Friday, 27 January 2012

Finding my voice

No, I'm not going to tell you all about how BabyB-B loves my renditions of "Twinkle, Twinkle" (although she does).  I'm talking about finding my voice when faced with unwanted advice and opinions and some not so helpful comments.

When I fell pregnant I really was not prepared for the advice, opinions and comments I would receive from just about anybody that I encountered.  The quickest way to irritate me was to try to guess the sex of the baby based on how I was carrying, the pallor of my skin and even the size of my rear end!  It drove me crazy.  I remember explaining to my mother-in-law that it is not appropriate to comment on a pregnant woman's size.  Ever.  Even if you think you are giving a compliment.

I naïvely thought things would get better once I had the baby.  Oh how wrong I was.  It turns out that the advice, opinions and comments you are freely giving while you are pregnant are just the warm up for the barrage you receive from the minute your baby leaves the confines of your uterus.  Everybody has something to say.  Most of the time the advice is well meaning.  Often times the comments are intended to be harmless.  The opinions, well, everybody's got one.  

In those first few weeks of motherhood I sat stunned while advice was offered on everything from my nipples to the content of BabyB-B's nappies.  I tried to take it all in, digest it, follow it all.  After all, these people knew what they were talking about.  They were mothers themselves (they often reminded me of this with a comment along the lines of "it worked for me and my kids came out alright") so of course they knew what they were talking about.

The most difficult thing about being a first time mother is learning to trust yourself, to trust your intuition and to trust that you know your baby best.  In the first few weeks and months I tended to think just about everybody else knew better.  This wasn't helped by tentacles of PND which caused me to doubt just about every thought I had.  I questioned everything I did despite DaddyB-B assuring me that I knew best.

However, there came a point when the fog cleared.  I finally felt the seeds confidence planting themselves.  I was no longer happy to sit there meekly taking in all the advice and opinions offered to me.  So instead of removing her cardigan when I was told by a female relative that BabyB-B was too hot I responded that BabyB-B was fine and not affected by her menopausal hot flush.  Rather than feel chastened when told by an acquaintance that BabyB-B really should be sleeping longer during the day and in her own cot I responded that BabyB-B sleeps as much as she needs and that attachment style parenting is finding more and more favour these days.  

I can battle the advice and opinions head on.  When I don't agree with what is offered the litigator in me often comes out and I happily enter into hearty and, I hope, respectful debate. It is the comments that still get to me.  Some of the comments aren't so well meaning and I haven't worked out how to respond to them.  They are often couched in condescension.  My efforts are met with comments along the lines of, "Just wait until she hits the terrible twos" or "It's easy now, while you only have one child, wait until you have another".

Then there are the comments that touch on my mental health.  These really get me.  There is usually some reference to how I am (or am not) "coping".  My Parent Support Unit nurse put it really well, "It seems some people aren't willing to let you heal and move on from this."

The discovery of my mothering confidence seems to have made some people uncomfortable, it saddens me that they can't just be happy for me and accept that doing things our way works for us.  I have found my voice when it comes to unwanted advice and opinions so I'm sure I will find it in relation to such comments too.

I have always been quite open about my PND.  However, I will not be defined by it.  I hoped that by addressing it and speaking about it other mothers will know that it is ok and not the taboo it may once have been.

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