As the world welcomed Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor it may have triggered your memory back to those days when you first became a mother. Back then there wasn’t a Dummies Guide to Motherhood, we just seemed to muddle along. Nowadays there is so much advice for new mothers both on and offline that it must be mind boggling for those new to parenting.
I can’t remember reading up about what to do when I came home from hospital with this new little person who would depend on my husband and I for everything. Were we naive? I don’t know but it seemed to work. We picked up tips and tricks from our own mothers, sisters, girlfriends who had all had babies before us. I think I had one book which I referred to when a problem arose. I had a very patient and understanding doctor’s surgery who seemed to answer any questions I had. That was in the day when doctors talked to you on the phone and would do home visits if necessary.
So what happens to new mums now? They are experts before they begin as they have read up on it all. They join Mumsnet, employ a Doula if they can afford one. Everything they need for a baby can be ordered from the delivery room via the internet. None of those late night dashes by your partner to the corner shop as you realise you are about to run out of nappies.
Do you remember the battles with the car seat? Well now cars come fitted with some superdooper thingy that means the seats click themselves in! No more near killing your partner when he struggles and the baby yells.
However it is not all dirty nappies and sleep deprivation as we all know. In actual fact you do forget the pain and only remember the pleasure. Nature’s way of getting you to have another one.
But I worry that this new generation of mothers have too much information, bringing with it unnecessary anxiety and fear. It may never happen but they have been alerted and so there are more sleepless nights. Everything is so much more sophisticated and safe now, or maybe there are just more hidden fears.
Let’s take baby alarms – my mother never had one for me. I had one for my babies that I could hear if they cried and sometimes I could also hear the baby next door if they had the same alarm on the same channel! Now mothers have a monitor that has a screen and so they can see if their baby turns on its back. Some give the temperature of the room and others allow you to talk to your baby, whilst many have soothing music or noise that will help get your baby to sleep. Do the parents get any sleep or are they constantly watching the screen I wonder?
However the pressure on mums to have all these safety issues covered is so immense, and very expensive. Maybe the idea is to give new mums more reassurance that all is well with their baby, but I wonder if ignorance in some situations may be better.
Then of course there is Instagram beaming pictures onto millennial mums’ phones of beautiful, perfect babies; of mothers back in their size 8 jeans one week after the birth. No pictures of screaming babies at 2am, frazzled mums still in their PJs at 2pm. It projects an image of perfect motherhood, but the reality is so different.
I was not surprised to watch the TV programme Louis Theroux: Mothers on the Edge in which we saw women dealing with mental illness brought on by childbirth.
For all its joys, new motherhood can be a time of extreme psychiatric difficulty.”Louis Theroux
There is so much that can go wrong with motherhood. However I am encouraged that now people are recognising that sometimes becoming a mother doesn’t prove as natural a role as society would have us expect. How in some cases mothers can tip over into an acute mental crisis. Back in my mother’s day, any unnatural behaviour by the mother was ignored; in my childbirth days it was starting to be talked about and called post-natal blues. At least now it is being properly recognised and hopefully those mums that do suffer are finding the support that they need.