Having your first baby is one of life’s biggest transitions, a time when you start to reflect on what kind of parent you want to be. For many there are feelings of excitement but also uncertainty, anxiousness and for some feelings of depression. Hatch Midwife, Lauren Williams, shares her advice for new mums looking for answers during this time.
The beginning of your pregnancy is filled with excitement. But it can also become an anxious time as many new mums worry about creating the perfect environment for their baby to grow healthy and strong. You will find yourself reflecting on your own upbringing and deciding which of your caregivers’ traits you will adopt, and which areas you may feel you want to approach differently. Relationships change with those around you, because you yourself are also changing as you transition from being parented to being someone’s parent. You may find yourself gravitating to your friends and family that have babies/children that previously you may had felt you didn’t have much in common or were avoiding especially if trying for a baby has been a long and stressful journey.
I say to them… have confidence in your body and your ability, and enjoy the anticipation of what lies ahead. Surround yourself with positive people, build your village and choose reputable websites, books or ask your care provider any questions/concerns you may have for this stage.
Often I see women as they enter the second trimester, worried after the symptoms of early pregnancy have disappeared, and they no longer feel ‘pregnant’, desperately waiting for those first flutters of movement to know the baby is still there. This is followed by feelings of relief, hearing the baby’s heart beat after it feels like such a long time since their last visit.
I say to them… have confidence; you are already a mum with a maternal instinct. You can see and feel your body changing and will soon have the ability to feel your baby’s movements (for most from 18-20 weeks). We are a phone call away if you need advice, but this is normal for this gestation.
Next comes the discussion around mode of birth. For most women their exposure so far has been through horrid movie scenes or birth stories of when things have not gone to plan. You find yourself reading or watching TV shows like ‘One born every minute’ to get a glimpse of what to expect. The anxiety sets in again as athere seems to be so many different birth outcomes experienced by women.
I say to them…have confidence in your instincts, your hormones and your ability to birth. What happened to one person cannot necessarily happen to you as you have a different shaped pelvis, with a different size baby, in a different position, with different genetics and medical history and your own mindset. Yes the birthing day is a pivotal moment in your life and one you will remember and discuss for years to come, but it is your journey. The majority of healthy mothers can give birth with minimal interventions, provided they have the appropriate amount of care, they feel they can cope and their baby is safe. How your baby arrives in your arms may not be how you imagine, or may be exactly the moment you dreamed it would be. Have confidence to ask questions if variations occur and trust that your care providers have yours and your baby’s best interests at heart.
You may decide for your own personal reasons that a vaginal birth is not the right choice for you, or based on your history a caesarean is deemed the safest option, as long as you feel informed on the pros and cons of this decision.
I say… be confident and let go of any emotional baggage you may attach to this decision. Birth is only the beginning – you get to be a mum for the rest of your life. We form our ideals about birth and parenting long before we start planning a pregnancy. There is no wrong way to welcome your new life into the world, and no two journeys are the same. The ultimate aim for all involved is for a healthy mother and baby. However how you feel about yourself and your birth forms lasting memories that has the power to transcend other life experiences whether positive or negative.
Your baby is hungry and you look down at your breasts contemplating how to make them work and if you are doing it right. You have determination and a desire to feed your baby, however your anxiety returns for another round as you worry about milk supply, pain and knowing if baby is getting enough. Added to this is the conflicting advice you receive in those delicate first few days with your newborn making you question your ability to ever master this skill.
I say… have confidence in your baby’s primitive instincts to find food- you’re a team. Don’t go into this with doubt, but be realistic that for some women this skill may take 3-4 weeks to master, seek support from your midwife, lactation consultant or child health nurse if you are finding breastfeeding difficult. Rather than setting a strict routine, follow your baby’s lead- you have birthed an individual, all babies have different temperaments…. Learn your baby’s feeding cues and be content that newborns feed for reasons other than hunger. Babies set how much milk you make, so best keep baby on the breast rather than start expressing in the early days (unless advised by a professional to do so).
Now the anticipation ends and reality sets in… for some new parents this transition is smooth and enormously satisfying. For many, anxieties creep back in, as the enormity of looking after a newborn requires a lot of patience, emotional commitment and a lot of energy, all whilst tired and at times not knowing what to do. If not acknowledged this can lead to negative feelings, loneliness and guilt.
I say to them… have confidence, nobody knows how to be parents until they become one. The first 3-4 weeks is like starting any new job. Everyone is nervous when learning a new set of skills. You will soon become the expert in your baby’s cues, but in the meantime try to remember baby’s do not manipulate, they do not have the mental capacity to know cause and effect for 4-5mths which means you cannot make bad habits. Don’t feel embarrassed or a sense of failure if you are not enjoying this time…. Instead find confidence to open-up and ask for help whether that be from your family, friends or engaging with a professional that can teach you strategies to manage unhelpful thinking patterns.
The newborn days are over in a blink, take this time to get to know each other, recovery from the birth by eating well and sleeping when the baby sleeps… the housework can wait, and remember babies survive first time parents! If you feel you need a little extra TLC or confidential support to discuss your worries, please speak with your care providers, or GP to make appropriate referrals.