The First 6 Weeks: Reflections on Motherhood from a Play Therapist
Throughout my pregnancy I posted quotes from my favorite books on my prenatal reading list. If I had to summarize the most salient and reassuring points I gathered they would be that American parents worry too much and that all babies are forward moving and will develop at their own pace. Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves and also compare themselves to others to the detriment of their natural instincts. As I’ve transitioned in the world of parenting from professional to mother I’ve observed that these trends are rampant.
Before my son was born I resolved to do three things:
1) Take it one day at a time.
2) Not compare myself to other mothers and children.
One of my favorite Magda Gerber quotes is “Earlier is not better. All children accomplish milestones in their own way, in their own time." I highly recommend her book Your Self-Confident Baby.
3) Trust that my son will grow and develop when and how he needs to.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that children should be given space to let their development unfold naturally. I learned about his theories in Bringing up Bébé.
Now how have I gone about doing these three things during the first six weeks?
Firstly, I have been applying filial therapy principles and practices at home. Filial therapy offers parents a framework for strengthening the parent-child relationship. What filial therapy does for me is it keeps me in the moment and allows me to enjoy the present with my son. Using these skills from the beginning offers several great opportunities for babies and parents to connect and for their developing minds. Just the sound of a parent’s voice can be soothing and reassuring to their baby. By maintaining an active level of dialogue throughout the day you are letting your baby know that you are present with him or her, nurturing the beginnings of language development, and starting great parenting habits for later on in your child’s life.
Secondly, I’ve created a support network. I have found it invaluable to have a group of people that I can call upon for information, reassurance, babysitting, etc. My support network includes my spouse, family members, old friends, new friends, and our pediatrician’s office. In my experience the easy part is identifying your support network. The hard part is actually asking for help. In order for a support network to work, you must use them! Just as important as it is for you to build a connection with your new baby, I have found it equally vital to continue nurturing relationships with family and friends. This reminds me of how flight attendants remind us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. If we are not taking care of ourselves (physically and emotionally), how can we expect to be present in our parenting?
And lastly, I am following my son’s lead. I believe that babies know what they need and will communicate that to you if you are truly listening. Following my child’s lead requires that I am fully attending to him, present with him in the moment, and actively observing his “language.” When doing so he communicates his needs to me: hunger, sleepiness, overstimulation, and need for physical connection. Make no mistake- I am not suggesting that your child should have the run of the house and expect that all demands be met according to his or her wishes. However, in the first weeks of life you can learn a lot from your newborn and begin to shape your family’s routines around your child’s natural rhythms. This has created a level of harmony in our household where everyone’s needs are considered. I strive to develop mutual respect between all of the members of my family, which later in my son’s life I believe will foster trust and encourage cooperation.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my reflections of the past six weeks. And please remember my bottom line- we are all unique individuals and what works for some families does not work for all families. I value everyone’s experience and this is simply my own. Have any thoughts, reactions, or questions? Please share them with me!