birth. I questioned whether a painful birth was all in the mind. I set my stall out with full positive intention as to how my baby would come into the world. I didn't doubt for a second that it would be as I envisioned it. I foresaw a peaceful, painless, chemical free birth, proceeded by a bouncing happy little girl. I got only one of those things.
How naive of me! I was so focused on the birth of my fantasies I didn't plan or prepare for any other option. This is where me and the power of positive thinking fall apart. I am relentlessly positive, but in my experience this does not always bring about our minds desires. Sometimes the cosmos has its own plans, for it's own reasons and to which we must adjust. No matter how strongly I visualised a drug free water birth of great beauty, I was, it seems, always destined to have a whole other kind of birth. No matter how much I fought with the health services whilst I was In their care for a week, their protocols were always meant to prevail.
So what was my plan and what was the actuality? I planned to hypnobirth baby calmly and painlessly into the world. It was my intention to wait till baby was ready, even if this meant going over 42 weeks of pregnancy. It was going to be all deep breathing, aromatherapy and blissful background music. But an attendance at the local hospital for a routine check up saw this plan shot to smithereens.
First up they wanted to forcefully induce baby. I refused when I learned I had started to dilate. I went home and sat waiting for labour to commence. I went back to hospital the next day for another routine monitoring. I expected to be there an hour. I didn't get out for four days. There was a concern with baby's heartbeat, I was given a scary talk by a doctor and I started the process of becoming drawn into the medical world of birthing. The rights and wrongs of this are all now just a blur. I know I felt caught between my hippy desires to just let baby be, and the modern mentality of relying on what the graph says. As a diplomatic Libran I spent several days trying to balance these accounts, to no avail. In the end the establishment won out.
My natural birthing was transformed into a litany of chemical induction techniques. None of which worked. The final attempt saw me hooked up to machinery, a drip in my arm with a dial being turned up to create my contractions and force my body into pushing baby out. Nothing natural about it. I couldn't even stand, change position or move around. I was catheterised, injected, poked and prodded often. I took to all this as I do anything, cheerfully. Every event is a new adventure even if the voyage is by tank rather than by foot.
As the chemicals stormed my body I attempted to utilise my natural birthing learnings. I coped nicely for several hours on meditations and mantras, but then the chemical dial was switched up and the pain it brought was astounding. Bye bye any aspects of breathing the baby out, hello vile gas and air followed by epidural, followed much later by episiotomy and forceps delivery.
And so my natural birth was made chemical, forceful, medical and surgical. The most important question here though is... Am I bothered? Well if you'd told me in advance this was how things might go, then I would have thought I'd be devastated. But in reality I'm happy. The birth was not how I planned, but my baby came out perfect. Despite being dragged into the world with great metal spoons she was alert, happy and did not cry all day long, not even following her "traumatic" birth. Maybe she knew some thing I didn't... Maybe she was cool with it. And if she is cool with it, so am I.
Indeed I've now had a birth people can relate to, which as a writer is all I could ask for. Whilst it would have been lovely to sit and squat whilst humming mantras and envisioning my lady bits opening like a flower, it wasn't the way things went. Such a birth, as romantic as it sounds, is out of reach for the vast majority of people, and so to make the most of what we do get, is an equally powerful way of birthing.
My natural birth education had told me to be wary of the medical brigade, and I had been. I started off the week convinced I was being dragged into some kind of medical conspiracy to drug me and remove my baby by force. Now this did happen, but was it a conspiracy? Or was it simply a bunch of professionals acting to their protocols? I had not liked being subjected to procedure, but who is to say that I did not need to be? Given my babies stubbornness to launch into the world, perhaps I did. I've learned since that my mum and grandma's children were all delivered by forceps. Our families women carry well, but apparently we need a little help at the end... No shame in that.
In spite of my reservations about the medical model I learned too that it is staffed by lovely people. They are far from wishing to harm me or anyone. A medical birth challenged my jaded view and the midwives came up smelling of roses. A natural birthing in a darkened room would have missed out on their cheery smiles, helpful advice and heartfelt encouragement.
I have read many women's tales of guilt and woe at not having their picture perfect birth. Even years after birth some gals torture themselves on how it all went wrong and the apparent disservice they did their child. But the thing is, we are a medically altered peoples living in unnatural times. I could mourn the loss of my ideal birth, but then I may as well grieve the fact I am writing this on a computer as opposed to using chalk and blood on my cave wall.
Things did not go to plan but I had an amazing birth. It was gritty, drawn out, painful and emotional. It was hardwork and it tested myself and my husband far beyond what we ever expected. There was a great deal of blood and tears and everything, literally everything I planned went out the window. Yet it was perfect. It was how it should of been. I'm so happy it happened as it did and I know all i can do is respect life's greater plan. Perhaps what my soul and spirit really wanted was not the lightness of a pretty birth but the challenge of something real, something fleshy, messy and hardcore.
A perfect childbirth is all in the mind. Relinquishing control and letting life be as it inevitably will be is an act of powerful contrition. My childbirth has been a life lesson. We may think we know what we want, we can plan and wish and cosmically order it. But if it's not right for us, life intervenes. We can choose to rail against that intervention, or we can accept it, thank it and be at peace. I choose to be at peace. I have a beautiful healthy baby, and any injury to myself was well worth that outcome. A perfect birth, like a perfect anything in life... Is all in the mind.
Before you have a baby everyone has a story to share or a warning to give. You take it all in, some of it you disregard convinced it will be different for you. Other stuff, no one tells you, and perhaps it's best that way. Alot of the stuff about early momma-hood has a negative slant to it, focusing on how tiring and stressful it all is. However, I am currently feeling empowered on the momma train and so I want to share the stuff that has made me feel good. Feel free to log it in your brain or let it sieve through to nothingness. But for what it's worth, here are my momma empowerment notes.....
1) The love. You know that love everyone tells you about when you meet your child... Imagine how it might feel then times it by, like a billion. I remember being earth shatteringly exhausted, up at 3am having just brought home my little girl. I didn't have a clue what I was doing and did I mention I was tired? In spite of all this I sat there singing her a lullaby and as I did so, I was sobbing with pure unmitigated joy. I held an angel in my arms and I'd never, ever been happier or more in love. It comes in waves, it gets stronger, it's world altering. It makes you think differently about life, about people. The love is quite simply cosmic.
2) The physical stuff after birth is a shock to the system. I had no idea quite what I would have to deal with. It's painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing occasionally. It ain't sexy and most of it is unavoidable. But guess what... it doesn't really matter. It goes away, I got better and I can hold my head high knowing that at this physical low, I continued to be the best mom I possibly could. I visited a whole new level of exhaustion and got through it, maybe even kicked its ass. Stitches and sore bits are nothing in the big scheme of my whole new life.
3) I did spend some time stressing beyond belief about what I am doing right or wrong. I read all the books and gave myself a complex about routines, plans, baby discipline or otherwise. I made a chart and some notes too, this didn't help. Inevitably I was in a muddle. I freed myself from this when I decided to do what I wanted to do, what felt right for me. Since I decided to follow my intuition everything is easier. Baby and I are happier and we got some good stuff going on that we figured out on our own.
4) I realised that I know baby best. I am the momma. I am the sun and moon to my little one. What Ethel up the street thinks is irrelevant. And so what if someone has raised more kiddies than me, who says they got it right? Plus they never raised my kid and they never were me. I will make my own mistakes and own them, thank you very much. Since I empowered myself to this I am Wondermum... Well in my head I am and that confidence counts for everything.
5) I have entered the Mommy club, a previously closed circle that I neither knew or cared about particularly. It is however a fabulous little clique. People I don't know well go out of their way to talk to me and it's lovely, I'm making new friends. So far in my experience the club is kind, understanding and helpful. We don't just talk dirty bums either, some grown up chatter ekes in too. A whole new side to women has opened up. It's peculiar and unexpected but as a card carrying member I conclude that it is wonderful.
There is a Daddy club too, and as a Mummy I get a glimpse into that. I see how affected the fellas are by their little ones. Men ain't 'all the same'... some of them are wonderful Daddy's!
6) When you have a child in your arms you see the softer side of everyone. I just spent the weekend at a festival and everyone was utterly gorgeous to me and my little one. Much like a cute puppy, babies bring out everyone's mushy side. Again the world has shifted and I have a little glimpse of the best of humanity.
7) I have realised that everyone was once a baby like mine and therefore everyone is deserving of the love I feel for my kiddy. With mommy tinted glasses I understand why Mothers support their murderous children to the hilt and blindly defend the guilty. I see the purity of my child's soul. It's a beautiful thing.
8) There is no time to worry. All of my silly concerns have dropped aside. Baby is more important. If it ain't already happened then no thought energy is given to it. As a result I'm far more relaxed and calm. Patience has become my new ally too. I've always struggled with this. But being patient is necessary for sanity when waiting for baby to fall asleep when there are a million other things I need to be doing.
9) Knowing that it won't last forever helps me to live truly in the moment. On the days when it gets tough it's empowering to remember that my child will change so quickly. So the vomit, the shit on clothes and drool in hair becomes so much more bearable, it's all just a tiny part of a much bigger picture. I have learned to chill and reassess. This will all pass too quickly. Living in the moment is generally a hard thing to do, but now it's easy, it's essential. My child had brought me to a standstill where the minutiae is all that matters. I've never felt more here and now.
10) Every day is an adventure. I may wake up feeling exhausted, perhaps reluctant to throw myself into the now overly familiar melee of nappies and feeding etc. But then my baby does something amazing, like smiling, and my heart soars. Those first smiles are killer. They keep me going. They are my food, my air, my existence.
Alice's powerful everyday spiritual thinkings! See topics below or browse through for life changing inspiration!