Having your first baby is one of life’s biggest transitions, fraught with uncertainty and anxiousness. It’s a time when many start to reflect on what kind of parent they want to be. Eve 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’s also a time of anxiety, 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.
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 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 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 there 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 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 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, as long as you feel informed on the pros and cons of this decision or based on your history it is deemed the safest option.
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.
Your baby is hungry and you look down at your breasts contemplating how to make them work and if you are doing it right.
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 this difficult. Rather than setting a routine you have read, follow your baby’s lead- you are having an individual. Learn your baby’s feeding cues and know 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 (unless advised by 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.
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 and familiarising themselves with their new role description. Your baby, although relies heavily on you to survive, has been equipped with primitive reflexes and instincts to help you bond, find food and help explain what he/she needs. The first month should be spent hibernating, getting to know your baby and their cues. Stay in the moment, and respond with what your maternal instinct is telling you. Know each day is a clean slate and if baby is fed and asleep at the end of the day, today is a good day!
The first five years of a baby’s life is when the brain develops the fastest, and positive relationships affect all areas and stages of development. You and other family members are the most important relationships to lay the foundations for a healthy development.
Therefore, I say… have confidence you are doing a good job, and to ask for help if needed from family and friends. That old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is oh so true. Social support is incredibly important. Marvel in the joys this little life brings to you and so many of your loved ones.
This post was written by Lauren Williams, Eve Health’s Midwife.