parent opinion

"Everyone wants to hold the baby, but who holds the mother?" In 2020, we've lost our village.

“Not long to go now love,” a stranger nodded towards my stretched-beyond-recognition belly when I was 41 weeks pregnant.

I smiled. That awkward smile where your eyes are screaming, “REALLY?? I HADN’T NOTICED.”

“Do you know what you’re having?” she continued.

“Yes, a little girl,” I replied.

“Oh how beautiful, well good luck love. The pain will all be worth it when she’s in your arms.”

And that was it. The stranger disappeared down the shopping aisle, genuinely believing she imparted some wisdom to me. As if the birth and all the pain was the big event and all I should be focusing on. Not a second thought given to how we were actually going to cope with that baby girl and how I would be supported into the biggest transition of my life.

Watch: Things pregnant people never say. Post continues below. 

Video by MMC

It’s hardly her fault. As a society we attend antenatal classes, practice changing nappies on a doll, deck out the nursery, spend far too much on items we don’t actually need, fantasise over the cute photos we will take to announce our baby’s arrival, we scrub and clean the house because well, #nesting and maybe, if we’re really organised, we stock the freezer with slow cooker meals and lasagnas.

By traditional methods, ‘postpartum’ is defined as the six weeks after birth. Sure, during that time we might see our midwives once a week, receive a few hot meals from friends, and maybe even have a few extra hands around ready to pour that cup of tea we’ll never drink and hold our baby when our back is just about ready to snap.

But what happens after that? Where is the support for when our mothers really need it? We’ve lost our village. Everyone wants to hold the baby, but who holds the mother?

 

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We had a shit afternoon yesterday. I cracked it, yelled at Lucia and picked her up without my usual love and tenderness. I then proceeded to tell her (shouted at her) to stop crying. It makes me feel awful just thinking about it. Tell me I’m not alone??⁣ ⁣ But boy the timing for my interview with @droscarserrallach this morning couldn’t have been better and i cannot wait for you all to hear it. There were so many truth bombs that I lost count. But one that smacked me up the side of my head was this:⁣ ⁣ If it’s widely accepted that teenagers take years to mature into an adult (hello adolescence) why aren’t mothers given that time frame to become mothers? (matrescence) At the time of birthing our babies we aren’t magically gifted everything we need to know along the way. Motherhood is a learned skill…which TAKES YEARS (and never really ends). ⁣ ⁣ I’ll be the first to admit i’m my own worst critic as I am sure many of you can relate , but it really made me soften and think, I’m just doing the best I can. And while getting angry and stroppy with my nearly 9 month old doesn’t make me beam with pride.. i’m only human. @droscarserrallach it was an honour chatting to you and I think we need some t-shirts printed up with those sayings you came up with!! Stay tuned for the ep! #matrescence #motherhood #motherly #postpartum #takebackpostpartum #postpartumdepression #pnd #postnataldepletion #selfcompassion #mamafullstop #thisismotherhood #first40days #fourthtrimester #themotherproject

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Newsflash: Postpartum is more like six years (does it ever really end??) and our mothers need more than just a few weeks of nurturing.

We are literally caring for the world’s future – is there a more important job? As Dr Oscar Serrallach, author of The Postnatal Depletion Cure so beautifully puts, “We have Paediatric care especially for kids, we have Geriatric care especially for our aged community – where’s Matriatics? Where’s the specialised care for our mothers?”

The idea that we should have it all figured out after the first six weeks needs to go. The idea that we should do it all with a smile on our face, because our mothers did it all and never complained needs to go.

Becoming a mother is quite literally mind-altering – the release of chemicals and hormones is unlike any other time in a woman’s life and that alone should warrant special protection from the outside world. And people expecting cuddles with the new baby? Stay put until you get an invitation. And if you do get that invite? Bring food, do some housework, clean up after yourself and don’t expect anything.

Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes chat about what to expect in the first precious (and messy) days after giving birth on Mamamia’s Year One podcast. Post continues below. 

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What babies really need are mothers and fathers that are nourished and have the resources to do that. Whether you physically birthed your child or not, the transition to motherhood is a process that needs to be honoured. At the time of birthing our babies we aren’t magically gifted everything we need to know along the way. Motherhood is a learned skill, which by all accounts takes years.

If it is widely accepted that teenagers take years to mature into adults (hello adolescence), why aren’t we giving our mothers that same time frame? Why aren’t we honouring Matrescence, the transition to mother?

Mothers everywhere – let’s start this conversation and bring awareness to it. It’s up to us to change this narrative and to make sure future generations have the entry into motherhood they deserve, by rebuilding her village and supporting them well beyond the first six weeks.

Birth is not the finish line.

Nicole is the host of the podcast Becoming Mum. You can follow her on Instagram @nicolejoyinspire

Feature Image: Instagram / @nicolejoyinspire

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