Guest Blog: 10 Things Motherhood has taught me: Sophie Spiegler
1. Knowledge is power - going through the process of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood can be an overwhelming experience. I found the more knowledge I had myself the more empowered I felt to make the right decisions for me and my family and baby. Sadly, it felt quite difficult at times and like I was fighting the system when I wanted to make a choice that was against the norm. But having all the information meant I could make informed decisions based on my individual circumstances. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I built up a brilliant network of professionals and personal relationships to support me - learning from the women who had been through the process and listening to their wisdom, guidance and empathy meant I felt as prepared as I could be to take the first step into motherhood.
2. Trust yourself - the above being said, the more I journey into this world of being mum, I’m acutely aware that nothing is more helpful than my gut! Listening and tuning into my primal instincts has been the light at the end of the tunnel in many of those darker (literally and figuratively speaking) moments. Sometimes all the advice in the world is not what I needed and added to the confusion. And in these times I liked to quote one of my brilliant educators from my psychotherapy training - advice is like an hors d’oeuvre being passed round at a party - you either take it and swallow it down or you let it pass on by. The more aligned I have felt with my own values, vision for parenting and my emotional responses, the more able I have been to make choices that are authentic for me.
3. My support network has been the making of me. We live in a world that talks about support but the hidden messages always point to celebrating the self sufficient person. Sadly this sets us parents up to FAIL! Despite being a time when resources and energy are low, our need for human contact, connection and empathy is at our highest. We’re truly vulnerable. Building a support network before and after my baby came, and making time and effort to invest in those relationships has reaped rewards. We can’t, we shouldn’t and we don’t have to go through these experiences alone and for someone who was fairly self sufficient this was a hard lesson to learn. Leaning in to a group, no matter the size, has allowed me to share kindness when I’ve had it to give, receive kindness when I’ve needed it most and brought joy in the beauty of connection with others during what can be both a magical and mundane experience. Ordinary. Yet extraordinary.
4. Boundaries - have never been so important as now. Perhaps like me, you like to take care of others, and the people in your life have come to rely on you. Having a child draws on more of those resources than I could ever have imagined, and with little left to give after it’s been so important that any residue energy and care is spent in a way that supports my whole family system. As the first point of contact with the baby in my family system I have had to work really hard to keep my boundaries in place and clear for others to respect as a way of making sure I have enough energy to take care of myself and my child. This has been hardest in relationships where I used to spend a lot more energy because of course, there is now a gap where I may have once been managing and handling things, and I carry guilt not being able to provide that, however for me the boundary is really important to keep, to help me keep my self balanced and energised enough to carry on with doing the best I can in the roles I have wanted to focus on, including my work as a psychotherapeutic counsellor.
5. Permission - to just be. Again, society can celebrate the mum who is doing it all, and looking great whilst she does but let’s be honest, that doesn’t really exist. There’s a pay off somewhere, we just can’t see where. I have learned that giving myself permission to just be good enough on those days that are tough and permission to celebrate on the days I think I’m killing it. And some days permission to admit I’m not coping as well as I could and permission to ask for the needs that I have to cope better. That is worth celebrating I believe.
6. Iced water never tasted so good!! I’ve been obsessed with iced water since I became pregnant and almost 2 years later I’m still on the iced water vibe. Hydration has really been so key to my health and I have many glasses of half drank water all over my home.
7. Nursery ghosts - my advice to any person considering having a baby? Get your emotional shit together. Because even if you feel together before the child comes, this tiny person with such basic needs can turn everything upside down and when you’re upside down no doubt your emotional stuff will come tumbling out too. I have drawn on all my years of skills and practice as both a client and a counsellor in my first months and year as a mum and I’ve still come up short at times. Becoming a parent has changed my perception of parenting, reminded me of my own parents successes and failures, and has brought new dynamics to the relationships with my own parents too and all the while navigating what type of parent i want to be. Never has it been more important for me to understand how and why I feel the way I do as an emotional human being and the importance of managing my own emotions in a healthy way for myself AND to teach my child how to respect and manage their own big feelings.
8. Being in the now - never has this been more relevant and empowering for me. Truly letting each moment be and bringing myself into the present moment has brought the magic of seeing the world though my baby’s eyes. Releasing expectations of what something should look like, or how I should be or how my baby should be and the joy that can be found in just being has been immense. I can proudly say I have no regrets of not hugging my baby enough, or attending to her needs or my own over the past year, and I feel like this is the case because I’ve allowed myself to tune into the moment. That doesn’t mean I’ve done it perfectly - the present moment has been HARD at times and I’ve lost my patience and I’ve been sad and mad and all sorts of dark emotions but allowing those to be too, have created a freedom and flow of emotions, meaning I’ve been able to move through them more quickly than had I have held on! And the smiles, giggles and bond I have built with my child in those moments amid being with her as presently as I can truly are priceless.
9. Having a sense of playfulness - can change the energy of anything. There have been times when I have felt pure rage pulsate through my body - triggered by the smallest and biggest things parenthood has to offer from terrifying and monstrous injustices to everyday dramas. Rage, anger, frustration, sadness, irritation and down right annoyance can all make up part of a normal day for me. However, being with my little one has taught me that even with all these big feelings being present, bringing in playfulness can change the energy into something lighter, joyful even, not instead of, but alongside these other feelings. Trying to get a small child to sleep, on the one night you’ve made plans in months, and all they want to do is smile at you. The rage is present for sure - I feel entitled to some time off and I am entitled. I want to be myself and have adult conversation and be free for a small amount of time and I deserve that. And yet. Sitting on the bed with my smiling baby, as the rage rises, her giggle and monkey oooh ooohs can help me remember to be playful and allow play to express myself. Cue angry lion roars on all 4’s and everyone is a winner!!
10. Lastly - the unseen - when I first had my baby I felt compelled to start my first themed blog series. Honouring daily mum. And I’ve kept it up to the level that it’s helped me to communicate what I feel is really important to share. So much, I’d be bold and say 80% of what mums and parents do - goes UNSEEN. The love, tenderness and growing of baby’s brains in the first year can literally go past and no one will have celebrated and honoured all the brilliant work a mum has done to create a secure bond with her baby. Attunement, balancing motherhood with all the different roles in a parents life, learning to be a new and yet the same person, managing a world of dynamics, building a support system, educating oneself on topics such as buggy’s, weaning and the best toy for motor skills. All of this goes unseen. So much of what goes into this role of motherhood doesn’t touch on the obvious and celebrated ‘success measures’ in society so instead of celebrating and honouring these brilliant mums who are growing and nurturing the next generation, we shame mums and increase feelings of failure. I have learned I am super passionate about healing that wound. The mother wound. And will shout from the highest roof tops about how bloody brilliant mums are and how our survival depends on us not just acknowledging everything mums do, but believe if we truly honour and give reverence to the role, we will all be better off for it! Bringing the unseen into the spot light and making a big show of it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sophie has a 14 month old daughter and is part time mum, part time psychotherapeutic counsellor.
Working with people who are preparing for a baby or experiencing postnatal depression or sadness, or simply those who wish to share their story of giving birth or their experience of being a parent and the big life changes this comes with. In addition she works with those who have experienced childhood difficulties and dysfunctional family dynamics.