When I was preparing for the birth of my first baby I wanted a tranquil water-birth at home, I was going to ride those contractions and it was going to be blissful. I was going to greet my baby with tears of joy and she was going to breastfeed immediately. My expectations were pretty high and my reality wasn’t quite like that.
I did give birth at home but not in the pool; at times I was in awe of what my body was doing but it was far from tranquil – it was raw, it was painful and I eventually lost it and panic took over. I still remember it very positively but there was no blissful. There were no tears of joy, I was too exhausted for that. And my baby didn’t feed well straight away, I hated breastfeeding every day for a fortnight while I learned to relax and she learned to latch. Eventually it clicked and it worked but she was still combine fed by the time she was 3 months old.
I didn’t expect the exhaustion, the soreness, the anxiety, the overwhelming responsibility and the relentlessness. I also didn’t expect the overwhelming love and desire to protect her from everything.
– big, fat failure –
During those first few weeks of motherhood I felt like a failure – I was knackered, I felt alone, I was proud of making and birthing her but I had torn so I had clearly done something wrong because people commented that I obviously hadn’t done as I was told (!?! FFS) and all my baby wanted to do was cling to me, she wouldn’t settle and we had no routine at all.
Expectations will almost always be different from reality, especially when we are doing something for the first time. Birth is pretty damn amazing but it is incredibly unpredictable and we just don’t know what our baby is going to need because we haven’t met them yet and their needs change so much anyway.
– so bloody normal –
Now I know that what I experienced was totally normal – birth is raw, there are panic points and knowing how to handle that can, could and does make a difference but we are not robots and it is normal and ok to struggle, to find it hard, to do what we do in that moment of pain and emotion; babies cling, it’s what they do; babies often don’t sleep; breastfeeding isn’t for everyone; motherhood can be judgmental and lonely;. And, yes, my experience as a parent certainly does underpin everything I do as a trained practitioner!
The problem with expectations is that we create them before we hit reality, it is our belief that something will happen a certain way but childbirth, babies and children are far too unique for that. Nothing will stop you from having your expectations and it helps to prepare well for the unpredictability of birth and babies and to get support when your baby is here so you can get all the information and reassurance you need to feel supported as you adapt to the reality of what birth was like for you and what life as a parent is like with your new baby. This is where the solid foundations are built.
a pregnancy, birth and parenting practitioner