“Judged”, “insecure”, “upset” and “pressured”.
These are words that shouldn’t be associated with a person trained and employed to support mothers and parents of newborns, many of whom are new mothers and parents. But unfortunately for members of this mothers’ group, these were accurate descriptions of their Maternal Child Health Nurse (MCHN) who also facilitated their group.
At a time when mothers are already dealing with sleep deprivation, a heightened emotional state, fluctuating hormones, post baby delivery wounds and countless other challenges of a new baby, having the unwavering and dependable support of those around you is critical. Having this from a person whose job it is to provide this for mother’s and families of newborns should be a given but in the case of a friend of mine, her experience and those of other mothers in her mothers’ group was far from positive.
Over five years on, this is something that still strikes a nerve within her and the other women who had this particular MCHN.
“I felt judged as a mother each time I went to one of the appointments,” *Bridget told me. “I would leave every session in tears.”
For Bridget and every one of the women in this group I spoke with, this was their first baby. For many women within the group their particular family situations put them in the position where extra support would have been more than warranted.
There was a single mother, young mother, a mother of twins and a mother of a premature baby. Not that this puts them in the category of not being as capable as any other mothers, but for most MCHNs, I am sure it would prompt some sort of diligence to ensure that they were coping as best as they could. But rather than be assured, encouraged and assisted, they were made to feel judged by the way they were spoken to and the advice they were provided.
For the majority of cases our MCHN do an incredible job, unfortunately, like in any profession, there are some individuals who do not. For these intelligent, extraordinary and caring mothers they were dealt the bad hand and its impacts are still felt within them today.
*Maggie told me her experience with this MCHN made her always feel anxious.
“She would always find something wrong with my son. A non-existent lazy eye, delays in what milestones he should be achieving, there was always something that was not right,” Maggie said.
Another woman in the group said the MCHN made her incessantly worry.
“I was told my daughter had a tongue tie that should be seen to and that her hips were unaligned and was then referred to a paediatrician. After his check-up I was assured that neither of these observations were in fact accurate and that my daughter was 100 per cent healthy,” she said.
The mothers’ group was explicitly and regularly told that “breast is best” and that if anyone had trouble that they just needed to “keep pumping to stimulate the flow”. There was no option to feed the baby formula despite the physical or emotional implications that insisting on this might have for the mother or the baby.
“The MCHN insisted I have a lactation consultant see me. That there must be an issue with my supply or something I was not doing properly that was impacting my ability to breastfeed,” *Shannon said.
Despite her best efforts Shannon could not breastfeed and rather than communicate this to the MCHN she timed her feeds around the mothers group sessions and MCHN appointments so she wouldn’t know.
The women in the group all agree that her advice was outdated, that she put unfair pressure on them as new mothers and their ability to mother. Rather than offer support when she saw them she spoke with an “attitude and judgement.” This experience has impacted many of these women long term.
Although all of them eventually switched MCHN with their children or future children it was an experience that definitely caused them to put their guard up, analyse their ability and to have memories of what should have been a positive and helpful relationship, be the opposite.
What was your experience with your MCHN like? Tell us in the comments section below.
Group therapy time: Team Mamamia share the time we felt like terrible parents. It happens to the best of us.
* Names have been changed to maintain privacy.