When I teach my clients about their childbirth-motherhood journey, I like to explain it as The Four Mountains. Everyone has to climb every mountain, but everyone’s journey of how gentle or challenging each mountain is for them, is always an utterly personal and utterly unique journey, every single time.
And if there’s one thing that’s predictable: That is, it is not predictable.
The Mountain of Pregnancy
For some women their pregnancy can be a breeze – it only took a couple of months to conceive, she has been medically well throughout, the baby’s growth is perfect, her partner has been wonderful, and work have been great. Or maybe she has gone through years upon years of recurrent miscarriages and infertility treatments. Or maybe her pregnancy is the unwanted outcome from a dysfunctional relationship with a violent man. Or maybe she has ended up with gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsic toxaemia. Or maybe her mother is dying, or her husband has lost his job. Or maybe their 20-week Anatomy scan showed a serious anatomical anomaly, which no Doctor can’t truly predict how unwell their baby will be until after it’s born.
When we have a normal uncomplicated pregnancy, we should be very grateful indeed. Many women don’t.
The Mountain of Childbirth
For some women this can be such a beautiful sacred journey, where they spontaneously established into active labour at Term, with it taking just 3-4 hours to dilatate, and 10 minutes to birth their gorgeous well baby. Or maybe she had a lovely waterbirth, but ended up with a serious perineal tear or retained placenta, and had the inconvenience of needing to transfer to the hospital to go to theatre. Or maybe she had a five-day induction for her baby who became growth restricted due to her escalating hypertension, but after a failed forcep delivery she required an emergency C-Section; then while her baby was spending days in the Special Care Baby Unit, she was spending several days in Intensive Care with surgery infection complications. Or maybe she was only five months pregnant and having a lovely ordinary day at work then suddenly she started haemorrhaging, and an ambulance rushed her to the hospital but it was too late as her baby had been tragically compromised.
When we have a normal uncomplicated birth, we should be very grateful indeed. Many women don’t.
The Mountain of Breastfeeding
For some women this can be a magically bonding experience, with her wonderful stick-out nipples that her baby straight away latches perfectly to. Or maybe she has inverted nipples and her baby has a tongue-tie, and the whole thing seems to continually swing from pretty uncomfortable to excruciating agony, and the recurrent mastitis isn’t helping her positivity at all. Or maybe her babe has a cleft palate, or is premature, and so she needs to express using a breastpump for half-an-hour, every three hours, day and night. Or maybe she had her entire left breast and half her right breast removed years ago for cancer, and right now, logistically, and especially emotionally, she’s missing those absent breasts more than ever before.
When breastfeeding is normal and uncomplicated, we should be very grateful indeed – and do know it oftentimes can take a whole month to fully synchronise the successful establishment of breastfeeding. Be patient – and keep the faith.
The Mountain of Infant Sleep
This is the mountain that can go on for years and years, potentially. It’s that one-year-old still not sleeping through the night because he keeps losing the dummy, or the three-year-old who still needs to be read to every single night so she can finally drift asleep, or the five-year-old who can’t accept a schoolmate’s sleepover invitation because he still needs his blankie and teddy and is embarrassed to take it, or the seven-year-old who’s mum has her excused from the overnight school camp because she can’t sleep in any bed other than her own. Conquering the Mountain of Infant Sleep, can oftentimes end up going on for years.
However in reality, when the Mountain of Infant Sleep is finally looming in front of us, we actually should celebrate, because it means we’ve already successfully scaled the three previous mountains: we’ve endured the pregnancy, we’ve conquered the birth, and we’ve triumphed breastfeeding. We’re a mother rock-star. All of us!