Silent Expectations of Motherhood


I can’t quite remember when I felt ready to start a family, but I can remember a strong, growing desire to “have a baby”. Such a strange term when you think about it, to have something suggests ownership and an implication of being in control, doesn’t sound much like the act of parenthood!

We found out I was pregnant after trying to conceive for some time, and I felt just real, pure bliss at the thought of becoming a mother. I used to daydream about taking walks with my bundle of joy, and of going to all the cool places I remembered from my childhood. I had grand plans for my maternity leave, I was confident that 9 months would allow me enough time to finally conquer the beautiful language of Italy, and would certainly give me ample opportunity to sew the curtains for the living room, amidst various outings with friends and family. I couldn’t wait for it all to begin and truly felt this was what was missing in my life. Happiness and contentment were just around the corner. What I didn’t give much thought to at that time was what the true reality of raising a child would be.

The first night of Reuben’s life was spent on the maternity ward of the hospital. My husband stayed with us for as long as he was allowed, then the midwives told him, it’s time to go now, you can come back at 9 o’clock in the morning. I kissed him goodbye, he waved from the curtain and then, he was gone. I looked down upon the tiny bundle of wrinkled skin that was my baby, clinging to my chest, but it wasn’t a feeling of overwhelming joy which flooded though my body. It was a heady mixture of panic, overwhelm and dread, pulsing through my veins and pounding in my ears, “what am I supposed to do now?”. I’ve honestly never felt so alone and so scared in my entire life. We somehow got through that first night together, but I couldn’t wait to get home, we’ll be fine once we’re at home I thought, but that feeling didn’t magically disappear once we stepped through the door. It didn’t get worse, thankfully, but it was always there, a silent expectation on my shoulders that the art of being a mother would instinctively flood through me, that I would nurse, wind and change that tiny bottom intuitively and with a calm confidence, despite the fact that no one had ever told me or showed me how. The hereditary passing of knowledge from generation to generation is long unspoken. We look to take antenatal classes, follow baby gurus, read all the books and flood google with questions, for how else are we supposed to find out how this business of being a mother actually works? Where are our ancestral voices passing down the knowledge of the generations of mothers before us, imparting kind wisdom and a faith in our own abilities?

My husband returned to work after only 4 days parental leave, and so another weight was set upon my shoulders, to perfectly balance motherhood alongside household domestic duties, I had to do it all, all by myself. The problem was, I couldn’t. My body was tired and my baby did not want me to put him down. It was a huge achievement the day I managed to lay him in his cot and took a 2 minute shower, only to jump out to the sounds of his cries as he’d woken and I wasn’t there. Why was the house such a mess when there was only myself and a tiny human in it? Why was I incapable of delivering a hot meal to my husband as he walked through the door from work? How was I getting this so wrong? The sad thing is we are driving ourselves to the point of mental illness because we are simply not supposed to do this alone. Humans are tribal dwellers, intended to raise our children, cook meals and maintain our dwellings as part of a community. The enormity of trying to provide all of this individually, and at the same time to portray a dialogue that we are totally capable and happy to do so, surely just continues this cycle and perpetuates the myth of the perfect mother?

I am not pointing blame to say that our own mothers, sisters or friends have not helped us or taught us anything, but I strongly believe we are now several generations along in the breakdown of modern motherhood . Our own mothers bore these unrealistic expectations, in possibly the most silent era of all, imagine if you did not have an outlet on social media to vent at the end of an exhausting day, or to be unable to google, “why won’t my baby sleep in his moses basket?”. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t benefit our consumer society if we all help each other instead of buy the latest book or baby gadget, our insecurities sadly line the wallets of the big bosses of the baby industry, but don’t we all loose out in the long term?

I feel a real sense of responsibility when holding my antenatal hypnobirthing classes to not only focus on the birth, but to give time to talk about and prepare for the act of mothering and that crucial fourth trimester period. If you can prepare yourself before birth for the early days, to set some realistic expectations for yourself and put it out there for your family and friends, to talk about it with them! Reach out to connect with the local support groups in your local area whilst you are still pregnant, even if just to know they are there. You are likely to find a whole host of lovely, knowledgeable people close by to you who you can hold your hand, walk with you, and make your life a bit easier; breastfeeding counsellors, sling consultants, post-natal doulas, integrative therapy & counselling experts, and lots & lots of local support groups! I didn’t really do this first time around, I didn’t know, but I felt the magnitude of difference with my second child to just feel that network of support around me, we are reaping the benefits still,19 months down the line.

We are starting to break the cycle, social media can be a double edged sword, but there is certainly a growing movement of the mama tribe. Lets continue to help each other, as much as we can, and also be strong enough to ask for help if are struggling to cope. Lets build our communities, locally and virtually, by sharing resources and knowledge and being honest about the realities and difficulties of raising children in modern society.

By definition, motherhood is a collective, lets all look to lay down a legacy for the next generation of mothers that we should not be expected to do this by ourselves.

Emma x

nama mama hypnobirthing

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Emma Randall-Milne