Updated: Feb 11, 2022
By Kelley from Parenting From Within
Kelley experienced Postpartum Anxiety following her son's birth. Kelley talks about some of the challenges that we can experience after child birth and how this can impact our mental health and our ability to cope. Kelley started a community organization to help support other parents in their parenting journey.
Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?
When having honest conversations with new moms, this is something we almost always hear. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t anyone tell me what this was going to be like? There is so much silence around motherhood. Even the literature talks about new moms feeling like there is a conspiracy of silence around the realities of mothering. This leaves too many moms feeling alone. Feeling like they are the only ones struggling with the medical realities of birth, with difficult feelings around becoming a mother and feeling alone in their internal struggle to parent differently than they were parented. There is no denying that motherhood can be a lonely place. There is no denying that very rarely do new parents admit that they are struggling. Perhaps its because they think they are doing it wrong or are going to be judged for saying so. But maybe, if we acknowledged that motherhood is hard and lonely, it would be a little less hard and little less lonely. Perhaps being honest about our own parenting experience is the greatest gift we can give to a new parent.
Here, we are going to talk a little bit about some of the most common “why didn’t anyone tell me?” themes that arise during our conversations.
Why didn't anyone tell me about the medical realities of giving birth and recovery?
Giving birth is a monumental experience. Prenatally, we have multiple visits with our healthcare providers. But once the baby is born, we typically are sent home with a smile, a “good luck” and a follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. Women are not adequately educated prenatally about some of the medical realities of childbirth and don’t receive quality postnatal care. Your six week follow up appointment typically involves a quick physical check and an ok to return to exercise and sex. Our current medical model is not equipped to deal with the complexities of birth and the postpartum experience. The medical realities of childbirth (including incontinence, tearing, bleeding, prolapse of organs, and Diastasis Recti) can be a surprise and most women don’t talk to each other about these realities. It is usually not just this physical experience that causes distress but the confusion and isolation that comes along with it. Pain and suffering are not the same thing. Suffering can be minimized if a woman understands what happened to her. Many women feel abandoned by their healthcare providers during those 6 weeks and then are either too embarrassed to ask or their concerns are dismissed. Know, that these medical realities are common but they are not ‘normal’. You are not alone. Listen to your body, you are the expert in your own body, and advocate for yourself. You may wish to find someone who specializes in women’s health, such as a pelvic floor physiotherapist to support your recovery.
Why didn't anyone tell me about the difficult feelings I was going to experience?
The transition to motherhood is filled with so many emotions and feelings. It can be overwhelming. Often there is a duality to these feelings that make them hard to process. Many women are not aware that they may not bond with their baby the second they are born and that it may take some time (especially if the birth involved physical or emotional trauma). Others may love their baby with a fierceness they were unprepared for but also wonder, especially in those first few days, if they have made a mistake by having a child. Many moms experience grief as they process how significant the change is between their life before baby and their life now as a mother.
Many moms feel a strong resentment towards their partner and their freedom. I vividly remember some of the times as a mom of an infant that I resented my partner. I remember him handing me a screaming baby, saying he had done everything he could to try and calm him. And then having the freedom to walk away while I wondered what exactly I was supposed to do with this screaming baby? I remembered thinking about the freedom he had to live in and dress a body that he had known his whole life. Here I was in my third body that I had known so far – I had lived in my pre-pregnancy body, my pregnant body and now my postpartum body. It was all brand new to me. I couldn’t wear my pre-pregnancy clothes as they were too small. I couldn’t wear my maternity clothes because they were too big. It was still undergoing huge transformations and leaking fluid from all sorts of places. And I wondered if I would ever have the freedom to not think about my body every minute of the day. I remember being so angry when he would simply walk out of the room to use the bathroom, whereas I had to either loudly announce that I was going to the bathroom and could someone else watch the baby for two minutes or I would have to bring the baby with me.
For me, I knew that any of these feelings were underlined by a profound grief as I let go of the life I lived before becoming a mom and tried to find myself in this new mothering role.
Why didn't anyone tell me I was going to feel discomfort parenting in a way that is different from the way I was parented?
Many moms approach parenting now from an attachment, gentle, responsive perspective. This is not the way many of us were parented and can bring up some strong emotions in ourselves. I know many moms who are trying to parent differently than they were parented and come up against their own parents who say things like “well, that’s the way we did it and you turned out fine”. This can lead to feelings of anger, feeling unheard, not respected as a parent and increase the feelings of isolation already felt by being a new mom.
It can also bring up things for you from your own childhood that you have been unable to process. These feelings can continue to build throughout the years with your child. Your child’s behaviours can trigger feelings of rage in your that you are unprepared for. Usually, you are not having these reactions because your child is behaving in a certain way but because of what that behaviour means to you from your own experiences. Many of us were not welcome as children to express a full range of emotions, and so allowing our own children to do so, even from the earliest days, can bring up big emotions in ourselves. It’s also common to need the support of a professional to help work through our own big emotions and develop strategies to help calm ourselves.
Parenting from Within
In 2018, I gave birth to my son. Despite having years of experience as a nurse working with infants and their families, I found myself completely unprepared for how the postpartum period and journey into motherhood would change me. Like many new moms, I was overwhelmed by everyone’s constant opinions about how I should parent. With all the noise around me, I found it very hard to listed to the Mother that lived inside of me. It wasn’t until my son was 13 months old that I realized the toll that constantly fighting my instincts had taken. After 13 months I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I was diagnosed with Postpartum anxiety and finally found a circle of support that gave me permission to listen to my instincts and believe that I was the best mother for my baby.
In January of this year, I launched Parenting From Within. It is the resource I wish I had as I made the transition to Motherhood. My hope is that the tools, information, encouragement and comfort parents will find with Parenting From Within will help to make the transition to parenthood a little smoother. Parenting From Within is a safe space of support that offers evidence-based information from the prenatal period through the early years.
Please check out our website to learn all about our programs.
It’s time that we normalize the motherhood experience. There are some amazing times in motherhood, but there are also some really challenging times as well. Let’s offer this gift of honesty to other parents, so that we can all feel less alone in our journey – there’s a reason they say it takes a village to raise a child (and a mother!).