We all probably hold some fantasy about becoming a parent. My fantasy involved walking around in early pregnancy holding the most special secret, that only my husband and I knew about. It involved feeling beautiful as my belly grew (and feeling justified buying new clothes to fit). It involved learning all I could about childbirth to have all the skills I need when the time came. It involved falling in love the moment I met my baby. And going for long walks with bubs in the sling and a coffee in the hand.
Sounds rather glamorous, doesn’t it?
Well. Where do I start. As I write this I am laid up on the couch with a nasty case of hemorrhoids. The type I am told I am unlucky to have gotten and that causes excruciating pain. For which the usual prescription treatment is contraindicated while breastfeeding. (Although I do feel very fortunate to be able to breastfeed) This morning my husband walked inside to find me awkwardly sitting sideways holding an icy-pole down my pants at the same time as expressing milk. Now if that isn’t glamorous I don’t know what is! The cruel irony is that, while this scene seemed hilarious at the time, it hurts too much to laugh.
And don’t get me started on postpartum night sweats…or hair loss! Or the poo I did whilst on all fours in stage 2 labour…
But seriously, there is so much we don’t anticipate when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and the early postpartum period. We tend not to talk about the less than glamorous side of this time. Instead we share the fantasies. When they come true that is. And when our own fantasies don’t come true we compare ourselves to others and end up feeling sad, disappointed, and isolated.
What are some of the less desired experiences that you have had during this period? Have you shared these with others? What is stopping you? Let’s examine why we tend to hold onto this information in preference for the ‘good news’ stories. What are we trying to achieve by doing this?
By filtering out these less than glamorous times we are fostering an unrealistic perception of parenting. And when these experiences do happen to us they are unexpected and we are ill equipped to manage them.
Let’s work together to create a positive shift in the way we talk about parenting. Next time you spend time with a trusted friend, why not experiment with sharing something you have held close. I wonder what might come of this for you, your friendship, and the broader community.
Image: Zach Lucero (Unsplash)
Dr Adi Brown (Clinical Psychologist/Perinatal Clinician, co-founder The Perinatal Hub Surf Coast)