The postnatal period still has a “fame” that doesn’t match reality. Although much more is talked about it today, a lot still needs to be demystified. In evidence, the pressure that society in general places on new mothers and families, which is almost a “mystery”: if all women who become mothers go through the postnatal period, why do we still have so much misconception about it? We are led to believe in the idealization of motherhood, and that we should not speak about the challenging side of it and about those situations in which we don’t respond to the expectation put on us (speaking briefly and generally).
Here at Motherly Hug it’s our priority to speak of the real postpartum, of the postnatal period as it is, without creating false expectations. Only then will we understand the importance of preparing for postpartum (in the part where preparation is possible) and only then will we have an idea of what to expect … but only an idea, since each woman is unique and each experience is unique and unpredictable in its essence.
Here are seven postpartum myths:
# 1 You will fall in love with your baby immediately when you look into his/her eyes
It’s lovely to see that little baby that just came out of our own body, but that doesn’t mean we fall in love instantly. This does happen to some women, but not to the majority of us. Love is built on a daily basis, through the establishment of the mum-baby relationship, through interactions, through the first smiles (and then it doesn’t stop growing!), but it’s not necessarily immediate. So don’t blame yourself if your heart doesn’t explode with love in the early days. It’s normal.
# 2 Being a mother is instinctive
The maternal instinct exists and must be listened to, but mothering is a learning skill! And on the journey we make mistakes! It’s okay, it’s part of it! The perfect mother doesn’t exist. So don’t feel guilty when you don’t know what to do (in the postnatal period and also later). Mothering happens through attempts with both successes and errors!
# 3 Breastfeeding is natural and instinctive
I guess everyone thinks like that before getting involved in maternity matters. But breastfeeding, even though a beautiful natural event, is also a technique to be learned – by the mother and the baby (a few babies seem to be born knowing it already though). So it’s worth reading about it in pregnancy, watching videos, watching breastfeeding friends, chatting about it… for it’s not a knowledge that we bring within us!
# 4 You will feel like the happiest person in the world
Note the idealization of motherhood there! You will have moments of intense joy in the midst of a rollercoaster of other varied feelings! Especially in the first few weeks, it’s common to feel lost, confused, even sad! It’s important to have trustworthy friends or a doula to talk about your feelings without the fear of being judged, just as it’s important to allow yourself to cry whenever you feel like it. Don’t blame yourself for not feeling like the happiest person in the world now that you have your baby in your arms, as that is not the reality of most mums in those first few weeks (and do look for help if a strong melancholy is still there for most of the time after 3 or 4 weeks).
# 5 Newborns just feed and sleep, it’s easy to look after them!
Oh, if it were that simple! Newborns feed a lot … and cry a lot! And they require a lot of care and dedication! There’s no time for anything else! Hence the importance of a support network to be in charge of the “mundane tasks” while the new mum takes care of her little baby.
# 6 As soon as your baby is born, you forget all the pain
It’s quite true that as soon as your baby is born you feel a relief. But you may have contractions later, both to expel the placenta and later, for days or weeks, when the uterus is returning to its normal size and place. If you had a c-section, seven layers of your tummy will be healing, and yes, it may be painful! Not to mention the emotional pains that, depending on your birth experience, may be present for a while.
# 7 You have to handle it all on your own because it’s not difficult
This is perhaps one of the most unfair myths of postpartum! It’s humanly impossible to account for everything alone, as society sometimes makes us believe. You will need help and it’s not wrong to need help, let alone asking for help! Hence the importance of thinking during pregnancy of those who are part of your support network and talking to them about what kind of help you may want from them. It’s also good to know who the professionals that can be useful in this period are.
Were you made to believe in any of these myths? How did you deal with them? How do you deal with them today?
*Written by Dulce Piacentini