Just like motherhood, birth is a leap of faith

I think I used to be a bit of a control freak. I’m not so sure now.

I approached motherhood a bit like I’d approached everything before. I did some research, listened to other people’s advice and stories, consulted some experts where I needed to. But then I got a Zoe. A Zoe that hated her pram from the start, hated to lie down flat, had reflux, couldn’t stomach formula, didn’t sleep for more than 7 hours until she was 15 months old (actually, 3 hours was considered a good stint) but smiled so beautifully as soon as she could, walked early, eats anything, never complains and grabs my hand to pull me away from doing the dishes or cooking when she wants to play.

And this little girl threw everything I knew and relied on into disarray. And I had no idea what to do. No idea at all. I read everything I could find about what could help, I asked anyone who would listen and most of all, I spent the first few months of her life feeling anxious that I wasn’t doing this motherhood thing right; that I was getting it all wrong and that it would make a lasting impression on her. In the end I had to implement a Google ban.

Little did I know that this was the most normal thing in the world. That I could relax and we could get to know each other. That the shared understanding of what was going on would build and she would be able to let me know in her own way if something was wrong. That I could trust my instincts.

I learnt it was easier to not control everything. Sure, my life wasn’t convenient or routine in any way and that caused its own problems. But I was driving myself mad trying to make plans and wasting valuable energy to.

Weirdly, considering that most of us don’t get to practice being a mother, we think we should have it all down straight away – sleep, feeding, discipline, working, getting slim again – all underpinned by a good birth experience so we can bounce back quickly.

None of this narrative, not even a little bit, allows for real people and the messy facts of real life. The quirks of your body or your precious little human’s personality or (heaven forbid) the emotional fallout from such a monumental physical experience and emotional shift that comes so soon after.

Nowdays girls are taught that if they believe that if they work hard and are wholehearted, they can do anything they set their mind to. They can aspire to being an olympic winning athlete, an astronaut or a field leading scientist. But even despite the effort, it’s still a leap of faith. There’s the bit where you put the work in, hoping it will pay off but never quite being sure you’re on the right path.

The first few months of motherhood are tough and you’re never sure your instincts are right. You hope you are but there’s no certainty. Yet you do it anyway. You might as well – after all, you can’t get off this wonderful, magical, challenging path.

Birth is the same. During pregnancy, you prepare, you practice, you plan, you hope for the best. And why not? You can’t know for certain the outcome of your birth experience and there can be no promises. But you don’t lose anything from trying and feeling positive can make a huge difference; plus you might even being able to relax and enjoy your pregnancy and birth. It’s a leap of faith but one well worth taking.

You can afford to stop second guessing yourself and doubt and fear to take hold. You really don’t need it.

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This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.

Night time meditations

paul-volkmer-web

This week, for the first time in 18 months, I’ve slept through the night. This, of course, means that my daughter has slept through the night.

When I was heavily pregnant, I couldn’t sleep through the night. Little kicks would come from within at 3am, sometimes nudging, sometimes pounding me awake. And then I would lie there wondering how my life was about to change in ways I couldn’t yet understand. Or just lie there wishing my hip didn’t hurt.

Now during the night I sit, in a kind of silent vigil, holding, soothing, willing my little human to sleep. I sit as my mind wanders, watching her face. The smooth, soft plumpness of her cheeks, the sweet crescent shape of her eyelashes, the fervent sucking of the dummy I wish I’d never given her.

Sleep has always been a challenge for me. I used to experience bouts of terrible insomnia, the kind where your body has to just give in to the weird ride, believing it must actually be travel induced jet lag. At night I wonder if I’ve passed my inability to sleep on to her and blame myself when I can be bothered to think about it.

In her first few days she slept like a dream – we told ourselves we were lucky and it would be ok. Then came the reflux; the grunting, retching, snuffling noises that made her sound like a tiny dinosaur. I would feed her in the night and hold her upright for half an hour at least to let the milk digest before I could lay her down. Then came the 4 month regression, the 8, the 12.

Surprisingly, I began to cherish those night time cuddles. Now she’s older, she’s too busy to stop for a hug. And they gave me time alone in the quiet dark. Sometimes I couldn’t sit still, I was so fed up of being constantly touched, constantly needed.

Others I would sit there a little longer than I needed to, perhaps for 10 minutes after her little fingers had released their grip on my hand and curled peacefully away, to savour the smell of her hair and the sound of her breath, knowing that all to soon, these moments will be gone.

Photo by Paul Volkmer on Unsplash