Dr Melanie Strang on transitioning into motherhood.
Dr Melanie Strang
Nearly 10 years ago, I gave birth to my first child – a beautiful girl whom we named Abigail Georgia. I went into hospital a mere girl myself, and over the coming months and years, grew into an (almost!) adult version of myself …
It may seem clichéd to say that to me having children (I now have a nearly seven year old son as well) is the meaning of life. But this intense claim is not what surprised me so much as that nobody warned me 10 years ago that I was about to go through the most massive psychological, emotional and spiritual transition.
I was quite aware of the physical aspects of being pregnant, giving birth and the aftermath of it all, the time it might take for my body to become mine again. I even dealt with an abscess from breastfeeding and then surgery to treat it when my baby was only seven weeks old. Yet this physical challenge was not what fazed me either.
Some years ago I was at a baby expo and I remember watching hundreds of newly pregnant, first time mums to be wandering the aisles of interesting and often unnecessary products available. Many had an intense expression on their faces, as if to ask: “What do I need in order to provide what is best for my new little baby?” They almost looked confused and most certainly stressed as they cruised this strange new world of baby products.
What I really wanted to do was stand up on a nearby table and announce with a loudspeaker:
“You don’t need any of this stuff! Go home. It is stuffy and hot in here and you look like you could do with a rest. You will be a good mum without all this stuff. You already have what you need – it is all inside you. You might not think you have all the tools of the trade, you may even feel incompetent, but you won’t find them here. You will find them through time and looking inwards. Oh and one more thing, you are about to feel as if something just stole the version of you that you thought you were and replace it with a stranger. Thanks for listening.”
Instead of acting on this daydream, I decided to spread the message in a more sensible way. Well Mum Well Baby was born in 2011 and has since supported hundreds of women in their transition to parenthood, through education and counselling. What I have noticed over the years and from talking to new mums is that although we women come from many different walks of life, many of us end up at the same place around the time of having a baby. So many of us walk the aisles of that ‘baby expo’ searching for meaning, for tools and for confidence and then we leave with bags full and a feeling of still not being quite good enough.
The message and the conclusion I try to come to with all the mums I see is that although you may feel as if you enter motherhood with a backpack that weighs a ton yet contains nothing in it, it’s that load you carry, those life experiences that lie behind you that will inform everything you do from here on in. So filling that backpack with designer barf bags or a baby bottom fan is not going to help .. looking inside it will.
Melanie Strang – Mother Love
Melanie is a doctor, counsellor, psychology student, author and mum. She is passionate about helping parents prepare for parenthood on an emotional and psychological level. Melanie currently runs an education program and counselling service (wellmumwellbaby) in Australia which helps prepare parents for what is to come – she helps normalise many of their feelings around parenthood. She is the author of Mother Love: Embracing the ups and downs of being a new parent. Melanie can be contacted at www.wellmumwellbaby.net.au .
Life Balance = Chocolate. Connecting. Walking.