We need to listen to mothers

You only need to look on social media to see that everyone knows something about everything. Everyone has a voice and more often than not they aren’t afraid to use it. And this is magnified when it comes to birth, babies and being a mother. As I work with new mothers and babies, I frequently hear “no-one was listening to me”. The words might vary but the sentiment is the same.

When our babies are born, mothers are catapulted into a world where unless they steel themselves and tune out voices around them, it can be a noisy place to be. Everyone has an opinion on how to help. Everyone knows what worked, or didn’t work for them, when it came to feeding, holding, sleeping, dressing, recovering, healing, bonding with their baby …. And it goes on. Some of the voices don’t know, but think they do, and others are there wanting to help, trying to make it easier because they care.

But in the midst of the noise – there is a quiet voice which says, ‘I’ve got this, I know what to do, my body knows what to do, my baby knows what to do’. It’s the voice inside the mother. That quiet voice is there, often drowned out by the others. Often quietened in the loudness of tiredness and the intensity of physical and emotional feelings after the baby’s arrival. Often it’s quietened because the mother’s not been heard during her pregnancy or during her baby’s birth and so she’s lost her voice. Quietened by doubt.

But it’s that small voice, that needs turning up to a loud volume. It needs to be so loud that it drowns out the voices around which, with all the most helpful, kindest intentions in the world, makes new mothers doubt themselves. But mothers, you’ve got this. You know your baby. You know your body. You can hear that small voice inside which says, ‘but I need my baby close to me’, that says ‘I don’t think it’s supposed to hurt’, or ‘I need help’ or ‘she needs me now’.  And you can hear your baby’s voice – you REALLY hear your baby and what she is saying she needs from you. You know instinctively as you inhale her scent, that she needs to be held, that she needs you.

Or there might be a voice inside the mother silently shouting – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I don’t want to do this’, ‘I’m scared’. A voice that she doesn’t want to hear in case it makes it real. But a voice that needs listening to just as much.

Mothers could feel so much more supported if we just listened and if we gave them quiet to listen to their voice inside. Less talking, less ‘advice’, less ‘shoulds’. And instead more ‘what do you think?’ ‘how do you feel?’ ‘what would you like to happen?’. And as we do that we encourage her to listen to her inner voice – whatever it is saying.

We need to quieten our voices and listen. Because when she finds her voice, she’ll tell us. And just maybe it isn’t such a quiet voice. Maybe it’s a roar.

Ssssh – listen up.

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