What to expect as a new mum and in pregnancy has to be one of the biggest questions we face as women (and our long suffering partners!) in life. But sometimes all you need is someone to tell you exactly how it is and so for that very purpose, I’m in conversation with community midwife Emma Cook, and author of “A midwife in my pocket: Pregnancy, birth and life with a new baby, told as it really is” for some wise and honest words about the journey ahead in this instalment of the Expert Editions series.
Why do you think pregnancy and parenthood is so fraught with so many confusing questions, unknowns and anxieties – particularly in this day and age?
Pregnancy today is unlike it was in our parent’s day. We are surrounded by much more technology and access to tests than we ever have been. Advances in technology is a good thing on one hand, but the degree of choice we have now as parents-to-be can seem overwhelming. Couple this with all the books there are and non-stop access to pregnancy, birth and parenting videos, expectant parents can be bombarded with information, and this can lead to anxiety and conflicting advice.
People have forgotten that pregnancy is normally a natural process, and it has now become a very medical ‘condition’. There are more pressures on us in society now with the rising cost of living and most people needing to work, that this can add to the pressures of having a baby too.
What do you find to be some of the top anxieties experienced by pregnant mums (and dads)?
- My ‘bump’ is smaller or bigger than my friend who is pregnant and due at the same time.
- This pregnancy feels different to my last pregnancy.
- Will this sickness ever end?
- How am I going to cope financially?
- My baby is overdue…. how am I going to keep going?
And what are some golden words you can offer to them about their journey ahead?
My golden advice about pregnancy is that every pregnancy and everyone is different – as all the human race is. Try not to compare your pregnancy to other pregnancies, or with previous pregnancies. Each baby is unique and so is each pregnancy. The same goes for labour, when a baby plans to arrive and how well a baby feeds and settles. Enjoy the journey, even if you go overdue. Don’t stress if your labour doesn’t go as planned on paper, for the safety of mum and baby is what counts.
What would you say are the most prevalent anxieties experienced by new mums (& dads)?
The top new parent anxieties I come across are:
- My newborn baby won’t sleep at night.
- My newborn baby breast-feeds so much, I am sure I haven’t got any milk.
- My friend’s bottle fed baby is a little angel compared to my baby – I think I should stop breast-feeding.
- Why am I crying when everything is meant to be perfect?
- I ‘failed’ and didn’t get the labour I planned.
What advice can you offer to new mums who are feeling totally overwhelmed by these feelings and worries as a new mum?
As with pregnancies, each baby is different, with a different set of needs and personality. Get to know each other, and don’t worry if baby is not ‘following the book’. Enjoy the very precious time as babies are not small for long.
If the going gets tough, ask for help and support – you aren’t doing anything wrong, and you certainly haven’t failed. Being honest with your midwife is the first step to recovery, and sometimes the hardest step to take. However, usually your midwife will have heard the same worry time and again – so remember you are not alone in how overwhelmed you can feel. In my book, I talk about how I found life with my new baby – and even midwives can feel overwhelmed too.
Do you have a list of dos and don’ts for those early days?
- Sleep when baby sleeps.
- Turn your clock back to front to suit your baby – not the other way around.
- Accept as much help as is offered.
- Cherish this precious time.
- Stagger visitors.
- Do loads of housework.
- Rush up to be dressed and fully made-up for when the midwife visits (I worry if this happens!).
- Pass baby around to lots of different visitors in the early days, as baby will become over-tired and grumpy.
- Try to rush out and about too soon.
Parenthood in general seems to be such a struggle these days – what strategies can you share to make it a more uplifting experience?
Strategies to make parenting more uplifting are really not to expect it to be like it is in magazines, films and in adverts. Expect to feel tired, expect your baby to be up all night to begin with. This is normal. If a friend says they have a perfect baby who sleeps all night – they are probably fibbing! Go with the flow. You don’t need to spend thousands of pounds on a new baby. Love and cuddles don’t cost a penny. There are loads of tips in my book for making the early days of parenthood easier.
If you could only say one thing as words of encouragement to pregnant, and then new mums it would be….
The one thing I would say to expectant or new parents is ‘Expect the unexpected’. If you don’t have a set plan, then the plan can’t go wrong.
Anything else you would like to add?
Be selective in what you listen to. As it says in my book…… “My advice for life – especially one with a new baby in it ……. Have a great big filter attached to your ears as EVERYONE from your family members to a passing stranger will have a view on how you should bring up your baby. The best approach is to agree politely (which will result in less tension and prolonged conversation), and then file the the information you think will be useful i n your brain, and ditch the rest!”
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