baby

'As a female GP, I see too many new mums struggle like Meghan Markle.'

Throughout pregnancy, you envision the moment you’ll meet your child and the moments after when your family and friends meet the new addition.

Your daydreaming might include a blow-dried do and you sitting there surrounded by a mountain of flowers which set off your hay fever, but let’s be honest, you cop it because it makes you look seriously loved on social media.

You might envision the moment of you holding the baby in a chair, sitting upright wearing leggings and a nice long top that you can feed in – people will flood in, leave after 20 minutes and a quick peek at the baby then leave you in peace.

All your questions about childbirth are answered by mums and non-mums. Post continues below.

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I think the reality is harsher; lots of women, friends, and patients have reassured me I am not alone in this epiphany. What you saw above is exactly what I envisioned before my first child – I thought I would ‘bounce back’ and be the woman post vaginal delivery who was wearing said slightly glamorous leggings (I don’t know perhaps something with a little rouging) and long top sitting in the chair looking serene.

Here is the truth for many: people do pop into the hospital to say hello, drop gifts, see the baby. But firstly, they don’t leave after 20 minutes, somehow they hang around for over an hour unable to read your face which clearly says, “you need to leave so I can ice my sore vagina.”

People bring, let’s be very honest, often useless gifts for the baby or flowers – as you say “thank you” the thought “could you not bring a bloody pizza or sushi roll” crosses your mind – of course, you quickly bat the thought away reminding yourself, half-heartedly, that flowers can be very useful for newborns.

The truth is that in the post-partum period – in the immediate days and weeks post-birth – people RARELY ask the mother how they are doing. People coo over the baby with; does it look like both of you, or 60% you and 40% your partner and how can hands really be that small?

The baby gets the focus, the partner – if there is one – generally stands around or sits comfortably in the chair enjoying the fanfare because let’s be fair, who wouldn’t.

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The mother, however, can be seated in the corner, quietly wondering what the f*ck is actually going on, and how everything could hurt so much and be so different in a split second.

In pregnancy, the spotlight tends to be on the mother, “you’re glowing” “oh my gosh look at your hair”, post-birth however, suddenly you’re in the corner with Shannon Noll’s nasal version of “What about me?” blaring loudly.

On her recent tour of South Africa, Meghan Markle responded to a journalist who asked how she was travelling as a new mother in the public eye – her response included “thank you for asking, not many people have asked if I’m OK.” She gave other insights into being a new mum in the public eye with tears in her eyes.

When I watched the footage, I realised I shared her sentiment. I didn’t do motherhood on a grand stage with paparazzi following me (thank goodness!)– but I knew where she was coming from, I could 100% relate to her and the pain on her face – she was admitting to struggling with it all, the changes, the juggle, the hugeness of motherhood.

Despite her enviable flowy hair, perfectly placed freckles and a dress sense to boot, she was struggling with all the same new mum stuff that we ordinary folk wade through.

Over the years I have had patients make similar comments to Megs about being a bit forgotten in the post-partum period.

I distinctly recall the new mum who told me she felt like she was ‘just a vessel’. She had delivered the child safely and felt sidelined in the hoopla that surrounded the new baby. I remember staring at her, speechless and slightly teary. She had described what so many of my patients had tried to articulate in the past.

Another patient admitted to me, through tears, she felt like she had been forgotten by her partner. The child was his primary focus now and she felt like a third wheel in the relationship; again, not uncommon.

Many patients have told me, almost in a whisper as if it’s a crime to admit it, that they wish people would stop dropping by with flowers. I gently whisper back they’re not alone and that’s often when I prescribe the patient asking for practical help from people they trust and telling the ‘drop-ins’ to see the kid to wait for a few weeks.

Mamamia’s brand new podcast: This Glorious Mess Little Kids, chats with a midwife to answer all the questions new mums have been wanting to ask. Post continues below. 

I remember being in the post-partum haze in the days post-birth moment.

I remember reeling after an emergency c-section that came after over 20 hours of labouring. I was exhausted. I had an abdominal wound but I also had all the pain and swelling from an attempted vaginal birth. I literally felt like I had only just survived a front-row mosh pit at a Limp Bizkit concert; I was in a world of pain.

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I didn’t want guest after guest. I didn’t want everyone coo-ing over the baby; I just needed a second for my brain and body to recover so I could process what had happened, and I didn’t really get it in the days post-birth.

The baby becomes the sole focus – rattles, teethers, soothers, swaddles are given to the child. The mother accepts them gratefully of course – who doesn’t need 1000 stuffed toys?

What I remember though is my girlfriend who gave me a soothing bath oil and moisturiser post the birth of our daughter, “for you Preez, because you’ll need this.”

I remember one of my best friend’s mothers coming over, sitting down, looking in my eyes and asking me, genuinely, “are you going OK? Are you enjoying this?”

I remember my mum repeatedly coming over to help, telling me to take time out to rest, heal and just get my brain and body back after a birth I hadn’t quite envisioned.

I remember the friend who brought a care package filled with snacks I could eat with one hand so I was never hungry whilst breastfeeding (hot tip – snacks or any food-related item really goes a long way for a new mother).

I think if you ask mothers, they will remember the moments in which they felt they were the true focus, even for a minute, in the post-partum haze.

My own experience, and that of my patients’ over time has made me realise that the mother should actually be a larger focus of the post-partum period.

 

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Fresh on the blog “Breastfeeding – Time for the Truth” ???????????????? • Click on link in bio • I am aware this is a topic that evokes a lot of anxiety, passion and emotion in a lot of people – I’m a GP who deals with women weekly who breastfeed (both easily and with struggles) and I am a mother who has breast fed- so here’s how I feel about it all ???????? The evidence, my experiences both personally and as a doctor shared. Breast is best (and the research tells us that) but everything else isn’t necessarily inferior or a “failure”- I feel like lots of people have firm opinions on how a woman should feed her child- so have a read and if it resonates please tell me ???????? Please feel free to tag any parent who might find this helpful or insightful ❤️ PS this photo of me feeding Miss S brings back so much warmth for me (to this day Miss S and I rock and snuggle in this chair staring at the trees ????)- when the whole process works, it really works, but when it doesn’t, it just doesn’t- read the blog, it will all make sense ???? • • #thewholesomedoctor #honestmotherhood #honestparenting #honestparenthood #parenthoodunplugged #motherhoodunplugged #motherhoodrising #rawmotherhood #honest #youdowhatyoucan #breastfeeding #breastfeedingmama #breastfeedingproblems #breastfeedingfriendly #nojudgement #positivevibes #womeninmedicine #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen #mumssupportingmums #mumlife #mumsofinstagram #feedingbaby #nonegativity #breastfeed #healthylifestyle #health #motherhood #wellness

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They need just a touch more TLC than a “well done on getting it out”; they need a genuine “are you OK?” or a meal or snack that may just provide some practical support in a very exhausting, confusing and life-changing time.

New mothers can put up all sorts of facades – with the help of illuminator and ice packs – but it doesn’t mean there’s not a lot happening under the surface.

My protocol upon meeting new babies with their family is to take something for the baby but to take mum something too – be it a veggie packed tuna slice (lots of my friends reading this will be nodding right now, Megs would have received one too if we were mates), practicals for mum like pads, breast pads or nipple care cream or a care package with food and snacks in it.

It’s my way of saying “Mama, I see you” – a bit like Avatar but in a new motherhood kind of way.

I simply urge you to think of the new mother for just a second – coo at the baby, make all the same comments but turn to the woman in the chair for just a moment – look at her, properly, and acknowledge her exhaustion, overwhelmed-ness, confusion even despite the blow-dry.

If you feel brave ask her if she is OK, if you want to shower some love without the intimate question hand her a meal or a post-partum massage oil – it just puts the focus, even for a moment, on the person who’s living a world of change in the space of days.

Dr. Preeya Alexander aka The Wholesome Doctor is a GP based in Melbourne. She is passionate about all things ‘prevention’ in medicine. You can follow her on Instagram, via her blog and her Facebook

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