This year my daughter turned seven! She had a BFG party which was almost as much fun for me as it was for her - I adore Roald Dahl!
And I can't believe she's seven years old. Now, in retrospect, it seems so quick, like the blink of an eye.
But I remember when she was a baby and it felt like FOREVER. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed, she was a challenging baby, breastfeeding was hard and the birth was complicated... there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Days that start at 5 am feel long. Nights that involve musical beds and breastfeeding marathons feel even longer. The years may be short in retrospect, but often in that moment, the years don’t even exist. It’s impossible to see the bigger picture with your nose to the grindstone.
Even though I am nostalgic now for that newborn smell and sleepy, warm cuddles and the way their tongue flutters during breastfeeding… I never, ever say to a Newborn Mother "Enjoy it, they grow up so fast!” or “The days are long but the years are short!” or “Appreciate it whilst it lasts!”
I know you mean well, but such platitudes can silence new mothers and perpetuate some dangerous postpartum mindsets.
Telling a new mother that time flies can make her feel like…
“There must be something wrong with me.”
When everyone is telling you that you should be feeling something different to your actual lived experience it can make you question your sanity. Acknowledge her experience by listening without offering advice or passing judgment.
“I cannot change this situation, I just have to grit my teeth and get through it”
Anger is a transformative emotion. It fuels change. When we listen instead of placating we allow mothers to express their anger and also create changes in their lives.
“I should be enjoying this.”
Postpartum is a transformation, and change involves some feelings of loss. Newborn Mothers can hold two or more emotions at the same time, for example; love and isolation; peace and exhaustion. Expressing that her experience is hard does not mean they don't love their baby. Listening allows her to feel all the big emotions of postpartum in a safe space.
In Australia, 48,400 women experience postpartum mental health problems every single year. Next time you meet a mother, just listen.