The Mother's Companion A Comforting Guide to the Early Years of Motherhood

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2001-04-01
  • Publisher: Council Oak Books

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


Beautifully illustrated and filled with enlightening quotes, The Mother's Companion is a supportive, soothing, and sometimes humorous companion for both first-time and experienced mothers. Addressing the profound changes that mothers experience once the baby is born, this book gently reminds them of things they can do to look after themselves.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7(4)
How to use The Mother's Companion
Welcome to Motherhood
Reflections on Your pregnancy and birth
Change, Transition, and Compromise
Changes to your body and mind, lifestyle, and relationships
It's All Right to Be Afraid
Coping with new emotions and responses: the joy and the fear
Looking after You
Investing time in yourself
Establishing a Support Network
Sharing the load --- how others can help
The Superwoman Syndrome
Stay-at-home mom, career woman, or both?
Survival Kit
Making life easier
Suggested Further Reading 128


Chapter One

    Your emotions tend to reflect your attitude toward the progressing pregnancy. Some women positively glow during this time while others are far from radiant. Anxiety and anticipation are feelings that can be exaggerated by the outcome of any previous pregnancies--terminations, miscarriages and stillbirths, or cot deaths included.

    It would be unusual for a mother-to-be not to anticipate what lies ahead. She may have an easy, healthy pregnancy and continue life as normal, or she may experience 24-hour. "morning" sickness and other pregnancy-related discomforts causing most of her waking thoughts to revolve around the coming baby. All changes aside, women undergo an amazing personal transformation over the forty weeks or so from conception to birth.

    For some women, pregnancy may have been planned, for others, it may have been an accident, unplanned and definitely a surprise or maybe even a shock. For those who have suffered infertility and the subsequent merry-go-round of IVF and other fertility treatments, the pregnancy may be long awaited--the culmination of years of hope and prayers. The focus of pregnancy is, however, usually fixed on the birth. Antenatal classes tend to echo this focus and often provide little practical advice in preparation for parenthood.

The birth

While books and antenatal classes may be informative and educate you as to the theory of birth, nothing--absolutely nothing--can truly prepare a first-time mother for this event. Women with an older child may be surprised to find that their second experience of birth is considerably different from that of the first--possibly more complicated, probably much easier.

    You might have anticipated a long, drawn-out labor yet felt confident in your body's ability to give birth. It may be that you imagined a natural, drug-free birth and ended up having your baby delivered by caesarean section. Perhaps you gave the labor little thought and found yourself overwhelmed at the intensity of the pain. Possibly, the contractions were bearable and you anticipated the impending birth positively and with excitement, or maybe you decided that the pain was just too much. Many women switch between extremes from hour to hour and even from minute to minute!

    The experience of birth is as individual as that of pregnancy and, again, this varies for each woman for each birth. You cannot compare your experience to other women's birthing experiences.

    Sometimes mothers feel that they didn't cope well in labor or they didn't do what they thought they would. Birth is not something that can be definitively planned. You have not failed if things didn't go as you wished. In the long run, what matters most is the outcome--your baby's safe arrival.


Once your baby is born, you may begin to wonder why you don't feel anything special and intimate with your baby. When are you going to bond with your baby? Bonding is a term that has been bandied about to varying degrees in recent years. Falling in love with your baby--forming that emotional connection--may take some time. It's not usually instantaneous. Bonding is the formation of a special relationship, with the emphasis on relationship . Bonding with your baby is something you both do--he/she with you, as well as you with him/her.

    Many mothers feel quite detached following birth. Such emotional indifference may come as a surprise. Don't put pressure on yourself; there is nothing must feel. One day--maybe at the hour of birth, maybe three months later--you'll discover an incredibly deep love for and connection with your baby.

A "newborn" mother

Those first few days following birth often pass in a haze. Your feelings might range from exhilaration and elation to exhaustion and everything in between. Some of the discomforts to contend with following birth include:

· a possible episiotomy, tear, or both

· afterpains--when the uterus contracts, beginning to return to its normal size--are felt more strongly while breastfeeding and are usually more intense following each subsequent birth

· maybe pain from the incision of a caesarean section delivery, which is usually more traumatic if performed as an emergency rather than an elective, and especially if performed following a lengthy labor

· hard, hot, swollen, heavy breasts while breast milk is "coming in"

    You also have your beautiful newborn to care for. Many hospitals now have 24-hour rooming in, where your baby stays with you from birth. You will learn how to breastfeed or how to sterilize bottles and make up formula preparations, how to change diapers, and how to bathe and handle your baby. Enjoy the peaceful moments you share with your baby. Take the opportunity to just be there and get to know each other.

    Some maternity units now offer an opportunity to "debrief" following childbirth. This gives you a chance to reflect on and "re-live" labor and birth, to express your emotions openly and honestly and, thereby, relieve yourself of any negativity about the experience.

    When people experience any highly emotional event, good or bad, there is a strong need to share the experience, to have others acknowledge the emotions involved. A new mother may need to talk about the birth and, if so, someone should listen to what she has to say. This is true for women who have had positive birthing experiences as well as for those whose experience has been traumatic.

    Following a hospital birth, information sessions or classes are often held for new parents. These include postnatal exercises, physiotherapy, and baby-care basics. Educational videos are usually available on everything from back care to breastfeeding and a multitude of other subjects related to baby management.

    Some decisions cannot be made until your baby is born. It is probably a good idea not to anticipate too much or to project too far into the future because you never know what temperament your baby will have or what his/her needs will be, apart from the basics. It is better to say, for example, "I would have preferred to have breastfed" than to say, "I should have breastfed," with all its accompanying guilt.

    In those very early postnatal days there is much to learn about your newborn and choices to be made, including whether to:

· breast or bottle feed

· use a pacifier or not

· use disposable or cloth diapers

Every baby is unique. Though a mother of five may seem experienced and efficient and appears to handle her infant more competently, each baby has individual requirements. It takes time to learn what a particular baby's cries mean and what works best for us in mothering.

Adjusting to motherhood

Your abilities to adjust in the early days of motherhood are greatly affected by the level of support you receive in those first few weeks following birth. Early discharge from hospital is now a highly promoted option; many new mothers leave the hospital as early as 24 hours after an uncomplicated delivery.

    It is not uncommon for mothers to say they received conflicting advice from maternity unit staff on feeding or handling their babies. This leaves mothers feeling confused and uncertain.

    The best advice--and this applies in general to motherhood--is to listen to what people have to say if it interests you. If the advice seems sound, try it out; if it doesn't, don't worry about it. Above all, follow your instincts. When reading books about motherhood and parenting, use the same technique. As you get to know your baby better, you will learn what works best for him/her.

And so life changes ...

The birth of the baby marks the end of the pregnancy and the true beginning of motherhood. And this is when life really changes!

    The early weeks as a new mother are usually fairly hectic with little time for anything that does not involve your baby. While life is so baby-centered, it is the perfect time to reflect on your pregnancy and birth experience. It seems impossible to imagine now, but time does tend to cloud your memories of the experience somewhat--maybe this is nature's way of ensuring the human species survives!

Helpful contacts

Maternity unit of your local hospital

The hospital where you gave birth may run groups where you can talk about your experience with other new mothers. If you participated in childbirth classes, keep in touch with others from your group, either formally or informally. Besides being a natural means of support, this can also lead to babysitting exchanges and playgroups when you and your baby are ready.

Domestic help

National Association of Postpartum Care Services--Can refer you to a certified postpartum doula (provider of all support services for new moms). 1 (800) 453-6852 (1 (800) 45-DOULA) www.napcs.org

You can also look under "House Cleaning" in your local Yellow Pages.

Diaper services

Look under "Diaper Service" in your local Yellow Pages.

Circumcision information

American Academy of Pediatrics 1 (800) 433-9016 www.aap.org

NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) 1 (415) 488-9883 www.nocirc.org

Grocery delivery

Some stores make home deliveries for a modest fee. Also, check out the online grocery delivery companies:

www.webvan.com (serving S.F. Bay area, Sacramento, Chicago and Atlanta areas)

www.homegrocer.com (serving Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Orange County, Portland, OR, San Diego and Seattle areas)

Birth Stories

http:www.geocities.com/Heartland/7269/ This site contains birth stories dating back more than twenty years and e-mail addresses for the authors. You can also contribute your own story.


There are several parenting magazines of interest to parents of infants and young children:

· Parents

· Parenting

· Baby

· Child

· Working Mother

Thoughts and feelings

Date: ...................................

· The best thing about my pregnancy was ...

· The worst thing about my pregnancy was ...

· What I miss most about being pregnant is ...

















Excerpted from the Mother's Companion by Tracy Marsh. Copyright © 2001 by Tracy Marsh Publications Pty Ltd. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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