“We live in a world where people fling judgments with their fingertips.”
As a mother and grandmother in today’s world climate it disturbs me how much judgment there is about what makes a “good enough mother”.
Years ago, Winnicott, a pediatrician coined the term “good enough mother” where he described how a mom becomes attached to her newborn baby by meeting his/her every need. As her child gets older she allows him/her to go out on his own explorations experiencing some frustrations yet she remains empathetic and caring. It is a teaching moment of which she may not even be aware.
In discussing the mother (or other caretaker’s) adaptation to the needs of the baby, Winnicott thought that the “good enough mother” starts out with an almost complete adaptation to her baby’s needs. She is entirely devoted to the baby and quickly sees to his every need. She sacrifices her own sleep and her own needs to to fulfill the needs of her infant.
As time goes by, however, the mother allows the infant to experience small amounts of frustration. She is empathetic and caring, but does not immediately rush to the baby’s every cry. Of course, at first the time-limit to this frustration must be very short. She may allow the baby to cry for a few minutes before her nighttime feeding, but only for a few minutes. She is not “perfect” but she is “good enough” in that the child only feels a slight amount of frustration.
Today, moms are bombarded with information and experiences of other moms peppered with some statistically proven facts which are not always scientifically significant. For many of these women it is information overload and adds to their over arching anxiety surrounding pregnancy and parenthood.
I found this to be true when I was a practicing obstetrical nurse. Many women, who were adamant about following a very severely scripted birth plan set themselves up for failure and or disappointment from the minute they went into labor. Trying to superimpose a template upon a very natural human experience which sometimes is accompanied by many curves and detours before the actual delivery of a healthy baby is not the wisest approach to labor and delivery.
In my obstetrical nursing practice, I approached every laboring women as a unique person who was going to have her own unique experience. There was no template and no definition of a successful delivery except having a healthy baby and mom in the end. As a professional nurse we do have standards of practice to maintain which are put in place to safe guard against malpractice and negligence. They are not in place to make every delivery the same like a cookie cutter experience. The human being just does not allow for cookie cutter outcomes. We are all different as are our fingerprints. These are not myths they are facts.
It is time that moms and moms to be look at the templates that they are trying to live by and realize that this type of framework can more than likely set them up for disappointment when there is no need for it. Delivering a healthy baby is the goal and getting there is a different journey for every mom.There is no room for judgement or myths. But there is plenty of room for support and celebration of our individuality.
Motherhood in the connected era doesn’t have to be dominated by any myth. Social media can just as easily help celebrate our individual experience and create community through contrast. Moms have to stick together even as we walk our separate paths. We have to spot the templates and realize there are no templates. We have to talk about our failures and realize there are no failures.
Less than a year ago this was me getting married last Fall in Newport, Rhode, Island. We were nervous as newlyweds but now we are about to become parents and it is a whole kind of nervous.
I have had especially high anxiety during this time in my life.
My brain and mind are always on the go. Falling asleep at night is not a problem because I am just so tired but I usually wake up at least once for an extended period of time. I lie awake usually up for about two hours or so. Sometimes I even wake up gasping for air and other times have erupted into full-blown panic attacks. Sometimes I know what caused the panic attack and other times I have no idea.
Women and Infants Hospital has a very specialized program that caters only to women who are pregnant or new moms who suffer from anxiety or depression. Having either one of these conditions during pregnancy increases the chance of having problems postpartum. I am trying to avoid these issues. Wanting to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible inspired me to call and make an appointment for an evaluation of my anxiety. I was not looking for medication so I was set up with a clinical social worker. My initial meeting with the social worker was for about an hour. Together we reviewed my medical history and talked about my anxiety and certain aspects of my life that maybe relevant to my anxious feelings.
Truthfully, there are so many things that I am anxious about when it comes to becoming a new parent. I worry about finances, being a good mother, labor and delivery, the change in my lifestyle (all common things for a pregnant woman). We also discussed feeding, birth control after delivery (it seems a little early but I realize it is all important stuff) and it is all cumulative when it comes to disrupting my sleep.
The social worker decided that I did not need to attend the Day Program offered at Womens and Infants. Instead, she referred me to two therapists who were closer to where I live. Both of who are clinical social workers.
I am not ashamed to say that I’ve been seeing a therapist on a weekly basis with whom I really connect. I am proud that I’ve taken control of the situation to better myself. I know that I did myself a favor by getting help as soon as possible. Talking with someone who is objective works for me and I couldn’t be more grateful to be surrounded by such a wonderful network of support during this important time in my life as I get ready to be a parent.
Long hours…little recognition for all that parenting entails
No one can really tell you what it will be like…being responsible for a child
And when some one does try…their words may fall on our deaf ears
What it will be like if you decide to have more than one
I always say in my experience when it comes to children 2 was more than double 1
It is an exponential experience
Simply, stress is part of life and parenting
As parents, trying to manage stress is up to us
It is when we manage our stress that we teach our children how to manage theirs
So here are some of my personal suggestions.
Breathe…try to concentrate on breathing when things are particularly stressful at a given moment. This practice always helps me gain some composure and control.
Sleep…get enough of it…replenish yourself regularly…most of us do not allow ourselves to sleep enough…we consider it a luxury when it is a necessity…come on… we all know this…don’t we?
Exercise…walk…park your car farther away from the store…run when you could walk…I’m always surprised at the opportunities I miss to exercise even a little during each day.
Eat…when I watch what I eat I feel better…treat yourself once a day to something special…a piece of chocolate or a cup of tea. Take the time to savor whatever it is…eat it mindfully and really enjoy that moment.
Stress will follow us around unless we do battle with it.