Most of us want to get things right as we go through life. However, when we become pregnant we seem to be suddenly bombarded with criticism and self-doubt about everything we might be doing wrong. So what can help us to find our way through this ‘advice’? What can help us to find confidence and joy in becoming a mother?
Michelle Cree, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at The Perinatal Mental Health Service, Derby, UK, and author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Postnatal Depression shares some discoveries and advice for new mothers:
1. It is normal not to have a ‘rush of love’ when your baby is born.
Did you know that around half of mothers from different countries express a feeling of ‘indifference’ towards their new-born baby? Feelings of love can take weeks or months to appear, particularly if the baby is unwell, the birth was difficult, or if the mother is unwell, exhausted or unsupported.
2. ‘Mothering’ is not just an instinct but is dependent on many factors.
We are led to believe that our ability to mother gets ‘switched on’ as soon as we become pregnant or have a baby. We can then feel bad if we struggle, imagining it is somehow our fault. In fact, mothering is highly complex. For example, we find it easier to mother if we have others around us to learn from.
3. We have evolved to mother in groups with plenty of support around us.
Many women feel guilty that they find being home on their own with a baby really difficult. In evolutionary terms we are not ‘wired’ to parent in these circumstances. We have evolved to look after our children in groups, looked after and helped particularly by other females, but also by males.
4. When you feel calm, contented and soothed then you will find it easier to feel warmth and closeness towards your baby.
When we relate to ourselves with kindness, encouragement and warmth this creates changes in our brain and body which calm us. It also releases the hormone oxytocin which can help us feel closer to our baby.
5. When you are self-critical or others are critical of you, then you will find it harder to get through difficult times.
When we feel criticised, by others, but even by ourselves, our brains feel ‘under attack’. We then move into ‘fight or flight’ mode which narrows our thinking and makes it hard for us to work out what is most helpful. It also makes us feel anxious and irritable towards our baby.
6. You can learn to become kinder, more encouraging, and more self-compassionate towards yourself.
Being self-compassionate is a skill. We can learn it and train ourselves in it. This can help us feel closer to our baby and can help us get through the more challenging times of new motherhood. It also helps us to slow down and enjoy the lovely moments.