Stay Calm and Content

previousnext
Stay Calm and Content
How to survive the first few weeks and months of motherhood and bond successfully with your baby whilst maintaining a good relationship with your partner.

Pregnancy and motherhood can have a rollercoaster like effect on our self-esteem! We can feel wonderful to be creating a new life and find our changing shape attractive, or we can feel acutely the loss of our previous body shape and our freedom to live as we did before. The arrival of a baby is treated by society purely as a time of joy, but for the parents, particularly the mother, there can be a mixture of emotions as we adjust to the new world we find ourselves in.

Emotional Seesaw

Meeting our new baby can give our self-esteem a wonderful boost, but it can also negatively affect it because of what may have changed, such as our choices about work, having to rely on a partner for income and support, feeling exhausted, emotional, in pain, unsure of our own capabilities, or less desirable because of physical changes, and so on. We are likely to be grieving somewhat for the life we have lost, as we adjust to the new life we have gained.

‘Giving birth is like ten rounds with Mike Tyson’

As mothers, we often don’t stop to think about the huge upheavals we go through during pregnancy, childbirth, and the months and years afterwards. We are not gentle enough on ourselves. We often pick up on expectations from somewhere that we should be superhuman and should be able to achieve and cope with more than is physically possible. I think most of us need to be gentler with ourselves and give ourselves adequate recognition for what we achieve, rather than criticising ourselves or taking ourselves for granted.

‘Everyone feels like a terrible mother at one time or another’

It is very easy to compare ourselves to others. There are usually several baby groups we can attend for support, but at times when we might most need that support, we might, falsely, feel like everyone else is coping better than we are. We all fear criticism, and unfortunately, misplaced comments by others at this very emotional time, can leave us feeling inadequate. One of the hardest, but most important things we can do, is to find the self-
Cat Williams
confidence to talk about how we are really getting on, it is easy to say everything is ‘fine’, our strength is shown when we can talk about things we are finding difficult, we will quickly realise that others feel the same, they are just unlikely to have had the confidence to say so.

“Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others”

The basic needs of our baby obviously must come first, but if we lose sight of our own self-esteem then we will be unable to ‘give our best’ to our child. We need to think carefully about what we need to feel okay, and we mustn’t feel guilty about making sure that we get enough ‘oxygen’ such as regular exercise, time to ourselves, or time with people who help us to feel good.

Decide your own path

If we are feeling overly influenced by health professionals or family with regard to decisions about the care of our baby, then by maintaining our self-esteem, we will be more able to decide for ourselves and feel confident about what our individual path will be.

Maintaining a close couple relationship

Partners can often quickly feel left out if we devote all of our love and attention towards the baby. We will be doing this for the best possible reasons, but, for our own, and our baby’s sake, we need to maintain a strong relationship with our partner, which means including them and communicating with them.

How to talk:

Good communication is being able to explain clearly to someone
relaxed mum and baby
else where our emotions are coming from, rather than simply expressing those emotions in their raw form. It might take time for us to know how our self-esteem is being affected and, thus, to know what has generated our emotions, so sometimes we have to think carefully about why we feel as we do before communication can be most effective.
Saying ‘I feel (negative emotion)’, rather than ‘you are making me feel (negative emotion)’, is preferable because ‘you are making me feel…’ is likely to make the other person feel criticised and inclined to defend themselves by criticising you. No one can make us feel anything, so we must first acknowledge that our feelings are our own, and they are not created by somebody else.

Try to avoid words like ‘You should…’ or ‘You ought to….’ because these words give the impression that your opinion is more valid than the other persons, they imply criticism, and can therefore quickly cause an argument.

How to listen:

Listening well is much harder than talking. We find it easy to see things from our own perspective, but really trying to understand someone else’s perspective takes effort and patience. If we have a difficult relationship with someone and want to improve it, one of the best things we can do is to ask them thoughtful, open questions and listen carefully to the answers. Open questions begin with “What?”, “Where?”, “How?”, “Why?” and “When?” and they are called open questions because they cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”.

I love this quote from the novelist Anne Tyler, who said:
‘Before you drive a car, you need a state-approved course of instruction, but driving a car is nothing, nothing, compared to living every day with a husband and raising up a new human
being.’

By Cat Williamns, April 2013
Stay Calm and Content: No Matter What Life Throws At You by Cat Williams is available from Amazon and from www.staycalmandcontent.com

Share This...