The media lately (and some practitioners themselves) attach it to pain free, drug free, intervention free ‘natural’ birth. And whilst in some cases that may well be what it looks like, often it’s not.
I wanted to give encouragement and speak the unspeakable.
Welcome to the August edition of The Postnatal Project Q&A. Here, I answer two questions a month related to parenting, sleep, breastfeeding, postnatal depression and everything in between. If you'd like your question answered, get in touch via the contact page.
This is a hard one to begin. Part of me wants to lay it on the table for context. And the other part of me wants to leave this version of my life untouched. It's like putting your feet in the ocean. The more you kick around, the murkier the water gets and the harder it seems to see every other aspect of your life clearly. And it stings.
The only thing I have in common with my father is the memories we share before being his daughter got hard. He could be reading this - I don't know. He could know I have a second child - I'm not sure. Did I tell him I graduated uni? I can't remember. I wonder if he'll notice my married name.
If you search Google for "newborn checklist" or "things to buy for baby" you'll likely come up with a list a mile long. It can feel really overwhelming to be planning to give birth and bringing a new person into the world but sometimes I feel like more emphasis is placed on the nursery than on the entire lifestyle shift that occurs. It's extra pressure you do not need.
I'll make a point now that personalised name decor, wall decals, matching side tables and trinkets are lovely but absolutely unnecessary. Instagram and Pinterest show these divine nurseries that make your ovaries ache. But I think time and money could be better spent and it can perpetuates the idea that motherhood is this pristine and glorified interior design job for some. Some people enjoy this kind of thing and I'm a sucker for wooden toys and lovely books but it's not something you need to focus on or feel pressured by if you'd rather not. You do you. You're not any less of a mother if your nursery is plainer than anothers'.
I am a firm believer in any birth having the ability to be empowering. Natural vaginal birth, medicated vaginal birth, elective caesarean, emergency caesarean, caesarean under general anaesthetic - and everything else in between.
But I didn't always feel this way. I did a Hypnobirthing course and thought that made me some sort of birth goddess with no limits. And it did in a way.
I didn't write a caesarean birth plan. I didn't know what happened during this procedure nor what my options were during it. I didn't pack any high waisted underwear or any appropriate clothing.
I thought birth just happened. I thought that everything always went smoothly if you could just get through the pain. I thought the rate of caesareans was low. I thought all medical professionals believed in a woman's body and ability to birth. I'm no longer so naive.
I'm no longer so naive.
I am passionate about breastfeeding and feel strongly that breastmilk matters – no matter how long or how much – it matters and is important for both mother and baby.
I am not an advocate of breast is best – but nor am I an advocate for fed is best (I dislike the term immensely, actually). Informed is best.
Since reaching this point in my journey, I’ve realised that I’ve soldiered through many ailments. And I never decide to give up on living because I have the common cold nor does anyone suggest it – so why should I give up on breastfeeding if I suffer a breastfeeding related complaint? It is my hope that people reading this do not feel sympathy but empathy – and see that strength can be found within. Your breastfeeding goals matter, your journey matters and the support you receive matters.
I told myself I wouldn't neglect the blog again - but I most definitely have. And it's mainly because my day at the moment looks a little like this:
- Up at 5am after being up all night
- Daddy takes small child for breakfast and play while I sleep until 7:20am (yes, 7:20am. I have worked out the EXACT time I need to get up)
- Back on duty at 7:30am
- Breakfast while the boobie monster feeds from me. I do my best not to drop cereal and yoghurt on her head but I make no promises
- The day progresses in a normal fashion of snack times, nap times, play times, adventures, babychinos, various mundane chores that keep everyone clothed, fed and organised, sitting down is criminal
- Daddy gets home at 5pm
- Dinner. Or, more-so, cooking dinner that we eat cold and the small child does not eat. We offer various alternatives which usually end up being avocado and raspberries (there could be worse things I suppose)
- Shower with daddy
- Settling for bed with mummy (which involves about 50 thousand breastfeeds, going to the toilet 17 times and a Riff Raff Sleep Toy called Bandit)
- I want to have a cup of tea, I want a snack, I want to read a book - but I'm too damn tired. I scroll Instagram while I brush my teeth and hop into bed ready for round 2 - the hardest round.
There's always been debate about which is the "harder" (you'll need to read that with big, sarcastic quotation marks to get the full impact) aspect of parenting. That's why I don't say that it's harder to stay home or harder to go to work - I say that it's different. You actually cannot compare the two. There are too many variables. But as I write from my perspective, a stay at home mother, I think it's important to note that it's not all coffee playdates at the park and sitting down to blog when you're at home with a toddler (hence why this website has been neglected for several months).
Try as you might, having 20 minutes to yourself to listen to a meditation track or practice some breathing exercises can feel near impossible. And even if you're lucky enough to have this golden 20 minutes, if you're anything like me, you can get into a trap of thinking that there are "better, more important things to do" or you sit and engage in mindlessness such as scrolling through social media.
I've outlined some techniques that have helped me in the past. I have found that the more I practice these simple ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation, the easier it is to attend a yoga class or listen to a full meditation because my mindset is already positive about it and I'm already enjoying the practice and reaping the benefits.