We often hear that when a baby is born a mother is born right alongside. This concept is important for a number of reasons. It acknowledges that while babies are all individuals, they do not exist on their own, they need a carer, a mother, a parent. When we look at the health, growth, and development of a baby we must view this baby as part of a duo, most often a mother and baby. The analogy of a mother being born also allows us to acknowledge that as mothers we grow into our motherhood. And in fact we must allow ourselves to grow into our motherhood. No baby is born mature, able to regulate their own emotions, articulate their needs and generally function independently. There is, however, often an expectation that when we have a baby instinctively, naturally everything clicks into place. An expectation that we know what our baby needs and we are so in love with our new role in life that all the sleepless nights, exhausting days and sudden shift in our lives is inconsequential. This notion is not only completely unrealistic, it also sets mums up for feelings of guilt, inadequacy and wondering if they are alone in feeling overwhelmed and uncertain.
Just as babies need to be nurtured, supported and loved into their new life outside the womb, mums need the same nurturing environment to be able to find their way. Just as we know babies are born with their own temperament, likes and dislikes, we also know that we as mothers need to be supported to find our own way of mothering, a way that is unique to us and our baby.
The expectation that there is one right way to care for a mother to care for her baby, that there is one pattern, one set of rules and one set of values that all “good mothers” adhere to does not take into account the fact that a mother and baby are two individuals, two deeply connected individuals.
Just as we understand that a baby often needs the “fourth trimester”, the first 3 months of life, to be more settled earthside, so too do mothers need the space to settle into the new, and overwhelming role of mother.
This transition to motherhood requires space and curiosity about what kind of mother you want to be. What is really important to you? What are your core values? What are the core values of the family that will support you? Who will be your greatest supports? What experiences of being parented most impact on how you want to parent your child? Do you have experiences from your family of origin that have created deep set beliefs about who you are and your role as a mum?
Having a baby literally opens you up. For nine months you have shared your physical body with another and for the rest of your life parts of your heart will walk around in the world outside of you. This experience is one that will fundamentally alter who you are, that is simply the nature of becoming a mother. Being curious and asking yourself the core questions can help shape your experience of motherhood to be one where you can show up fully and authentically for your baby and for yourself.
Child and Family Health Nurse