What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

Emerging from the fog

By Alice M

Emerging from the fog

Wow - the last 9 weeks have been the most exhausting and challenging of my life but also the most wonderful and rewarding. Tessa arrived following an induced birth, healthy and strong which after a challenging pregnancy and the risk of a very premature arrival was all we could have hoped for.

Everyone tells you about the extreme tiredness and sleep deprivation in the first three months but I am still shocked by the sheer volume of attention this little creature has demanded of me.

Despite this, something does kick in in those first few days which I suppose they call "mothers intuition" where you seem to manage and make the right decisions for your baby. At a recent council mothers group we were asked to pick up a card that best described the emotions we were feeling 8 weeks into motherhood. There was nervous, overwhelming, kind, careful, loving - all sorts of emotions a new mother feels. One card read confident and a few people joked about picking it up. But I did. Not because I feel confident in every decision I make but because I do feel confident to follow my intuition. In the workplace intuition is important but we also rely heavily on facts, figures and evidence. Despite all the books and advice I have devoured on babies I can safely say that my instincts and "mothers intuition" has been my most important tool to date! 

Expert response from What Were We Thinking! expert, Jan O'Connell

How true it is that the early months of parenting are exhausting, exhilarating, joyous and challenging – along with many other adjectives that may be complete opposites of each other, depending on the time of day. It’s also true that a child doesn’t just fit into your established life schedule; they require so much time and attention, and a doubling of housework tasks including washing! This is a big adjustment in parents’ lives and in your relationship.

It’s really good to hear Alice, that you are feeling confident in your parenting of Tessa. Our expectations can vary in many ways from how we are actually experiencing parenting day to day. It’s fabulous when this is in the positive as it is for you.

I’d suggest however, that your confidence has a lot more to do with how much you have learnt about Tessa over the past 9 weeks rather than your "maternal intuition". Getting to know your child is one of the most important and rewarding things you can do as a parent. Each child has his or her own temperament and responses and over time, you and her dad will know her better than anyone else. This assists you to make the right decisions for her and to help guide her through life.

Now is a good time to look back over the past 9 weeks to see how much you have learnt about her. You can recognise when she is hungry, uncomfortable, tired, what is interesting her as she changes developmentally, how to calm and soother her and how to enjoy her smiles and efforts in communicating with you. Much of this knowledge comes from long, deeply buried memories of how you were parented, or through watching others parenting their child, or from books you’ve read, or conversations you’ve had with family, friends and health professionals.

‘Intuition’ can be a useful tool to draw upon, but nothing compares with the parenting skills, knowledge and beliefs that you have gained and used with Tessa a multitude of times every day of her life. These ongoing and frequently repetitive experiences increase your levels of confidence and competence in being her loving mum.

Parenting is not the easiest ‘job’ in the world! Often when you think you have your child ‘worked out’, or alternatively when you think that you are nearly at the end of your tether, it can all change in a day. Becoming a family is a momentous life-changing event which continually presents new challenges, lots of fun and new things to learn (and not always get quite right). There can also be many things that can cause times of anxiety, ‘mother guilt’, have you ‘second-guessing’ yourself and generally have you being quite tough on yourself or on each other, especially if you expect ‘perfection’ from yourself which is of course neither possible nor is it required to be loving and wonderful parents.

Keep up the great work and continue to enjoy your little girl. Take credit in all that you have learnt and take pride knowing that your confidence is based in your ever-increasing knowledge and experience.

Posted in:  Baby 5-8 weeks  A new reality  Every baby is different