Birth and the Generational Gap

Birth advice comes thick and fast from every direction once you have a baby. Most of it is well meaning. Some of it is gold. Some of it makes you feel attacked, worthless and useless as a mother.

One particular source of contention between new mums and the matriarch in any family seems to be the discord between what was done we when were children and what we do now with our own children.

My mothers experience of childbirth was COMPLETELY different to mine. Not to her fault. One is not better than the other. I was welcomed into this world by c section to a mum who was not fully awake for days after. The first time she saw me she was barely conscious due to the hard-core pain relief/general anaesthetic mum’s were readily given back in the early 80’s.

I can’t deny my mum and I see eye-to-eye on many things about birth and children – phew. But although my mum has had 6 children, our outlook on what a successful birth is could not be more far apart. My mum started having babies when the medical fraternity saw it as their jobs to let the mother experience as little pain as possible and get the baby out the fastest way possible.

My mother had all of her children in hospital. The idea of a home birth is seen as unsafe to her. She was prescribed as much pain relief as often as she wanted, for as long as she needed it. I chose to have a two natural childbirths. Mum thought I was nuts and that it was cruel of the midwives to not ‘put me out of my misery’.

Her first memories of holding all her children are foggy and she recalls being left to sleep for a long time after birth to help her rest. The memories of feeling my babies head crown and holding my new babies milli-seconds after they came out of the womb are a little overwhelming for her.

She remembers breastfeeding but she found it painful. Although this is very common for all breast feeding mothers both then and now and was similar to my own experience in the early days, she also had midwives actively recommending new formulas to supplement her new baby’s diet. In fact, the common thought was that formula was more beneficial for baby than breast milk.

Both my daughter and son were held to my breast minutes after coming into the world. My partner cut the umbilical cord of both of his children. In contrast, my father was allowed to come to the hospital the next day after I was born, for a visit. There was no way he was welcome into the operating theatre during my Mums c-section – nor would he probably have wanted to come along. It just wasn’t the ‘done thing’ at the time. What a difference from the Fathers of today, who often accompany their wives/partners into surgery, scrubs and all.

Is it any wonder then, that the advice we receive from the older generation in our family can sound strange to us? Personally, some advice I have received from even my older sisters has also left me feeling like we were talking about completely different subjects. As the saying goes, times change. Although the advice we receive can seem to be completely disjointed with what we’re told by midwives and friends, we must acknowledge the changes in ‘best practice’ in how babies arrive into the world.

No doubt I will have the same dilemma with my own daughter one day if she chooses to have children of her own. So what do you do when you are given advice that you know comes from generations gone by?

Do you have any advice you were given that made you tear your hair out in frustration? Roll on the floor with laughter? Or was it some really good ideas that changed the way you did things with your baby? Let us know your own experiences by posting below, find us on Twitter @thefirstcuddle or search for us on facebook (The First Cuddle Birth Coaching). We’d love to know your stories.

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