This was an article published in “Children and Young People Now”, quoting the results of a questionnaire sent out by the NSPCC.
Why am I not surprised? That would certainly seem to be borne out by the research my fellow coach, Lisa, and I did with new mother’s we came across in coaching.
The NSPCC article talks about those mothers who are most deprived as they don’t access antenatal classes in the same proportions. But women who attend antenatal classes seem to focus mostly on issues around the birth – pain relief and the choices available to them in the maternity provision locally. Aside from information on breastfeeding, many women tend to shut off when the realities of life with a baby are presented to them antenatally.
I know, that was me! I remember them talking about women with new babies not finding the time to get showered and dressed until mid-afternoon! Huh? That wouldn’t be me – I’m really well organised and a high achiever! Well, of course, they were right. And I was shocked and depressed by it.
My children were (are!) much loved and much wanted, but even so, I remember thinking “why did no one tell me it would be like this?” Er…they did! I just didn’t want to listen.
So, what is that about? Why don’t we want to hear that?
And I had a group of supportive new mother’s from my antenatal classes and locally that I could bond with a share experiences. But actually none of us really wanted to articulate out loud how hard it was. So we all kept schtum and pretended to ourselves and others that everything was fine. Why, for goodness sake…?
I know in our small nuclear family society that we don’t often get the opportunity to observe what new motherhood (parenthood actually – let’s not forget the partners in this) is really like. I know having supported women planning to breastfeed, that rarely has a mother-to-be seen a baby being breastfed close up in order to have learnt something about how it works.
So how do we help and support those mother’s-to-be to really understand what life with a small baby will be like? The NSPCC in this article, calls on government to fund more extensive support services for babies and their families, particularly the most vulnerable “We appreciate times are tough financially but failing to provide vital support to new mums is a false economy. Babies are the most vulnerable members of our society… Damage done at this stage of their lives can prevent them reaching their full potential, which also has a knock-on effect on society as a whole.”
And, as Lisa and I have experienced in coaching women, it has a knock-on effect on the women too – their self-esteem and identity.
So, government aside, what can we do?