We’ve just had a new baby born into the family, a gorgeous little boy born to my cousin and his girlfriend after an epic 72 hour labour.
So the family should be celebrating, right?
Well you would think, but once again some of the older generations are not respecting new parent boundaries. They think it’s their right to be there, in the hospital right after the birth. That the mother is being precious/ selfish/ ridiculous because she wants to recover from her epic ordeal and spend some time bonding, just the three of them.
From speaking to friends in real life and on a few parenting forums, this isn’t something that is just relevant to my family. The older generations do not respect the fact that new mothers have a right to make requests.
We didn’t have that in my day
It has got me thinking back to my own pregnancy, labour and the newborn days. I turned to my mum a lot for advice when I got confused with the often contradictory information I found online, and I am grateful for this. I am also grateful she was my birthing partner and that my mum and dad were there for the first couple of days, because I asked them to be there.
However, I also feel that some of my decisions were ridiculed and dismissed as ‘that didn’t happen in their days’ I was constantly told that the friendships I was making online were harmful, as we didn’t always agree on what we were doing and that they managed without the internet so should I. It was hinted I was being ridiculous for choosing to have a movement monitor or for being concerned Monkey might have CMI or reflux (it turned out she did have reflux)
Grin and Bear it
When I was worried I might be suffering with PND, I tried to speak to my mum as I knew Mr. TH was concerned about me already and had enough to deal with going back to work. I was cut off mid-sentence on most occasions, told that I had the baby blues and that she had had to get on with it because my Grandma wouldn’t accept my Mum might have PND. In the next breath she told me how she didn’t want to be like my Grandma, but here she was dismissing my concerns again and doing exactly what her mother had done to her.
I turned to online groups to voice my worries and anxieties but never dared tell the full story. I was worried I was going mad or that social services would take her away from me. There were times I just wanted to drive full speed into a wall or run away by myself, just to get away from what felt like the constant crying. Thankfully once her reflux was diagnosed and she was on decent medication life did get better but my early day memories were not good ones and it’s something I regret.
My first experience of feeling inadequate was after the birth. I didn’t get that rush of love when she was placed on my chest, I just felt numb. Literally from the epidural and mentally. I was exhausted and I just wanted to sleep. It took weeks before I really had the big surge of emotions I had been told I would have, I just found it really hard work and I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of looking after this small helpless human being while trying to recover from stitches and blood loss as well as the issues mentioned previously.
While I was feeling this way I was constantly being told how wonderful she was and how much I must love her. There were so many comments on what an ‘easy’ baby she was and how I would struggle if I had a baby like I had been or my sister. To be fair she did sleep really well but we had to wake her to feed every 3 hours to keep her jaundice at bay. Few people saw the hours and hours of walking the floor to get her to sleep or the hours I spent during the day, walking the streets pushing her pram with her screaming and me crying.
Several months later I was looking for a nursery for Monkey, she had been going ad hoc to childcare from 6 months and would be going regularly for 2-3 days from a year old. It was a decision I was struggling with. When I was pregnant I was determined to be a SAHM, but by the time she was 5 months, I knew I needed a little bit of my old life back.
My mum was a SAHM and so was my Grandma. It had always been made clear that once you have children in our family, you stay at home and look after them, so I already felt like I was doing something wrong. The comment of ‘Well in my opinion mothers should be at home looking after their children, not going off to work and letting someone else raise them’ as we were driving to the nursery was something of a blow.
While there is a lot of encouragement for parents to be supportive of each other, I think there needs to be more encouragement for older generations to support their children and grandchildren.
I don’t know how this would happen, but we somehow need to educate them that new ways and new products can be a good thing. That parenting has changed, more mothers are going back to work through necessity or choice, more fathers are staying at home and we are having babies later in life so our lifestyles as parents are different. But we need to do this without patronising the people that have been there and done that.
I haven’t managed to do this successfully yet but if you have any suggestions please do share. Or, if your parents and grandparents are supportive of your parenting choices let me know there is hope!