Friday, 20 March 2009
What Mothers Do
Some weeks ago a friend lent me a copy of What Mothers Do (when it seems like nothing) by Naomi Stadlen. I have only just begun to read it, but cannot recommend it highly enough. I can see why this friend has lent this to me - in the first few weeks after Isobel was born she would call and suggest I didn't need to do x,y and z. I felt I needed to achieve something each day - above and beyond looking after Isobel, feeding her and keeping the house ticking over. Looking back I now realise this was a tall order and I should have been content with simply having a good day. This is a book which recognises the ups and downs of adjusting to motherhood and the worries and emotions which come with it; this little person dominating our lives when for so long we have been the one in control. How in today's society we are not prepared for motherhood - we are no longer part of the extended family experiencing those close to you going through motherhood - these days we are removed and tend to pour over books about the birth, attending classes on how we can prepare ourselves for labour. Nothing really hints at what there is to come after the birth, the emotions which overwhelm you -the 'at sea' feeling, how raw the maternal instinct and feelings are and I assume stay with you for the rest of your life. I will probably always regret not being able to hold Isobel moments after she was born. How we can spend an exhausting but sometimes exhilarating day with our babies, however when someone asks what we have been doing we say we are not sure. It is easy to then feel small and wonder what has been achieved. How our language does not have the words to describe our feelings and thought process. The author hits the nail on the head when she speaks of how the mother thinks about her baby - what can be wrong if he/she is crying. It is perceived as worrying, when in fact we are trying to solve, adjust and learn from our baby. I know I found the issue of breastfeeding a huge rollercoaster and one I feel was presented as relatively simple to achieve. It is a learning process, but I do feel the classes and books should also emphasise how much of a learning curve it is for mother and baby and the confidence needed. There is so much advice out there, but I know I would do things very differently next time. The book also describes how a mother needs to think logistically when making an outing. How true this is - can I get into the shop with the pram, can I get the pram onto the train platform or are there steps - the list goes on. For someone who was happy to fly to various cities around the world and find her way about, until some weeks ago, I found the prospect of going outside East Dulwich extremely daunting. It wasn't until my confidence grew and I decided one morning to just get on the bus to Peckham (!) did we start to move forward. It was so encouraging to hear of the other mothers in my NCT group, who had already ventured into town or much further, that I felt I needed to just get on and do it. I cannot emphasise how much of a life line our NCT group has been and I am so very thankful for it. I don't know what I would have done without them and hope we will be able to continue to grow and move forward together with our much loved babies!