Saturday, May 7, 2016

What We Need To Tell New Mothers

As a doula, people ask me all the time for advice about pregnancy, labor, parenting. On this Mother's Day weekend, the brief summary of most of everything I say, especially for the new and expectant mothers out there.

Our society likes to tell new mothers how to feed their babies, how to clothe their babies, how to diaper their babies, how to transport their babies, how to raise their babies. We like to tell new mothers how they should act, how they should feel, how quickly they should be back in that pre-pregnancy body.

We're not doing anyone any favors by telling new mothers any of that. Not even a little bit. 

We're hurting them by insisting they should do any of these things in any one way. 

These are the things we should be telling new mothers instead. 

Trust your instincts
They exist for a reason. 
We forget sometimes that we humans are animals, 
we forget sometimes that we're programmed 
with instincts to care for ourselves and our children. 
They exist for a reason. 
Listen to them.

Trust your intuition
If something feels wrong, 
if something seems inappropriate, 
if something seems unnatural, 
there is often a reason. 
Listen to the voice in your head that tells you when something is wrong. 
All the experts in the world can't tell you how to raise this child.

Trust your body
The work of parenting is taxing, 
from pregnancy through labor and years beyond. 
It is physically demanding. 
Nursing is especially a time when you need to trust in your body, 
when you need to surround yourself with 
people who understand the process, 
when you need to ignore anyone without the 
knowledge and the skills associated with it all.

Trust your strength
Parenting will test you in ways you could never possibly be prepared for. 
There will be times when you are afraid, 
when you are scared, 
when you are confused, 
when you are unsure. 
You will get through them all, 
and you will do it while smiling and singing a song to calm your child. 
You will cry and rage and scream when they can't see
in hallways and parking lots and basements
and hospital waiting rooms
and then you will find that inner strength all over again. 
And again. 
And again.

Listen to your heart
So often, we want to rely on logic 
and reason when making decisions about our children. 
There are times when the answers aren't there, 
but instead in what feels right. 

Learn from your own childhood
You already know a tremendous amount about parenting, 
rightly or wrongly, 
from your childhood. 
Remember those lessons, 
whether to apply them again or do 
everything possible to avoid repeating them.

Ask for help when you need it
Recognize when you can't do it all without help. 
We all need help sometimes. 
Every single one of us
Build a community and call on it when necessary. 
Reach out and help others in return.
Wherever you are,
no matter how scary it might be,
you aren't alone.
I promise.

There is (almost always) time
One of the biggest lies people tell and believe about 
all aspects of child rearing, from labor to sending 
them to college is that decisions need to be made now. 
There is almost always time to ask for more information, 
to think about it, 
to reflect on options, 
to see what else might work. 
Almost always. 
Give yourself time.
Give your partner time.
Give your kids time.

There are as many ways to raise a child 
as there are children in the world
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for any aspect of parenting. 
There is no simple answer that applies to everyone. 
There is no one best way to do anything. 
There are abundant options and you will find what works for you, 
for your partner, for your child, for your family.

Showing up truly is 90%
This stays true no matter how old your children get. 
Just be there. 
Just be in the audience. 
Be in the crowd. 
Be at the recitals and the performances. 
Watch the games. 
Just show up. 
This applies even when they're grown. 

We all screw up
None of us knows exactly what we are doing.
We do the best we can with the information we have at the time.
Sometimes that means we do things different with each child.
Sometimes that means we do things different than our parents did.
Learn from those mistakes, own the times you screw up. 

Don't avoid the hard stuff
Have the difficult conversations. 
Be honest. 
Be open. 
Start when they are young and never ever stop. 
You'll thank me for this when you have teenagers.

Happy Mother's Day.

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