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What a mother really needs to know in the first few months

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So much of modern motherhood is targeted at looking good, even when you feel crap and making your baby look good even though he or she won’t settle or feed or stop crying, all in the shortest time frame possible. The Miranda Kerr and Heidi Klums of the world make it look easy; have a baby and get back on the runway 2 minutes later with a flat stomach, silky hair and glowing skin.

What about the mothers who get acne from pregnancy, or whose hair turns grey, or can’t loose their baby belly in 10 seconds flat? This book is for them. The Birth of the Modern Mum looks at the serious issues such as Postnatal Depression (PND), relationship changes and physical changes that mothers face in their first year with a new baby while still providing light-hearted quick fixes that any mother can implement in short period of time.

In association with The Gidget Foundation, and industry support from Dr Vijay Roach and Dr John Irvine, The Birth of the Modern Mum is sure to become a household title for all new mums. It’s written by Heather Irvine, Clinical Psychologist and head of the R.E.A.D Clinic on the Central Coast. 

We are excited to release an excerpt from ‘The Birth of the Modern Mum’. Of course you love your new baby, but don’t let anybody fool you – motherhood is hard work.

Heather-Irvine-Modern-Mum17-316x490

The Birth of the Modern Mum. RRP $24.95

Never before had I understood the extraordinary process of birth. It was like someone had given me some type of primal power. Sure, my pregnancy wasn’t always easy and the birth, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty! But the truth was I had just brought another being onto the planet. Wow. Just mind-blowing. Jo, mother of one

You did it. You actually did. The crazy idea that a baby that big could come out an exit that small actually worked! And if your ‘exit’ wasn’t up for it, then even crazier that some clever clogs with a big knife sorted it out anyway.

And now you’re a mother! Exciting. Amazing. Enthralling. Scary. Absolutely overwhelming. Was all of this is in the contract? Did we miss something in the fine print? Man, oh man. How is it that wise and well-informed women have been tricked into breeding for centuries without really knowing what we were in for? I was certainly fooled – I blame the Kleenex ads. And since you’re reading this book, I guess you were too.

For some mothers, the first few weeks are fun. For others…well, not so much. The overall impact of the first few weeks has variations between mothers around the same level as say…well…the temperature in Africa and the North Pole. Here’s what some of the mothers I work with had to say:

I remember walking friends out to their car after they’d visited to welcome the new baby, and I felt this strange panic – I’ve left my baby alone in the house, I’ve neglected her – but am I allowed to go outside for a moment without her? I just didn’t want to wake her up. Am I trapped here? How come they get to leave? It took ages to figure out what was OK to do. Sharon, mother of two

Me and my partner just doted on our little Gracie from the time she was born. Everything we did, everything we talked about, everything that was important in our lives was now about her. She was the centre of our universe. She was just amazing. We just felt so blessed. Maggie, mother of two

I was in pain. My caesarean wound became infected. I couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding and my husband was pressuring me to switch to bottle feeding. I was so tired…all the time. I didn’t seem to be able to stop Joel crying. It was just all too much. This wasn’t what I thought it would be like. Name withheld, mother of one

So are all new mothers overwhelmed?

In a word, yes. But not all the time – and it does get easier. Beware those who profess it to be super-sensationally simple 100% of the time though: suspect delusions, delirium or drunkenness (well, maybe not the last one…). For the realists among us, we’re prepared to admit that the onset of motherhood heralds more new experiences than we’d ever imagined. New situations (think poo explosions), new emotions (just let me cry…over nothing…again) and new social interactions (did we just talk for three hours about breastfeeding?).

The good bits of mothering are good. Mind-blowing, miraculous and amazing, really. The bad bits are, well, bad. And sometimes horrendously scary too. If someone had tried to warn me about this, I mustn’t have heard them over the noise in my ipod speakers (What? Birth can be hard? Or did you say it could be a laugh?). Ah, the old days. Head in the sand, believing birth and first-time motherhood would be almost…well…just like one long holiday in a fantasy theme park of fun…

Are other mothers also stuck on the ‘surprising’ nature of their baby’s birth?

At least I knew what they meant by ‘the miracle of birth’. It really was a miracle and I’m grateful for it every day. But I’d never expected it to be like what it was. In my birth plan I was meant to be listening to music and my husband massaging my back while I rocked on a birthing ball. Ha! I was whisked off to have an emergency caesarean and my husband almost passed out with fear. Not what we’d planned! Sarah, mother of two

There’s only one word that unites all mothers when it comes to birth – UNIQUE. Because each birth experience will be just that – completely different to every other woman’s on the planet. Some of us have the dream birth – where there’s pleasure in the pushing, or there’s calmness in the contractions, and it’s all just, well, peachy. Some of us have the other type officially banned from Kleenex ads – where there’s needles being poked and surgical knives doing their, um, “thing”, and it’s all, well, messy (or scary or both).

If your birth didn’t follow your birth plan, I’m guessing this has then left you feeling deflated or annoyed or let down or guilty about what happened. Sometimes I wish I had a dollar for every new mother whose emotional health is derailed by the “failed” birth plan. Just quietly, I’d be a millionaire by now.

I remember one mother coming to me in floods of tears, overwhelmed with extraordinary disappointment at having screamed out in pain during labour. ‘My birth plan included being silent. You know, a silent birth,’ she sobbed. ‘My calm birth teacher said it was achievable if I used my calm breathing and calm thoughts.’ Yikes! I felt like saying, ‘I hope your calm birth teacher isn’t advertising the “benefits” of staying silent through all severely painful events like car accidents or broken limbs,’ but I refrained.

All jokes aside, some women do have silent births, but I have always been deeply annoyed at the significant amount of time, energy and resources utilised in preparing a ‘birth plan’ that fails to take into account that most of them will need to be changed due to:

  1. To give birth safely for the sake of saving us or our baby. That sounds pretty important to me. Always wise to change tack if it means saving a life!
  2. Because of how we respond to our crippling exhaustion or excruciating pain. It’s the modern world, ladies – we are allowed to have limits on what we can tolerate. There aren’t points being handed out for who suffers the most (although there are some women who think so – bizarre!).
  3. Because we were bossed into doing something by someone we considered a powerful medical professional. The power imbalance between a woman giving birth and the medical staff helping her can look a little like an elephant vs a mouse in proportion. Nearly all mothers (unless of the fierce and ferocious, scary kind) would have done the same. Forgive yourself for being human.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, click here to buy a copy of the whole book

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