New mum? Read this.
Last night I spoke to a fellow mommy, someone a common friend put me in touch with. This mum has a 5.5 month old baby and my baby is 18 months old, and our friend thought we might have things in common to chat about. We did, and this phone conversation really just broke my heart because it reminded me of how much time mothers spend blaming themselves and feeling inadequate for finding it difficult to cope postpartum, when in fact what is needed is more support from society, doctors, friends and family.
One thing we had in common is that we had both suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, a serious medical condition in pregnancy which I have written about before. Having lived through this condition, survived the pregnancy and given birth, this mother then went through all the trials and tribulations of exclusive breastfeeding which she had been led to believe - as I was too - is the only acceptable way to do things, if you love you baby and if you want the best for them. Like myself, she then had two bouts of mastitis - a painful infection in the breast - and when she went to her pediatrician and talked about what was happening, she was belittled and told just put up with it.
Mastitis is an infection that requires treatment and can be extremely painful, and having personally had it, I can tell you that consulting the right person, doing some simple exercises, and if needed taking the right medicine can clear it and also may prevent further infections. So, telling someone to just get over it is not helpful at all. And then this mom was blaming herself saying she knew it was bad advice but it was her fault for putting up with the health professional in question. Additionally, she kept apologising to me for being low and sounding sad.
I think this conversation made such a strong impression on me as I sort of recognise myself, as I felt some months ago, in this new mum. Around the time my baby was 6 months old, I was recovering from the infection, feeling like I couldn't go on with the months of poor sleep, and all the added stresses of being a new parent in a *global pandemic*.
So, if you're a new mum, please hear this: Your body has done this amazing thing, *you* have done this amazing thing, please be kind to yourself. Don't blame yourself and please, *please don't apologise*. You have nothing to apologise for. We should be, as a society, thanking you for doing what is a difficult, life-changing and often thankless job.