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Confessions of a Grumpy Mother

Conker season four years ago. I was sitting on a bench in the Grange, my baby asleep in the sling after another long, sleepless night. I could not stop crying. Eyes of passers-by sliding over me, embarrassed. Eventually a woman came over and sat down. “I had postnatal depression, love. I’ll fetch you a cup of tea.” I’ve been remembering how that felt, and my experience of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Their intentions are good, wanting to support mothers, but the reality is, by promoting only one kind of good birth, a ‘natural’ one, women who end up with a medical birth often feel like they failed. I remember sitting in the NCT antenatal class being asked (and it was definitely a loaded question) what pain relief I would be prepared to accept during birth. I bleated weakly that it was hard to know in advance of something I had no experience of, exactly what I would do. I got a hard stare and the comment “You do realise pethidine weakens a baby’s breathing?” I assumed, like many other first-time Lewes mothers, that being informed and doing ‘the right things’ during pregnancy would mean I’d end up with the birth I wanted. I didn’t. I developed pre-eclampsia and had a caesarean, which was bizarre but not unpleasant. But breastfeeding was problematic because of the early birth, so on both counts of ‘natural mothering’ I felt a utterly useless, which was a major contributing factor to getting depression. I think we need to offer acceptance to women whatever their experience. Mothers need kindness and cups of tea, not to be judged by impossible standards.

A new beginning: but sometimes mothers need compassion,
not impossible standards