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Let’s Talk About Sex (after a) Baby!


Before I had a baby, most of the conversations I heard about sex after a baby were negative. “The last thing I want to do after pushing a human out of my vagina is let a penis back in there!” etc. This was usually as an expansion of the generally negative narrative that surrounds birth. The tearing, the stitching…. why on earth would anyone want to have sex after that? Not to mention that women aren’t meant to WANT sex. Then there is the talk about the poor men who are expected to go without it – because men NEED sex. Right?

This never sat well with me. For a start I couldn’t imagine not wanting sex. Women need sex too. It’s actually a pretty basic need for humans. Women can also get a bit aggy if they go without. This being quite the irony in my house. I expect my husband to know the reason for me being bloody awful to live with and to cure it by having sex with the person who is making his life a living hell! Poor man.

“Regular sex, in particular, regular orgasms are good for our overall health and wellbeing.“

However, after birth a woman will often feel quite different about sex. Not least because of the physical rigours of birthing a baby, especially if there was some trauma to the perineum or other difficulty but also because of the rubbish expectations we have of post natal women. The lucky ones might have a doting partner around on paternity leave for 2 weeks but that is rare. Most only have a week at best and there is the expectation we will cope with running the household as well as mother an infant without missing a beat. Compared to many traditional cultures with “confinement” or “laying-in” periods of 6 weeks where women are looked after by the wider family – no chores, just rest and feeding the baby, our typical new mum in the UK gets a pretty brutal start to motherhood.

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Sex probably isn’t going to be a priority for a new mum when she is feeding a baby every 2 hours round the clock, while trying to keep on top of the shopping, cooking, cleaning while making sure she doesn’t look like she has just had a baby! The pressure we put women under is unjust and unnecessary.

Most women do not get a chance to really talk about sex after giving birth. When we are discharged from midwifery care, usually on day 10 if there are no issues, we are given the opportunity to discuss contraception which is often the last thing on our mind as we are still bleeding and leaking milk and have no idea what day it is. We are told it takes 6 weeks to heal and we can then resume sex. We have our 6 week check with the GP who will ask if you have had sex and that is often the extent of the conversation with health care professionals. Or if there is some dialogue it’s rarely positive. A friend of mine who had a particularly tough time and had quite significant birth injuries was flippantly told by a midwife she won’t have sex again for many months, if ever! Err, not helping!

As a doula, one of the reasons I am so passionate about helping women have positive birth experiences is because she will enter motherhood fit and well enough to look after her baby. It also makes sense to ensure women’s sexual health is a priority.

Regular sex, in particular, regular orgasms are good for our overall health and wellbeing. It reduces stress, boosts circulation, reduces cortisol, releases endorphins and helps fight infections by stimulating our immune system. It improves various functions within our bodies such as energising the hypothalamus gland which regulates our appetite, emotions, temperature and reproductive hormones (pretty useful when recovering from childbirth and establishing milk supply). It helps stimulate our lymphatic system and maybe most importantly it boosts oxytocin and helps us bond with our partners which amid the general chaos of having a baby might be the only time you actually connect emotionally and physically with them.

0E66ECE1-162B-4655-9C63-BE5011B40B50So, what is normal? Well that’s not easy to answer.
My own experience might not be typical. I felt like a goddess after giving birth! The power I felt on realising what I was capable of was very much an aphrodisiac. If not for having an episiotomy I would have had sex within a couple of weeks of birth but being wary of hurting myself and in particular infection I managed to wait about 5 weeks for penetrative sex but we were still intimate. Honestly no-one would have survived me on a 5 week sex ban! Enthusiasm did wain a little with each subsequent child but normal sex was resumed each time within 6 weeks.

Okay, I was fortunate to have easy, straightforward births but many women still do not get their mojo back for several weeks if not months. More so if she has had a less than satisfactory birth.

“Suggest your partner do other loving things rather than sex like running a bubble bath for you to relax in while he pops baby in the sling for a while. He can give you a massage or make a romantic meal even if you are at the table breastfeeding through it!“

The variation of normal is huge. Generally you should be healed enough to have sex within 6 weeks. If you have had an episiotomy or a second+ degree tear it may take a bit longer to heal.
Many women are scared of the first time after having a baby. Scared it will hurt (your partner might also be worried they will hurt you). Scared it will feel different (for both you and your partner) and there is also the issue of your changed body (that baby belly doesn’t just disappear overnight!) plus the leaky boobs and generally feeling not like you did before.
No-one should be pressuring you to resume sex before you are ready. No-one is entitled to sex with you and no-one is entitled to an opinion about your sex-life. Women who have had a traumatic birth may need a lot of time and loving patience before she can even start to talk about sex. The last thing a woman who has had a disempowering birth needs is yet another person taking away her bodily autonomy.

Suggest your partner do other loving things rather than sex like running a bubble bath for you to relax in while he pops baby in the sling for a while. He can give you a massage or make a romantic meal even if you are at the table breastfeeding through it! (Don’t forget moderate drinking is fine when breastfeeding so long as you aren’t bed-sharing).

The key is to take it slowly, maybe start out with non-penetrative sex to get your confidence back without the pressure of going all the way. When you do decide to go for it, don’t forget lube!
Don’t worry if your sex drive doesn’t return right away. Nature has plans to keep your fertility at bay for a while and along with suppressing fertility, breastfeeding can lower your hormones that drive sex. (Breastfeeding is not a reliable contraceptive mind so do take the opportunity to discuss family planning with your doctor).

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It does take a while for your body to recover from childbirth. After a vaginal birth you will be a bit looser but the vagina is a muscle so you can train it back into shape and having sex is a fun workout! Don’t forget the importance of your pelvic floor exercises either. Doing postnatal Pilates or Yoga will not only prevent you leaking when you sneeze but will make sex better for you.

If sex is still painful/uncomfortable after 12 weeks then see your GP. Don’t be fobbed off! Women complaining about their sex drive or sexual function are all too often dismissed. We are conditioned to think sex is not something we should expect to enjoy or demand help with if it’s not working. Sex is an important part of adult health so make sure you get some “me time” in your me time!

 

Lynsey is a psychotherapeutic counsellor and a birth & post-natal doula, a feminist and mother of 4.

Lynsey is a psychotherapeutic counsellor, a birth & post-natal doula, a feminist and mother of 4.

National Breastfeeding Week 2017

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Fountain of Neptune, Bologna


It’s National Breastfeeding week here in the UK. To be honest I almost missed it.

That’s a sad indictment of the woeful underfunding breastfeeding has suffered in recent years. As a doula and breastfeeding supporter I am passionate about all things breastfeeding. National breastfeeding week used to be a big deal in my world. Children’s Centres would host special events, there would be picnics and national campaigns to shine a light on this important topic but like so many of our health services, funding has been reduced or withdrawn and support is not easy to find.

The UK has the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and I fear that won’t change anytime soon.

The UK has the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and I fear that won’t change anytime soon. Locally there are no official support groups. I trained with the NHS as a breastfeeding peer supporter nearly 10 years ago and have facilitated a support group within my local children’s centre for most of that time. When my local children’s centre closed I set up a new group at the next closest centre. Across this region of South East Essex we had an enviable peer support network with most children’s centres hosting a weekly breastfeeding group staffed with well trained and well supported volunteers like me but 2 years ago that stopped. Funding dried up and volunteers moved on.

Alison breastfeeding her boy/girl baby twins

Alison breastfeeding her boy/girl baby twins

I have set up a local free weekly support group independently but it’s not enough. I can’t help be angry. We consistently let women down.
National Breastfeeding Week used to be a celebration of the unique role women have in feeding their babies. It was a positive campaign to raise awareness and support for new parents. I would get a little frustrated with all the posts/comments/media about “breastfeeding pressure” guilt and “mummy wars” (I have written more about this here) but on balance it was mostly good but now I see far more of the negative stuff. I see debates on whether there is too much pressure to breastfeed, whether breastfeeding is worth the effort, whether breastfeeding should be seen in public…ad nauseum. I feel like we have taken a huge step backwards and all the work I saw happen to change hearts and minds to see breastfeeding as a normal and ordinary thing to do has been undone to some extent. More and more I see and hear health care professionals not addressing breastfeeding problems but merely suggest using formula instead. Both clinicians and mothers are becoming deskilled as breastfeeding becomes more uncommon and less visible.The numbers of babies who are exclusively breastfed for 6 months as per department of health guidance is so small it’s close to none.

The irony of all of this is that increased breastfeeding rates could save the NHS millions of pounds.

Breastfeeding support shouldn’t be a luxury service and it can’t happen in a vacuum.

I feel this is the thin edge of the wedge that is damaging women. Breastfeeding support shouldn’t be a luxury service and it can’t happen in a vacuum. Breastfeeding support is part of the continuum that is maternity care. Midwifery in the name of efficiency is being pared back to obstetric nursing. Midwives are not able to give the woman-centred care they are trained to give, within the current climate of NHS cuts. Most women will only get 10 days of postnatal care with a community midwife then she will see a health visitor at 2 weeks, then 6 weeks and won’t be visited again until the 9 month developmental check. This is not enough! We need continuity of care by someone trusted and familiar for the best birth outcomes and this includes infant feeding. Like good maternity care, breastfeeding support needs a relationship to be built and this takes a bit of time. It can’t be done in a 10 minute appointment.

We tell women to breastfeed but then don’t invest in supporting them.

Women are not daft. We know breastfeeding is good for babies and we know it’s good for women. It’s good for families and most women want to breastfeed. We tell women to breastfeed but then don’t invest in supporting them. So they don’t succeed in meeting their goals and they feel like failures. Couple this with the dwindling number of spontaneous physiological births leading to increasing numbers of managed and surgical births and higher rates of birth trauma is it any wonder more women are struggling with motherhood? The only thing that surprises me is that more people are not outraged by this.

Anyone fancy a motherhood revolution?

The author Lynsey is a counsellor, doula, breastfeeding advocate and mother of 4. Pictured here with Erin aged 21 months.

The author Lynsey is a counsellor, doula, breastfeeding advocate and mother of 4. Pictured here with Erin aged 21 months.

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Birth & Death – decisions, dignity and disparity.

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My dad, Sean James McCarthy 21/1/51 – 5/2/14

This time 3 years ago I was sat beside my dad waiting for him to die. Only 6 short months previously after some minor health niggles and suddenly struggling to do his usual level of manual work as a bricklayer, my fit, strong 62 year old dad was suddenly being probed and scanned to discover that the insidious sneaky bastard we call cancer had been gnawing away at his lungs and guts to the point it couldn’t be stopped. Our world was suddenly and horrifically turned upside down as we tried to comprehend he would soon be gone. The man who had been my dad for nearly 40 years, the man my children called granddad, my mother’s husband and best friend of the best part of 5 decades was dying.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2016

It’s World Breastfeeding Week 2016.

 

This has either escaped your attention entirely or if like me during the last few days your social media algorithms will have shown you article after article relating to the biological function of female breasts. During this week of the year I brace myself to be subjected to an onslaught of articles lamenting either breastfeeding itself or those of us who support and advocate it. I never fail to be disappointed.

Having breastfed for nearly 10 years straight and over 8 of those dedicated many hours of my time, mostly unpaid, working with women in my local community to support them to achieve their breastfeeding goals as a trained breastfeeding peer supporter and in recent years as a birth and post-natal doula, I can wax lyrical with the best as to the many benefits successful breastfeeding confers. To be fair you’d have to have been living under a rock to be ignorant about why breastfeeding your baby gives them the best chance of reaching their full health potential.

So, riddle me this Batman, why on earth are so few babies breastfed? Less than 2% are breastfed at 6 months, (the UK has the world’s worst rates) and why when we dedicate 7 days out of the year to celebrate this seemingly rare but unparalleled method of infant feeding, are we told to lower our voice lest we upset the not insignificant majority of mothers (almost all) who use infant formula to feed their babies?

The answer is both complex and simple.

We’ve been cleverly manipulated over the years to pit ourselves against one another. Infant formula milk sales in the UK were in excess of £420m last year. Infant formula is said to have one of the biggest mark-ups of all supermarket products and the big corporates certainly don’t scrimp when it comes to marketing. Expensive, clever, divisive and often illegal marketing. These guys invented the so called “mummy-wars” in order to push sales up. Divide and conquer.

Those clever advertisers, with their blue-sky thinking and expense accounts, know how powerful women are when we come together, so they go to great lengths to stop that happening. They really don’t want us to succeed. Our success means their failure.

I’m lucky enough to see the power of women coming together to support each other and lift each other up. It’s pretty much what my job is. I counsel, I support, I empower, I listen. What I don’t do is judge. Oh THAT word! Ok, so I do judge, I judge all sorts of things for myself. I, like most mums am my harshest critic, but thankfully I too have support. I’m surrounded by loving, understanding people who hold me up and tell me I’m good enough, so when that voice of doubt whispers in my ear I can tell it to shush. But for many women it’s not so easy. When we have a sisterhood, we can be open and honest about our failings and celebrate those who manage to pull off the things we at times, feel incapable of. If I had a pound for each time the look of relief crossed a new mum’s face when she finds out she’s not first or only mother to struggle or feel unsure or useless or inadequate, well, I could probably fund a breastfeeding support service to replace one of the many that have been cut in recent years. Then more of the women who want to breastfeed, which we know is the majority, will be adequately supported to breastfeed for as long as they planned to, which is longer than most achieve.

Whether you have breastfed or not, whether you wanted to and didn’t manage it or just didn’t want to do it at all, whether you breastfed for 7 days or 7 years, this week isn’t about what you did or didn’t do. In fact it’s not about you. It’s about the next mother, and the one after her that needs to hear the truth not the lies, myths and misnomers that too many women who “fail” hear.  Its about celebrating breastfeeding. Acknowledging it’s importance and it’s power and making it more accessible and a true choice for women, rather than the superfluous “superior” method of feeding a baby that those who want your money want to make it out to be.

We know that the more visible breastfeeding is in our communities the more likely other women will breastfeed. We are social mammals after all. It’s biologically normal and what our infant bodies are designed to expect.

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Whenever I read an article about breastfeeding the comments section is always awash with statements about how breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and how difficult it is and you are guaranteed to find someone saying how guilty the article makes them feel and how “there is nothing wrong with formula”.

It’s an emotive topic. I know. I really know because I’m in the thick of it listening to the stories from women who stopped breastfeeding after weeks of sore, cracked nipples or about a baby who didn’t gain weight or repeated bouts of mastitis or thrush or a baby who was never satisfied. What support did they have? Often well meaning friends and family, even healthcare professionals, who offer passive support along the lines of it not being “the be all and end all” because “formula isn’t failure” are really sabotaging us. The answer to all breastfeeding issues is invariably “just use formula”. I hear these women with their sadness and their feelings of failure and I explain they did not fail. They were failed. They were failed by an over-stretched maternity service who cannot afford to give additional training to support breastfeeding or enough midwives to spend the time needed to teach women to breastfeed. To teach them with kindness and patience rather than a hurried “grab baby, grab boob and shove them together” approach so they can discharge with the box “initiated breastfeeding” ticked. They were failed by a society that tells women they must do the “best” by breastfeeding, but then gives her a ridiculous list or arbitrary limits to how this should be done, when, where and for how long: Be discreet (what ever the hell that means!), don’t do it in restaurants (where other people eat!) or swimming pools (where most people are nearly naked) or planes or trains or parks…. Don’t, for pity sake, do it for more than 6 months or a year or 2, 3, 4, 5 years or when they have teeth or can talk or walk or….whatevs. If you really have to do it (and you do because if you opt out of this minefield you’re a terrible mother) then do it nicely so it looks like you aren’t doing it. Got it?

Then there’s the relatives. Your mum, your mother-in-law, sister, cousin, aunt, your gran and pretty much everyone you know, they have an opinion and advice. Oh Lord, THE ADVICE! It’s loaded with their own stuff and it’s often with the unsaid intention of “don’t make me feel GUILTY”. So the myths are perpetuated and they become facts. The sabotage happens, not with malice, but with a well meaning intention to make the inevitable less painful. Because it is painful. The sense of loss can be profound. So the cognitive dissonance can be strong. We are silenced and told it’s not important. Fed is best they say. Just use a bottle they say. And we do. Nearly everyone does.

So this world breastfeeding week. When you see the articles about how wonderful breastfeeding can be and it really can be SO wonderful, please think about why we have this week. When I support women, who have previously failed to breastfeed, to successfully breastfeed subsequent babies, they GET IT. It’s bitter-sweet as they come to understand what they lost, though but for that reason and many more we must continue to talk about breastfeeding positively. To correct falsehoods and myths and to truly support it. We don’t need to “balance it” with support for bottle feeding. Everyone supports bottle feeding. It’s given as the solution to all breastfeeding problems. It’s welcome everywhere we take our children. It’s never done under cover or in the toilet for fear of chastisement.

So please, let’s have this week. These 7 days to celebrate, promote and welcome breastfeeding. Lets do it for the vast majority who want to do it and for the tiny minority, who against the odds, succeed.

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Mummy Shaped

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MUMMY SHAPED

It’s that time of the year when we (women) are bombarded with images of “perfect” bodies in swimwear with instructions on how to get your body “ready for the summer”. This is usually followed by details of a diet, skincare or special (expensive) swimsuit that will give the impression that our body doesn’t look like our body. Our bodies are hideous, ugly and not not fit for public consumption, apparently.

LIES!

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The Mail Online tells us how to “get a Bikini Body in 3 weeks”

Look, even those swimwear models’ bodies aren’t good enough – they are airbrushed. Their skin smoothed, limbs lengthened, thigh gaps exaggerated. No stretch marks, no body hair, no scars, spots, eye bags or shadows and certainly no sign they’ve had a baby.

I’m 8 months postnatal with my 4th child. According to the media, my body is unacceptable. If I really must go to the beach I should cover up with a tent or at the very least I should wear a one-piece costume with some kind of magic panel to disguise the fact my body shows the rigours of four pregnancies.

Well, I say FUCK THAT SHIT!

Storm won’t be signing me up any time soon. I’m 42, 5’9″ and my BMI is at the very top end of “normal”. I’ve diastasis recti from my body growing 4 enormous babies, it also sports a couple of scars one being a thick vertical 5 inches of taught shiny tissue caused by emergency life saving surgery, plus a fair share of stretch marks extending over my belly, breasts and hips where you can certainly pinch more than and inch.

My exercise regime consists of mothering 4 kids – it’s pretty full-on. School runs (usually actually running to avoid late arrival), tearing from dance class to karate club to swimming lessons while fitting in shopping, cleaning and my paid work as a counsellor and doula all the while usually carrying my baby in a sling. Now and again I might find the time to fit in a steady 5k run but a “runner” I am not. My concern is health and fitness, not whether I look good in a bikini for the couple of weeks I might get an opportunity to wear one.

So, here I am writing this from the beautiful Greek Island of Zakynthos where I am spending a glorious fortnight with my husband and children taking a break from our busy lives to reconnect and relax. It’s always a challenge with a larger family to find activities that everyone enjoys – the beach fits the bill for us. We all love the sand, sea and sun.

I refuse to let some arbitrary measure of “beauty” restrict my enjoyment with my family. I feel sad when women feel self conscious to the point they avoid swimming with their children or building sand castles or playing frisbee etc.

Our children won’t remember our mummy tummy, our muffin top or our crepey boobs.

They will remember the fun they had jumping the waves with us.

They will remember the warmth of our body as they lean against us under the parasol while eating hotdogs.

They will remember our laughter and how much fun they had at the beach with us.

So this summer, put down those magazines and get “beach ready” by grabbing your sunglasses, your kids and some sun cream and get your badass body to the beach.

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Becoming a Mother

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I didn’t enter motherhood until my 30’s. My 20’s were spent in a hedonistic mist punctuated by dark episodes of depression.

I had this notion that children could just fit into regular life and with a bit of effort women could “have it all”. (I was a bit of an idiot in my 20’s). However, I think subconsciously I knew this wasn’t really true so I kidded myself I didn’t want children.

Then I turned 30. In the midst of a deep, life threatening bout of severe clinical depression, it hit me. My cousin had just given birth to a gorgeous baby girl and as I held this tiny, perfect little human born only a few days before, I realised this was what I wanted, no, NEEDED. But it wasn’t a possibility. I had just got divorced and was trying to extract myself from another toxic relationship while battling to recover my mental health. Having a child just wasn’t going to happen.

Then BAM! Out of nowhere my life changed. I was well on the road to recovery when I met my husband and after a bit of a whirlwind courtship we rented a flat and started talking about babies.

Despite a history of endometriosis I fell pregnant straight away. I had just started my studies to become a therapeutic counsellor and my life changed forever.

Like most women, I was totally absorbed by the pregnancy. I bought all the magazines and read everything online. I researched my birth choices, read all about breastfeeding and poured over the best parent facing buggies and co-sleeping cots. I knew it ALL. Or so I thought!

You see, all the birth prep in the world doesn’t really prepare you for motherhood. All the focus is on giving birth with a bit of a nod to how tiring raising a baby is but that’s it really.

There is no real acknowledgement for the profound and deep change within the self that happens when you become a mother and that change keeps on. The “becoming” is eternal from the moment you know there is life in your belly until your dying breath.

Quite simply, motherhood changes us.

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For me, I had already changed somewhat. Due to my illness I had given up my busy, responsible sales job in London and had been living a more simple life. I had traded long hours, targets and smart suits for working 9-4 four days a week doing admin for a local charity while studying part-time.

I embraced what I saw as the simplicity of motherhood. My role was to simply attend to my babies needs. This thinking served me well as now I see how so many women struggle with this concept and find the transition from busy, highly organised positions of “responsibility” to the unpredictable, unorganised, responsive role of mothering really hard. Plus the fact that you don’t get a business card as a mum so your position as a “productive” member of society is reduced to “just a mummy”.

It was the realisation that our reproductive lives are viewed by society as “non-productive” or even worse, a drain, that sparked something in me.

Although breastfeeding came fairly easily to me I found it wasn’t the case for many of the mums I met at the breastfeeding group in my local children’s centre. This made me want to help so I enrolled in the peer support training that was on offer and, according to the Daily Mail, a monster was created. However, in reality, supporting mums in establishing breastfeeding is nothing to do with wanting to “make mum’s feel bad” or about “mummy wars” despite what the media tells us. It came from a place of feeling great injustice and dare I say it, my growing feminism! So many of the women I met didn’t meet their breastfeeding goals either due to shoddy advice or because of the narrow, arbitrary limits society places on breastfeeding. Grown women who chaired meetings and filed sales reports or ran call centres or entire organisations were reduced to nervous wrecks at the mere thought of having to feed their baby in Costa.

It wasn’t just about breastfeeding either. Motherhood comes with a crazy set of social rules. Children are viewed as “less than” and mothers (hardly ever fathers) are held to account for any and all transgressions that their offspring may commit such as having a tantrum in public. Heaven forbid!

I listened to these women as they told me their struggles beyond feeding. I held hands, gave tissues and listened. I listened to their fears and hopes. I listened to their worries about returning to work to a job they once loved but felt was no longer so important and all they really wanted to do was stay home with their baby. Or the women who realised how incompatible their view on child-rearing is with their partner and how they struggled with them not understanding her need to keep her baby close and continue breastfeeding despite it being tiring.

Or how they had simply changed. Their relationship with themselves and with others had altered and it was DIFFICULT. People expected them to be the same person who loved weekends in Marbs or shopping in Westfeilds and couldn’t understand they had neither the energy or desire to do those things. I supported the tricky navigation of friendships when they explained they didn’t want to leave their baby for a child-free wedding and that they didn’t “need a break” from the most precious thing in their lives.

Now as a qualified counsellor and doula, I do this and more. I also listen to the dark stuff. The realisation that they themselves had a less than ideal childhood or the abuse they endured years ago that they thought was buried was no longer so easy to ignore. I listen as they whisper “I didn’t love my baby at first”. I give them the space to explore this because for many the transition to motherhood is painful and messy way beyond pregnancy and birth.

The metamorphosis from woman to mother is a unique journey for each of us. It is profound and irrevocable. We change on a biomolecular level. Our brain chemistry alters to provide us with the maternal feelings we need to effectively protect and nurture our young. This can be a source of great anxiety for many women because modern western society is just so incompatible with these base, animalistic desires and instincts.

In any other area of life when we undergo great change, we accept there is a period of adjustment and that people will react and adjust differently depending on their experiences and need for support. Be it bereavement, divorce, changing job, retiring or moving house, we accept help and acknowledge time, space and support is usually needed to accommodate our new circumstances yet this most profound change, becoming a mother, is not treated with much reverence. We don’t respect the enormity of what happens when we become mothers. We expect women to just get on with it, usually alone!. If she’s lucky she’ll have a supportive partner who will be at home with her for the first week or two at most and that’s often it. After then she’s expected to get on with this new life with very little in the way of counsel or reassurance from others. We mother in isolation away from the familiarity or our pre-baby life, work and friends with little input from anyone bar criticism or commentary from the media or the in-laws! It’s no wonder we have such high rates of post-natal illness.

What I have noticed over the years is the value in connection. Obviously as a counsellor I understand the value of human-to-human relationships and much can be achieved in a good therapeutic relationship but for most women they simply need to feel they belong. Peer to peer support is invaluable. It gives us a normative view of motherhood and as social mammals it is hard-wired in us to work in a tribe. Raising children in an insular environment is counter-intuitive and unhealthy.

We need to give new mothers the support and respect they deserve. Mothers need to be with people. She needs to be loved and supported as she finds her own way. She needs to be trusted and given the opportunity to trust herself. After all she’s doing a very important job!

So, the next time you’re with a new mother, don’t offer to hold her baby to “give her a break” offer her a cuppa and an ear. Listen to her, offer her reassurance and tell her she’s doing a great job.