Life changes in so many different ways when your baby arrives. And that includes your outlook
The expression on every mother’s face as she holds her new baby says it all.
It says: ‘I did this! I made this!’ And she’s right. An experience that nothing you’ve done before will compare to. And, putting the cheesy cliché of mother’s love to the side – it’s true.
That’s because giving birth isn’t just about what’s happening with your baby – it’s about you, too. By channelling the powerful hormones and emotions that come with labour, you can unlock strengths you may never have realised you had.
Women often feel they’re transformed forever by birth. From a new appreciation of your body to greater success at work and better relationships, it’s possible to take the confidence and happiness you feel after birth and make it work for every aspect of your life.
Trust your instincts
Before your baby arrives, it’s easy to worry your mothering urge won’t kick in. But this is the time to trust your instincts. As soon as you give birth, neurological changes take place, designed to make you a better mother.
‘During birth, new neural pathways are laid down in the brain,’ explains psychologist Mia Scotland. ‘The hormone oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone”, is released in huge amounts during birth and breastfeeding, encouraging you to put your baby’s needs before your own.’
It’s as if the act of birth flicks a switch from you being the focus to your baby now taking centre stage.
Giving birth can produce a positive mental shift for life, too. Having done something so miraculous, you may feel empowered and unstoppable.
Whether it’s setting up that business idea, speaking up in meetings or asking people to make room for your buggy on a busy train, your confidence will grow.
‘You’ve created life and been through this amazing birth experience, so you may feel braver, as if you can deal with anything,’ says Mia.
If you’ve always been a worrier, birth and motherhood can make you calmer, too.
You’re very likely to notice you don’t sweat the small stuff quite as much
Although a baby can bring some new anxieties and raise your awareness of potential dangers, you’re very likely to notice you don’t sweat the small stuff quite as much.
‘Use having a baby to put everything into perspective, and you may find you no longer worry about things that used to bother you,’ says Mia.
After all, you’ve crossed the greatest physical and mental barrier there is and you’re still standing. You can handle anything.
Love your body
If you’ve always been hung up about your body’s physical shortcomings, be it your shape or hair type, use birth as an opportunity for a mental body image makeover.
‘Many women find they appreciate their body for being able to grow, give birth to and feed a baby,’ says midwife, Mervi Jokinen. ‘Giving birth can take the focus away from how your body looks, and put it more onto what it can do.’
While bonding with your baby will be your priority, the post-baby rush of endorphins is a great time to give the relationship with your partner a boost, too.
‘He can feel in awe of you having given birth, and hold you in a new esteem afterwards,’ says Mia.
You’re likely to form a stronger, united bond, having shared the experience of bringing a new person into the world, and you’ll probably feel closer as a result. Even if endless sleepless nights spirit away this closeness, try to find ways to hold onto it, whether it’s talking about the birth or remaining physical with each other.
‘This isn’t just about having sex, but finding different ways to stay intimate,’ says Mervi.
Your new perspective on just what it means to have a baby can have a lasting effect on another important person in your life – your mum. After all, she brought you into the world in the same way, and it’s as if you see her properly for the first time ever.
‘It opens up a world you may not have appreciated or understood before,’ says Mia. Use it to connect with your mum in a new way, and gain an insight into why she does those things that can wind you up or you don't understand.
And perhaps the most surprising change for new mums? The act of giving birth often seems to elicit a sudden, deep spiritual connection with other mothers.
You’ve gone through the same life-affirming process and are now a fully paid-up member of this secret club called motherhood, and friendships may alter as a result.
You might not see as much of some of your non-mum friends in the early months of your baby’s life, but feel a greater bond with friends who have children, as you now have something in common.
Birth is a powerful and intimate experience only you and other mothers know about. Now it’s time to make the most of it.