This is the first time I’ve blogged since I had a baby 8 weeks ago. I’m delighted to be sharing my life with this tiny person, although he sure does change the landscape of my days. Spare moments are scarce, when I find them, I hop into bed for a nap!
I’ve been told by parents I’ve worked with that I didn’t understand particular things because I didn’t have children. In my foggy mental state I’ve reflected on a few things I’ve learnt as a new parent.
I’ve realised how dedicated some parents are. I’ve known families come to therapy sessions with their older child when their new baby was just days old. In those first few weeks I called it a successful day if I could shower and comb my hair. These families had a legitimate reason for cancelling sessions but they didn’t: they came along, took part, and supported their older child. Wow.
I also now understand how difficult it can be to get to appointments on time. I hate being late, but it’s hard getting me and the tiny person out of the house at a set time. I’ve sacrificed the shower and hair combing to make sure we made it. As a therapist, I can’t organise my day so that families can come to their appointments 20 minutes late although I can try and schedule the appointment for a convenient time.
As a new mother, I’ve been the “patient” or “client” which takes some getting used to. I hadn’t spent a night in hospital since I was born! I’ve struggled with breastfeeding, when I tried to access support I realised: I didn’t know what normal was, and I needed to listen to my gut.
When I started telling the midwives and then the health visitors that feeding was incredibly painful they all said a variation of: “it is at the beginning,” and suggested I give it time. My gut told me something was up, but I’d never done it before and I didn’t know what to expect, I had no idea what “normal” was. It took lots of tears (mine – not the baby’s!) blood, an infection, and me doing my own research before I insisted on a referral to the tongue tie clinic. After 4 weeks I’d found the reason for all the pain and we could begin to move on.
As a therapist I want to remember that parents may not know what type of communication to expect at their child’s age and although, of course, there is a huge range of “normal” I can provide them with this information. I also want to give parents time to explain to me what their gut is telling them, and really listen to them. I felt frustrated, overwhelmed, and angry when my need to be understood wasn’t met. I knew the professionals I saw didn’t have a magic wand, and couldn’t make the pain disappear, I needed to be understood.
Finally, although I knew no one I spoke to would have that magic wand, I really wanted them to. I know this is how some of the parents I work with feel. My partner gently reminded me we were looking for small improvements, aiming to move in the direction of painless feeding. He encouraged me to record the progress we were making in a notebook, suggested I review it often, and broke out the bubbly when we made it! I want to be this supporter in the therapy process, and bubbly on discharge is an idea I could get behind!