This wonderful image by Brenda Baar did the rounds today on social media. I saw it a while ago when I googled Maslow's theory to see if I could find anything interesting for an NCT exam and I came across this beauty.
So many women forget about themselves in birth. It is a passage for you and baby together, not alone as separate entities. So why do so many of us say it's just about the baby being okay but no mention of yourself? Even sometimes saying you don't matter...
Of course a healthy baby matters. There is no mother who doesn't believe this but why are you not included too? YOU MATTER! You have needs too. Imagine a birth where you fulfil your hierarchy of needs? During my antenatal classes I always talk about feeling protected, nurtured and heard. To not be an outsider looking in on what is happening but to be present, completely involved and surrounded by trust. I've heard so many stories of what should have been a traumatic birth by textbook standards but the woman walked away having a positive birth because of all these factors being ticked. How amazing is that?
Research has shown that unrealistic expectations for labour isn't usually the common force behind PTSD after birth, which some believe is, but is linked to how you are treated:
"...one study looked at this question directly and found that a difference between expectations and experience in the level of pain, length of labour, interventions and level of control was not associated with PTSD symptoms. However, a difference between expected support from health professionals and the level of care experienced was predictive of PTSD symptoms (Ballard, Stanley et al. 1995; Ford and Ayers unpublished). It therefore seems that women are not necessarily traumatised by the events of birth not happening as they expected, but are affected when the care they receive does not match their expectations." (City University of London, 2012)
So, looking after the woman has a huge purpose. Not only because it's reasonable but because it's logical. The far reaching impact goes beyond birth if your needs are not met. All the needs are not always met and you can have a few or all, it can interchange. But meeting the majority would be incredible, no matter what birth, just by changing the way women are looked after. Language is so key here and a lot of positive changes are being made but we have a long way to go. But they are changing...
Alive. Health. Trust. Autonomy. Heard.
A hierarchy of needs that truly matters.
Becoming a mother brings on a whole world of new emotions.
Adaptation, change and transition.
We spend so much time preparing for birth and keeping our pregnant bodies healthy that we forget the world after that. There will be a baby, your life will change and there will be a transition. Just like birth there can be highs and lows but babies don't need much. They need love, milk, warmth, cleanliness and clothing. They just need you!
Postnatal care in this country is pretty low but you can find your tribe and there are support groups springing up everywhere. Spend your first week or two at home. Enjoy that time getting to know each other (yes they are getting to know you and vice versa), but then once you start venturing out start talking to other mums and build that network of support. Being able to say "my night was crap eh" is a form of everyday therapy and guess what...you are not alone. You may feel like you're alone in the middle of the night when you are up six times and feeding for 30-45 minutes a pop, but you are not.
You transition when you become a mother. It feels like you have lost your old identity and are in a bit of a limbo land. You don't have to lose her...you can gain someone new. When researching motherhood I came across a lovely notion that I think all new mothers should take heed of. You become a blend of your old and new self. Do not lose the old you but instead bring that old self into the new self. You are not lost! Become someone new without losing her. Mothers just become even more powerful because your new identity is powerful. You transform! This can feel quite scary at first but, just like birth, let go. Welcome this new change in identity and become her. It may take some time before you feel settled again and THAT IS OKAY.
Experiment, learn and embrace.
Highs and lows I will embrace you.
Bring on the new normal.