I never really thought of myself as the maternal type. In fact, until I was pregnant with my first child, kids were not in my grand plan. I remember it like it was yesterday…I had just picked up some flyers from a local college and was deciding on classes when I found out that I was pregnant. I don’t think surprise was quite the word. Even my family was shocked.
I thought of myself as a difficult child (if that’s what I thought, imagine what my parents thought). I found the teen years to be especially difficult, and vowed that I would never have a child of my own just so I could spare him or her the agony. I didn’t have enough patience, had too many things I wanted to do, places to travel…every excuse there was.
Fast forward 13 years (well, almost 13 years) and 3 kids later. Not only that, but I’ve become an activist and support person for pregnant, parenting, breastfeeding, birthing women. Talk about a complete change of heart! So what happened? What turned this independent, child resistant woman into a birth junkie?
I don’t know if there is one specific answer. Looking back to my first pregnancy and birth, I really knew nothing. And I think I liked it that way! I wasn’t one of those pregnant women who basked in the glow of pregnancy. I accepted it, read some books, picked out names. I was still active duty Army during my first trimester, and lived far away from any family or friends. It was my husband, and I and that was it. I had a doctor I trusted and liked, and we built a bond I felt comfortable with. As the months and weeks passed and the birth came closer, I realized that I did actually know a thing or two about birth. I knew what I wanted, and realized that I needed to really speak up and advocate my wants, because no one was going to do that but me.
When I see new mothers and I talk to them about their birth and their babies, first days post partum and breastfeeding, I see that women have an innate ability to know what it is that they need and what it is that their baby needs. This is a good thing! Unfortunately, many women second guess this ability, and question their own instincts. Maybe it’s because this “maternal instinct” is a new sensation, maybe it’s adjusting to the desire to protect the amazing new life that now depends on you. Whatever it is, women should know that their maternal instinct is real, strong, and present. Learn to accept it, embrace it and listen to it. If you think that something is wrong, it probably is. If you think that everything is good, it probably is. Women are more capable, strong and able than they will ever give themselves credit for.
So I guess the moral of the story here is that I thought I knew nothing about birth, breastfeeding and mothering. I knew everything I needed to know, without even realizing it.