A strong, independent career woman, first-time Mum KATIE ALLAN questions the value of advice.
Pregnancy and motherhood should really be a time where we mums can trust our instincts. There’s probably nothing that comes more naturally than giving birth. Your body responds in ways you didn’t know it could. And even if you haven’t raised a little one before, you can usually sense the right thing to do. It’s the maternal instinct.
But the pressures of ‘how to’ start long before you cradle that little tot in your arms. You’re told what to do shortly after you hold up that pregnancy test and see those two red lines staring boldly at you. Being pregnant is going to alter the course of your entire life, there are a thousand things you are meant to do, a thousand things that will go wrong if you don’t do them – and nobody is going to let you forget it.
Whatever happened to going with the flow? This baby-making business has been around since the beginning of time. We’ve given birth and raised children for hundreds of thousands of years. And the last time I checked, the human species wasn’t doing too badly at reproducing itself.
Modern medicine and science have contributed hugely to both the health of mums and our babies. New Zealand, in 2017, has some of the lowest infant and mother mortality rates in history. We’re probably only the fourth or fifth generation in human history that hasn’t had to contend with the tragedy of infant death as a common occurrence.
But sometimes I wonder if all the studies and statistics, the opinions and advice – as valuable as many of them may be – are overwhelming. By their sheer number alone, they risk pushing out of the equation the maternal instinct that we experience – which tells us the right thing to do without someone else having to.
Given the time I’ve spent pregnant with him and raising him, I don’t think there’s a better expert in the field of raising my son than me! I’ve probably got some things wrong along the way. We all do. But I also know I’ve got a lot of things right; and that didn’t always mean following the rules and advice I was given.
We’ve all been given a lot of advice. There are the rules: ‘don’t sit/stand for too long when pregnant’; or, ‘breastfeed until he is at least one’. Then there are the criticisms. I remember once being told by someone: ‘I can’t believe you don’t close your baby’s curtains for his day sleeps! It will affect his sleep routine!’
Worrying that not having $100 blackout curtains could be damaging for my son, I spent an hour on Google only to find that there didn’t seem to be any scientific evidence at all. The mummy forums offered different views. And yet someone felt they had to tell me I was getting it wrong.
Who or what is to blame for this modern-mum saga? People genuinely trying to be helpful? Social media? Baby brands trying to make a buck? Mummy bloggers trying to look like they know and have it all? Probably all of the above. It’s not going away, so I guess the question is ‘how do you deal with it?’
I think there are two answers. The first is to trust your judgment. Use it to consider, and weed out, advice you know is not right for you, your baby and parenting style. The second is to stay true to yourself.
We all need advice as new mums. We can’t do it on our own. But, with so much conflicting advice, simple becomes complicated and it doesn’t need to be. Just follow your instincts and be the best mum you know how.