The first few months

 

 

 

After the birth, parents can often feel rather disorientated. Even if they have had a good experience and support, the birth, especially of a first child, heralds a whole new world. Suddenly you are called upon to take a whole range of decisions about health care and family life with people pushing you to come to quick conclusions, often ones which they themselves are pressing upon you. Many of these people have an agenda which is centered around convincing you to see your child as a problem to  be managed and solved, rather than as the loving, lovable and very needy human being that they are. Few self appointed “baby experts” stop to consider what the child needs or how the child feels.   We as parents, on the other hand have the God-given joy and responsibility of making sure that our own unique child’s needs and feelings are at the top of any list of priorities. We are the natural advocates for our own children, in a world that has other priorities. The decisions that you take in the first few weeks will shape your family life for years to come and it is important that each couple has had the chance to engage with the issues and to help develop a joint approach.

 

The transition to a new family life can be greatly eased by a little forward-planning. Things will be much easier if you already have plans in place for some unstructured time together as a family, free of other expectations, a well-stocked freezer and yet also the telephone numbers to hand of people who have been through the experience themselves and whose judgement you trust. It will also help greatly if you have read up about such matters as, godparents, vaccinations and who is to care for your child both the pros and cons of different approaches and come to a well informed consensus as a couple on these matters. When you feel ready to go out and about, it is helpful to find out about groups for young families in your area. These can provide other people to talk to who are going through similar experiences and provide your child with both the security of your presence whilst also an environment in which he can see life going on around him. The National Childbirth Trust produce local guides for each area which are a help, as are publications such as the Grapevine and the Early Times, available free through libraries.

 

Before you had a baby, you may have been regular 8am Mass attenders, but this may now change. You will probably need to rethink which Mass best fits with your new family routine and then commit to going along all together. Taking your baby to Mass, is not only a joyful experience but vitally important for your child, for you all as a family and for the wider Catholic community. In other countries, going to Mass is additionally a good way to make friends with other Catholic families. In Britain however, meeting up with other Catholic families after Mass, can, be a challenge due to the popular national habit of disappearing off as the last chords of the final hymn die away. Joining (or starting) a Parish based group for young families is a  useful means of meeting other Catholic parents and of having support in facing the challenges which we face in this society in bringing children up in the Faith. Such groups also provide a Catholic peer group for our children which play an increasingly important role as children grow. Without Catholics of the same age with whom they are familiar enough with to discuss the Faith, young people’s understanding and practice often fails. Such relationships need to be nurtured from the child’s earliest days, if they are to be solid and deep and familiar enough to provide this secure context for later Faith-sharing. If you have not already joined an online mailing list or chat group for Catholic families such as http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CathHomeUK/join now might be a good time to consider doing so. It is great to have access to this kind of support at odd snatched moments, often at strange times of the day (or night!).

 

Another useful way of deepening your relationship with your child and also of making some good friends is by joining a baby yoga group and/or the local La Leche League group. www.laleche.org.uk.

La Leche League (Great Britain)PO Box 29, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 7NP. Francoise Friedman who together with her colleague Sally Lomas runs the Cambridge-based Charity Birthlight writes;

“Early parenthood may often be ridden with anxiety, if external pressures and lack of self-confidence undermine our faith in our abilities and our joy in our babies. Doing yoga with your baby  will defuse this anxiety and create..a positive process that creates shared happiness and harmony between you”. (p 20  Baby Yoga by Francoise Friedman, published in 2000 by Gaia Books). This was certainly my experience. Attending a BIrthlight yoga class was a great help to me in the early weeks in helping me gain confidence as a mother.

 

I have also found being a member of the organisation Full Time Mothers, which produces a newsletter with good articles, book reviews and campaigning details; www.fulltimemothers.org; P O Box 43690, London SE22 9WN. You do not have to be either a mother or indeed look after your child full time to join;

“Time for Parenting is an initiative of Full Time Mothers (FTM). FTM was founded in 1990 by parents concerned about the relentless drive to get all mothers into paid employment outside the home and all children into third party childcare; Do you think infants need to bond with one special person who provides consistent, loving care in order to grow into confident, fulfilled young adults?Do you agree that mothers make a unique contribution to raising their children, which should be recognised and rewarded for its irreplaceable value to society? Are you tired of seeing your family's taxes diverted towards encouraging more childcare and absentee parenting? If you're already back in work, are you struggling to find time for your children because of the pressures of holding down a job?Do you feel deprived of choice in child care . If you can answer YES to any of the above, please join us. We are trying to change things so that parents get a real chance to be parents - not just workers outside the home. We need your voice if we are to be heard.”