Before giving birth, we imagine life with a new baby… wonder, amazement, the sweet smell of baby skin, feeling more in love than ever with our partner.
The reality of life with a new baby often doesn’t match this ideal.
The difference between your expectations and the reality can cause you to question yourself as a mother.
Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a mother?”
“Am I a bad mother?”
If you have ever had these thoughts, please read these myths of motherhood.
1. A good mother gives birth “naturally”, without medical interventions.
Birth plans are a great way to communicate your wishes for your labor and delivery experience. Often, however, your birth plan will have to be modified during the actual event.
This can be difficult. If you had hoped to deliver “naturally”, unplanned interventions such as a cesarean section or the use of vacuum or forceps can be discouraging. Pain and disappointment with the delivery make the adjustment to motherhood even more difficult.
Please remember that you cannot always control what happens during birth. These events have absolutely no bearing on whether or not you are a “good” mother.
2. A good mother feels an instant bond with her baby at birth.
Many women report feeling love for their baby immediately after birth. Other women are surprised to feel nothing at all.
If you are feeling disconnected from your baby, you are not alone. Women have told us it took several days, weeks or even months to begin to feel that bond. As you spend time with your baby and you get to know each other, the feelings WILL come.
If you are not connecting with your baby the way you thought you would, talk to a health care professional. This feeling of disconnection can be a symptom of postpartum depression.
3. All other mothers are coping much better than me.
In our society, we are not always good at letting people know the truth about our feelings. It is easy to put on a smile and say everything is fine when in reality you are barely coping.
You may assume your friends are handling motherhood like pros. “Why can’t I do this when it is so easy for everyone else?”
In truth, you are measuring yourself against an image that is not based in reality. You don’t see what goes on behind your friend’s closed doors.
Try having an honest conversation with another new mother you trust. It can be reassuring to hear that you are not alone.
4. A good mother always puts the needs of her children and partner ahead of her own.
Mothers often feel guilty taking time for themselves. It is easy to believe that being a “good mother” means devoting yourself to the needs of your partner and children.
Life with a newborn is busy. Taking care of your own needs will better equip you to take care of the needs of others. Remember the airplane safety instructions: Put on your own oxygen mask first.
Taking time for yourself can be as simple as allowing yourself 15 minutes to have a bubble bath, uninterrupted. Ask a family member to hold the baby while you nap. Go for a walk or simply lie in bed and read.
Try to make sure your “priority list” includes you.
5. A good mother has a clean house and cooks supper every night.
Looking after a newborn is time consuming. A newborn feeds at least 10 to 12 times a day and will probably require as many diaper changes. The feeding and diapering alone can take up 12 hours of your day. And you haven’t yet had a shower, eaten, done laundry or bathed your baby. No wonder you have no time to cook and clean!
One person cannot do it all. In some cultures, a mother or female relative stays with the new family to manage household tasks. This frees the new mom to rest and care for her baby. Unfortunately, not all families get this support.
Keep meals simple. Sandwiches and fruit make a great supper. Order in once in awhile if your budget will allow.
Ignore the housework as much as possible. Your home will be clean eventually. Right now you are just too busy. Focus only on the essentials. Dishes do not need to be done after every meal.
6. A good mother instinctively knows how to care for her baby.
The truth is that parenting is difficult. Mothering is a learned skill. We don’t immediately know how to soothe and care for our babies as soon as they are born.
If you aren’t sure why your baby is crying, you are not alone. The process of elimination often works best. Is baby hungry? Need a diaper change? Lonely and needs to be close? You will learn the cries of your baby and what works for them – it is not an instinct!
7. A good mother always loves being a mother.
Motherhood can be wonderful but it is also a lot of hard work. Being “on call” 24 hours a day Is taxing. It can be difficult to find joy in motherhood when you haven’t had more than an hour of consecutive sleep.
Some days you may long to have your old life back, simply going to work, interacting with adults, having a break with a hot cup of coffee.
Being a mother means repeating the same task over and over again: feeding, changing diapers, laundry, dishes. There is no boss to tell you that you are doing a great job. It can be very lonely.
If you do not love being a mother, it does not mean that you do not love your baby.
8. A good mother does not leave her infant in the care of others.
It is okay to admit you need a break. Even a short break can do wonders.
Talk with your partner about your needs. Try to negotiate half an hour to go for a walk or drink a peaceful cup of tea. Thirty minutes may not seem like a lot, but even a mini-break can be refreshing and help prepare you to face the demands of motherhood again.
Being a new mother is quite possibly the most difficult job on earth. If you are finding the transition from your former life difficult, you are not alone. There is no such thing as the “perfect mother”. You are the best mother your baby has!