In 2016 I became a mother to a sweet baby girl. It was a hard pregnancy and a long stay in the hospital but that’s a story for another time. For me becoming a mother is kind of like going back to your old hometown after years of travelling, everything seems exactly the same but you see it all so differently.
It is proven that a woman’s brains change in a very specific way during pregnancy to make us more responsive to our baby. Our brains are literally remoulded during this time. Even if we are totally convinced that having a baby won’t change us or our lifestyle it is like WHAM you are hit with waves of hormones and slowly evolution rewires you into this hypersensitive human being and unfortunately, this only happens to you – not to the father or your family members or your best friends… no one only you seem like you are going crazy.
And then you give birth (a whole other story!) and they dump you back into your old life with a newborn and expect you to just know how to care for it while you are healing physically and mentally. And in the middle of all this you desperately try to play it cool while dodging criticism for breastfeeding, formula feeding, holding the baby to much, not letting them cry enough, sleeping with them and the list goes on… and it doesn’t stop here, no you struggle to have a shower or do any self care because your partner can’t hold the baby for more than 20 minutes without giving it back to you with phrases like “she wants her mummy” “he is hungry” “I don’t know why she won’t stop crying” (while doing nothing to help stop the crying). And while hating this you also believe you are the ONLY person that knows best so you need to be there 24 hours a day but then live in constant doubt that you are doing it all wrong. The world doesn’t really give new mums enough credit.
In The Atlantic article “What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother” says “An estimated one in six women suffers from postpartum depression, and many more develop behaviours like compulsively washing hands and obsessively checking whether the baby is breathing” (I still check now).
What new mothers go through is very unique it is this mix of being so powerful and feeling so hopeless all at the same time.
New mothers need to be cared for and supported so they can care for their new baby!
New mothers become extremely focused on the newborn and suddenly self-care is no place to be seen on their priority list. I was very lucky to have the support of my mother and trained doula for the first few weeks after my girl was born. The kind of support I needed couldn’t come from someone that had not been in my place. A “postpartum doula” is like an angel sent from heaven in your hour of need. Having a woman close to you that 1. Understands and 2. Can answer your fears and doubts before they become an obsession can significantly reduce baby blues. Also, some hospitals offer services that help prevent PND by giving women free counselling during this very particular time. For me, this was and still is something I am grateful for especially when my mum had to go back to Australia and I was left feeling isolated here in Italy. Sometimes you just need someone to see it from your point of view and then help you deal with things in a way that is correct for you right now (because what you need right now maybe very different to what you need in a few months). The first 6 months of mothering are unlike any other time in your life. They are amazing but extremely challenging.
I was very confident about becoming a mother until I become one and I could never have imagined how much support I would need to just keep my head out of the water.
I was very lucky to have so many supportive people around me and I dream that every new mother could have a strong support team so that she can focus on healing and becoming the mum she has always hoped she would be (without pressuring herself to be perfect of course).