Our regular parenting expert, Anna Cole, wrote a wonderfully heart-warming article for our Autumn 2020 issue. She discussed the challenges that new parents can face, and how relief from these pressures can be found in simply knowing that they are doing their best. Read the full article below.
For every new mum and dad
by Anna Cole
No matter how many books you read, or how many people you talk to, holding your new baby in your arms is a life-changing moment. Depending on the birth experience you have, you may be elated or you may be exhausted. You may crest highs you’ve never known, or you may feel bleaker than the darkest thunder storm.
As you embark on this new journey and begin to adjusting to a new schedule, the questions are many. Am I doing this right? Should I feed her or bathe her? Should she be feeding or sleeping? Are we bonding? Should I feel this confused?
The questions may go deeper. How do I want to raise this child? What are my beliefs and how do they differ from my parents’ beliefs? Who can help me in this? Sometimes, the questions can get desperate. When can I take a shower? Will I ever sleep again?
And they rarely stop. Soon you may question how to help your child sleep alone, how best to respond to him when he cries, when you should respond, and how often. When to begin weaning, and how to introduce solids? The decision-making can seem endless and overwhelming, but it comes from the most sacred place there is: Love.
Ultimately, these questions boil down to one question: Am I giving the best to my child?
And I have an answer. You are mama. You are Papa. You are there. You care.
As the author and founder of Gentle Parenting Resources L.R Knost says, “Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary.”
Right at the heart of this new love story is you, the attachment you make and connection you build with your child. This is a new role that you get to define, exactly as you wish.
New parents can be hard on themselves. They become stressed in their desire to provide well. Before you let the questions overtake you, there are five truths that every new parent should know. They will soothe you when parenting is awful, ordinary and mundane, and they will help you find joy in those moments when it is amazing.
Five truths for every new parent
Five minutes of undivided loving attention with your baby each day can go a very long way in building a healthy attachment. Holding, cherishing, noticing, and staring into your baby’s eyes lets him know you are there and he is wanted.
Find someone who can listen well about what it’s like to be a parent, without needing to give you advice or fix you. Parenting is emotional work which can’t be done in isolation. Having an opportunity to offload helps you to expel parenting fears and explore your questions. With regular exchanges, there is time to cry, get angry, and work through worry, providing space to return to your baby calmer and more ready to face the next hurdle.
Sometimes your baby may just need to cry in your arms, even after all of his or her physical needs are taken care of. Babies are capable of working through emotions too, in their way. Being born is a tough job, for you and your baby. If you are wracking your brains trying to work out why your babe is crying after her needs have been met, hold her, make eye contact and try listening. She may be trying to expel her fears too. (You can check out more about what we call ‘Staylistening’ with babies on the Hand in Hand Parenting website listed at bottom of page).
You are a good mum. You deserve support even when you are tired, frustrated and fed up. Yes, you do! Your baby deserves a mama – and a papa – who are rested and fed, has time for herself or himself, and can return to be really present with their child. Find people you can rely on so that if you need something, you aren’t shy to ask. Ever.
Your baby cries for a reason. You will never ‘spoil’ them by responding with love. Babies do not cry to manipulate or control. Sometimes the going feels just as tough for your little one as it does for you. Their young brains cannot show you everything they feel through primitive language and gesture, but your physical love and affection shows them you are close and that they will always be loved and protected.
Anna Cole is a Hand in Hand Instructor. Find out more at handinhandparenting.org and keep an eye on my Facebook page for upcoming online class for parents of under 10s and also preteens in September. This article is based on the ideas, wisdom and care of Stephanie Parker, and the team at Hand in Hand Parenting.