Joining the Mother ‘Hood’ offers a whole new dimension to the concept of ‘networking’. Although it probably won’t help you raise any glass ceilings, your mothering network may prevent you from sliding into a downward spiral towards isolation and despair.
If you don’t yet have a baby, it is all too easy to underestimate how vulnerable you can feel trying to balance a screaming baby and see-sawing hormones. However, your new life (the inconsolable little one in your arms), will depend on you totally – around the clock! This awesome responsibility can see you desperate for back-up, whether it’s simply reassurance that you are doing all you possibly can to alleviate your baby’s distress (why is he crying and crying?), advice about breastfeeding (do I have enough milk?) or some hands-on practical help. For your baby’s sake as well as your own well-being, it’s important to reach out and buffer yourself with a cushion of support.
This is where your network comes in - it could include anybody from a good friend who will give you and your baby hugs when you need them, to a voluntary breastfeeding counsellor (all ABA and La Leche League counsellors undergo rigorous training and have breastfed heir own babies so will know exactly how you feel), or professionals such as a family doctor, and a whole range of support people in between. You will feel much more comfortable calling people you know and trust than confiding in complete strangers when you have reached the bottom of the spiral. And if you have a network in place before you end up crying more than your baby, this support can mean you are so well resourced and reassured by your ‘cheering squad’ that you may never need the proverbial ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.’
A pen and paper will be useful. Together with your partner (this can make for interesting discussion), make a check-list of the sorts of support you (and your partner) may need (it is better to have them and not need them, than the other way around). As you compile your network, write a list of names and contact details, then stick this on the wall near your phone where it will be handy in an emergency. Along with numbers of your local hospital, poisons centre, after hours pharmacy and pizza delivery (the definition of emergency is relative!), some support to consider includes:
Experienced people you can model and ask for advice are just as important in your mother (or father) network as they are in your professional life. Now is the time to watch how other people handle their children. If you like their parenting style and know they will listen to you without passing judgment, put them at the top of your list. You can also check out Pinky’s Mummy Mentor program here.
A family doctor.
If you don’t already have a general practitioner who has all your records (and your child’s) at his fingertips and can make referrals to specialist services if necessary, now is the time to do your doctor shopping. Your doctor’s support can have an influence on your child’s wellbeing as well as your own. Ask questions about health aspects that are important to you, such as, “did you (if she is a woman) or your partner breastfeed your babies? For how long?” Also find out if doctors in the practice have areas of special expertise, such as paediatrics or counselling, for instance. If you are likely to also use treatment by alternative health practitioners (such as osteopathy, chiropractic care, natural remedies), find out your prospective family doctor’s views on these.
Maternal and Child Health Nurse
You don’t have to attend your local clinic if you prefer a nurse in another area – some will have extra qualifications. For instance, they may also be trained lactation consultants. Include an after hours number on your list.
If you haven’t yet handled a real live baby, let alone seen one being breastfed, up close and personal, please don’t wait until you have your own. Take yourself along to an Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League meeting (or several). Borrow books about breastfeeding and parenting from their library, watch experienced mothers caring for babies and breastfeeding, and get to know the counsellors now, so you will be calling a familiar person if your confidence wavers.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), your old friends will not be as excited about the thing that now interests you the most – your baby! Besides, no matter how wonderful and amazing your baby is, the days can be very long without any adult company. This doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune for babysitters – take your baby and go out together. Why not pack up and head out to a ‘Cry Baby” session at your local cinema, or try a class where mums and babies learn together – try mum and baby yoga, infant massage, a baby music class such as Kindermusik, or GymbaROO or even baby swimming (don’t let fragile body image deter you -everyone else will have mummy tummies too!).
Around fifteen percent of new mothers experience postnatal depression and about eighty percent find the early days very stressful. Contact with other new mothers can help you get things into perspective and provide support.
Your local baby health centre may offer mum and bub groups or you could start your own mothers’ group by organising outings with women from your antenatal class or put up a notice at your child health clinic to find like-minded women (this can work to form your own couples’ group too). This group might double as a playgroup later, or call the playgroup association in your state for local contact details.
If you find you are crying more than your baby, you will need help. Postnatal depression IS treatable, the sooner the better. Add a postnatal depression support group to your list, just in case.
If you would like ongoing support in the comfort of your own home, check out Pinky’s Parenting by heart Mummy Mentor program (this includes live Q and A calls with Pinky)