I recently asked readers of my website Seek, Act, Love if they could go back to those first days of motherhood and tell themselves one thing – what would it be? And as you can imagine, the answers I received were so interesting and insightful.
Relax and enjoy yourself, this exhausted and terrified feeling doesn’t last forever!
Take it slowly and enjoy every minute…don’t rush back to life…people, places, chores…they’re not going anywhere.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, your doing the best you can.
Acknowledge the truth that your new child’s ONLY need is to be cared for and loved by you – it has no agenda, it doesn’t want fancy baby furniture or toys or clothes.
Time and time again, however, the words “trust your instincts” kept coming up. “Trust yourself.” “Listen to your instincts.” “Trust your motherly instincts.”
It was the one consistent in all the words of wisdom. All very well and good to say that now, often years after those first crazy days have faded into a blissful memory. But what about at the time you really need it?
When I think back to those early days and weeks of first-time motherhood, I didn’t think I had any instincts! I was so overwhelmed with a baby that wouldn’t feed or sleep, I felt like I was doing everything wrong. And when the various midwives and family members kept telling me to trust my instincts, I thought I was going to scream, “I don’t know what my instincts are!”
But, of course, I did.
I just couldn’t hear them.
I was scared that I was doing it all wrong. That it is was ME who was unable to settle my baby and comfort her. So instead of trusting myself and focusing on the love I had for my new daughter, I went from midwife to midwife asking – begging – for advice. And of course, in the end, it was my instincts and love that healed both my daughter and me. Once I learnt to listen to them.
So how do you tap into your natural instincts as a mother when you are terrified, tired and overwhelmed? How do you cut through all the advice and conflicting words of wisdom, and do what you know is right?
If I could go back to that scared new mum, what would I say?
Thankfully, since those days five years ago, I’ve done a lot of thinking, researching and practicing ways to tap into my own wisdom. No, I don’t always get it right, and sometimes I still find myself putting faith into someone else’s words more than my own, but I have come up with three ways of listening to my own instincts again.
- Listen to what your mind and body are telling you. Our bodies are built for this stuff – and if we just take a moment to stop and allow it to talk to us, we will hear those motherly instincts talking. Often when we are going against our instincts, we can feel nervous, our tummies can be upset, our tears ready to spill out. Or we hear voices in our heads telling us it doesn’t feel right, or we don’t want to do it that way. When you are feeling lost and unsure, the best thing to do is stop, walk away for a moment if you can, and take a deep breath. What is your body telling you? What feels right? The answer will come to you.
- Talk to someone who will listen, not advise. This was a big one for me. It took me ages to realise that by simply asking people for their advice, I was blocking my own instincts. Don’t get me wrong – by all means ask people you admire and respect, and people who have more experience than you. But also make sure you have someone who can be your sounding board too. Just by talking through a situation, you often come to your own conclusions. I found the best person for me was my husband – he would listen as I talked through what had happened, encourage me with reassuring words, and then before I knew it I had come up with the solution. My Mother’s Group were also amazing at that. Try and find a friend, family member or health practitioner who will allow you to talk as well.
- Remind yourself that there is no wrong way to do it, as long as you do it with love. Oh if we only remembered this! It’s something that I’m sure parents struggle with every single day, no matter how old their children are. So often we think there is a right and wrong way of doing this parenting thing, and judge our decisions on what other’s will think or say. I distinctly remember getting so frustrated with conflicting advice from books and midwives, arguing that I didn’t know which way was the right way! But of course, the only right way was my way. And as long as you love your child and do the very best you can, all will be OK. It’s something I still try to tell myself every single day.
How do you tune into your instincts as a parent? What would you say to yourself, if you could go back to those first days of being a parent?