I understand that at this stage in pregnancy it is usual to be excited.  I must admit that I am significantly more inclined towards feeling nervous.   I am nervous about labour and birth because I don’t know what’s going to happen or when its going to happen.  I’m nervous about having to spend time in hospital because I suffer with white coat syndrome and I’ve never had to stay in a hospital before and I fear that it might make me crazy.  I’m also pretty nervous about becoming a parent.  At the same time I have become utterly deaf to comments about how bad it’s going to be when the baby arrives.

It’s common for parents to tell expectant mothers that they will never sleep again.  That they should be enjoying the last few days and weeks of pregnancy because,  it sounds like,  they really aren’t going to enjoy what comes next.  It’s common, in fact, for a lot of parents, a lot of the time, to talk about how awful parenting is in general.  Parenting gets a pretty poor rap.  So, of course, does childbirth.  In the late stages of pregnancy you can be forgiven for wondering what horrors await.

I have often asked myself why people seem to want to put the expectant off the concept of motherhood precisely at the point when it’s far too late for them to change their minds.  Of course that’s not the intention.  The intention is to prepare mothers for the fact that they are likely to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and uncertain and that that’s okay.  Everyone feels like that.  The trouble is that often when you tell someone that they will never sleep again, you aren’t making them feel like they are being warmly initiated into some great sleepless club where their shortcomings will be understood and accepted.  You make them feel anxious.  Well,  that or you make them switch off altogether.

There are only two ways to respond to birthing and parenting horror stories when you are pregnant.  The first is to take them on board and become a nervous wreck terrified that you just aren’t up to the enormous challenges that  await.  The other is to acknowledge that you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, that you don’t know how well you’ll deal with it and to discount all the warnings.  Believe it or not, new parents, the second one is the only sane approach.  It is almost certain that, while you may think that no one warned you what it would really be like, you were told all the same things that I’ve been told and that you chose to ignore it.  Let’s be honest,  what other choice did you have?  To do anything else would be to ruin your pregnancy with fears over birth and parenting and we all know that getting anxious over something that hasn’t happened yet, that you can’t even accurately envisage, is a colossal waste of energy.  It’s like keeping yourself awake at night worrying about the apocalypse.

It’s not that I’m saying that parenting isn’t hard and expectant mothers shouldn’t be prepared.  What I’m saying is that nothing can prepare them.  It’s an impossible task to even try.  It doesn’t matter what you say.  What warnings you give.  Nothing will in any way prepare anyone for being a parent.  The more warnings you and everyone else gives about how awful it all is,  the less of the words the expectant mother will hear.  It will just be noise.  If you are genuinely concerned, the best thing you can do is offer your help and support even if it’s just to talk.

Let’s also not forget that at the heart of the emotional rollercoaster of parenting is the issue of confidence.  The other piece of advice that expectant parents are frequently given is ‘trust your instincts’.  No one can do that while they are having a crisis of confidence.  Better then not to warn people that it’s going to be awful and to undermine their confidence ahead of time.  Don’t infect them with the insecurity you felt when you were first a parent and leave them reeling with a hit of their own insecurity combined with the weight of yours.  Better by far to bolster them.  If the going to going to get tough,  they will need to have all the strength can can muster.



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