As mums you’ll all be aware that sometimes …. actually, realistically A LOT of the time we’re judged about the choices we make. To be fair, I doubt that there’s anyone who could, hand on heart, say that they themselves have never judged (even a teeny, tiny bit?) other mums for the choices they make, right?
And this judging and being judged (as a mother) begins when we are pregnant. Suddenly it’s as if everyone …. your friends, family, work colleagues, strangers on the street have a god-given right to question and give their opinion on what you’re eating, drinking, if and how you exercise, will you take all the scans offered? Will you pay for extra ones? 3D ones? Will you find out the sex of your baby before it’s born? Where you’re planning on having your baby, what you wear whilst pregnant, whether you’re still having regular sex … whether or not that’s ok, if you’ll go back to work immediately, after a year, not at all, whether or not your partner will take shared parental leave, what you’ll call your baby, how you’ll feed it, will you use a dummy? …. Co sleep? Attachment parenting, or Gina Ford?
Not all of the people asking you questions, making suggestions etc. are doing so in a judgy or ill-informed way, many of them will be doing so because they care about you and your baby either because they are your loved ones or it’s their job to do so – midwives for example.
So, first of all, worth separating out the people you do really need to engage with to get information and those like, maybe, Aunty Sue who last had a baby 30-odd years ago but knows EVERYTHING about pregnancy, birth and babies because she’s “ Errr, given birth to and raised three kids and they’re all ok” …. Whatever Aunty Sue’s or your best mate’s experience was, it’s not yours. Whatever you hear about their birth experience, it’s just a snap shot, you’re rarely privy to the whole picture. When we hear other people’s experiences we can hear facts that may be taken out of context and we also tend to take on that experience as our own …. ‘that could happen to me …. Imagine if that happened to me’.
When a woman becomes pregnant there’s an element of her immediately being treated as high risk until proven otherwise… she’s signed up for scans, tests, check-up appointments to make sure that everything’s ok, to check for things going wrong. And whilst I’m not suggesting for one moment that women forgo any of these what I always urge them to do is to be aware, appreciate that with each midwife appointment and every scan comes an element of anxiety … the woman is going along to check that everything’s ok. When she’s told that it is, a sigh of relief, important reassurance.
And so with all of this bombardment of opinions, appointments, choices to be made, comes an underlying fear and anxiety for most mums … even the ones for whom conceiving was a breeze and being pregnant’s going smoothly are going to feel this on some level.
If we add to that the wallpaper of fear that seems to surround birth from the stories women hear, the portrayal in the media, One Born Every bloody Minute (don’t watch it, just don’t! … if you want to know why, do ask me) then it’s not surprising that many women are scared witless about the prospect of pushing a baby out.
Women are scared about birth and they’re scared about becoming a mother, and so are their partners. I see it all the time and with some I get the opportunity to overthrow that prominent prevailing narrative at my free Positive Birth Movement groups and in NCT antenatal classes.
Then there’s Hypnobirthing …. ‘it works’ said Clemmie Hooper at the recent, sell-out Mums The Word event. Not only does it ‘work’ but it’s a bloody game-changer not just for birth but also for that transition to parenthood for mums and dads. Hypnobirthing parents are informed, confident and supported – three really important ingredients for any parent.
I say over and over again to couples – Hypnobirthing isn’t the equivalent of waving a magic wand or fairy dust over the labouring woman. But it IS the best birth preparation for any birth whether that’s at home, a birth centre, in a hospital or by planned caesarean.
Many of the women who come to my Hypnobirthing Workshops do go on to have straightforward births and credit Hypnobirthing with that, which is lovely for me, but, of course, there are many other factors that come into play. When parents find their birth taking a different direction, what they come back to me over and over again and say is that at no point was it overwhelming. Any birth can be calm and peaceful and learning to navigate unforeseen or difficult situations confidently and calmly is not only a fabulous tool for parents during labour but a great life lesson too.
Addressing fears and re-framing them, learning how and why to trust your instincts along with all the other Hypnobirthing tools and techniques are vital for your life as a parent as well as for your pregnancy and the day you birth your baby. Changing the way you think about or view a situation will change your experience of it.
Recognising the messages you’re bombarded with daily is important …. messages suggesting that unless you’re holding it all together, looking good, being happy, being healthy, pleasing everyone …. basically loving EVERY bloody maternal moment, you are, to a certain degree, inadequate or weak.
I’ve been cajoled onto Instagram because it’s where my ‘target audience’ are. I love it. But I have to admit to struggling to post a pretty picture on a regular basis … I’m middle-aged and tubby for a start and I don’t have a brood of angelic looking babies and toddlers anymore to pepper my feed with! Much as I enjoy Instagram and the like, I do know that it feeds these messages I’ve just mentioned … the rise of the ‘Instamum’, the ‘MumBoss’ etc. sucks us all in, even old crones like me, to this perfect vision of parenthood and life in general. Of course, there’s a big backlash to this, with fantastic, honest, funny mums sharing stories of how they actually AREN’T quite ‘nailing it’ …. but even most of them don’t tend to look truly dog-rough, do they? And, anyway they’re so FUNNY (add that to the above list – wittiness is also essential).
Whether you’re pregnant, a mum with small children or actually just any old human being, you will benefit from taking time out of your day to actively relax (as opposed to lying on the sofa watching telly), to breathe properly, calm your mind and reframe unhelpful thoughts – if that means setting your alarm 5 minutes earlier in the morning or going to bed earlier at night DO IT!