We’ve already mentioned the phenomenon of recycling — where old feelings from your past surface in the present. Often, a mother with a new baby starts to feel as if she is an infant herself — fragile, overwhelmed, frightened, unable to think clearly, emotionally distressed and vulnerable. This may be because she is re-experiencing the time of her own birth. If a new mother is treated with tenderness and nurturing, she will gradually find her strength and self-assurance returning.
Partners and other carers can help tremendously by gently encouraging her to think through her options. They also have an important role in protecting her from too many intrusions and from the need to make a lot of decisions. They will be of great value, too, if they nurture with food, encouragement, massage, bed-making, house cleaning, the laundry, keeping her warm and carrying the baby for her. These things can be done with respect and thoughtfulness, not by taking over and ordering her off to bed.
In the rare instances where a woman has severe— where desperate thoughts occur to her often and family or friends fear for her safety or that of the baby — then professional help should be sought immediately.
Usually, it is the simple and practical little things which are of the most help to a new mother.
Stephanie, 40 ‘I distinctly remember the sheer pleasure and relief when a nurse brought me a hot chocolate drink and a biscuit at about 5 o’clock one morning, as I was sitting feeling lonely, sore and lost, with nothing to do but wait for the baby to wake up. I felt like someone had snuggled me up and made me feel cared for. I needed for myself what my baby needed from me.’
Janelle, 29 ‘I felt really sick and sore after the birth and I happened to tell one of the nurses that one shoulder was very stiff, from the way I had been lying. She got some oil and mas-saged it for me. I guess it was only a little thing, but it meant a lot to me. It helped me get to sleep and I really needed that.’
Julie, 36 ‘When my mother was having her babies, it was the accepted thing that the new mother could get outside help — a paid helper to clean and cook for about six weeks after the birth. In other words, you weren’t suspected of that dreaded disease, “not coping”. It was just accepted as necessary.’
The point is, it takes time andto get it right with your baby. You show your love actively and show your commitment by experimenting to find what makes them happy. Soon you will be operating smoothly and with ever-greater confidence.