When I became a mum, I always had other mums I knew to turn to for advice when my babies didn't sleep or when I just needed to know that I wasn't losing my mind. My good friend Helen, who is a qualified family and play therapist always makes me feel calm and gives me advice that always makes sense. And always makes me cry. Because she sees me and understands. I asked her to write something for you.
As I sat across from Eve via Zoom last week, I could sense the waves of emotions coming off her as she talked about her “favourite 2 hours of the week” when she chats with you during Clothee Break. How she has been blown away by your stories of bravery, vulnerability and honesty, but how she feels helpless and ‘not enough’.
As a mum of three, I am in absolute awe of you all. The emotions you feel in those early few years of parenthood are so intense, we want to fill our little ones up with so much love and new experiences. For you guys these opportunities have been pretty much non-existent. I just cannot get my head around how you have coped. As a qualified Play and Family Therapist I want to give you the opportunity to see your stories through a different lens…
We often associate grief with a loss of a loved one, but grief and loss are associated with so much more. As new parents you have had the rug pulled well and truly from under you. Your choices have been limited and quite often not your own as to ‘where’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ you introduce your little one to the world. There have been many missed face strokes, cuddles and kisses from grandparents and family. From reassuring hugs from parents to say “you are doing great”, lost play dates to holding your friend’s baby whilst they pop for a peaceful wee and enjoying a brew together at a coffee morning. Not forgetting, looking into your friend’s knackered eyes, and saying “I get you”.
So, know that it’s okay to feel lost, empty, sad, alone, angry and let down. Lean into your grief and loss, validate how you are feeling and each other. You are a part of a community of COVID parents, a generation like no other. Individually you are have had to roll up your sleeves and show true girt, bravery and vulnerability when you were in a dark place. Imagine as a collective how you can ‘get’ each other.
Without doubt your biggest concerns centre around how lockdown has affected these early experiences for your little one. If they will be able to form new meaningful relationships with wider family, or If they will be able to interact with other children in new situations without needing to be always by your side.
The relationship a baby has with their main carer sets the blue print for all future relationships throughout their life. How they respond to future friends, family, co-workers, and future partners, are all experiences from their very first emotional relationship. By responding to your baby’s emotional needs in a gentle, loving, and calm way helps them feel secure, loved and understood. It gives them the foundations on which to build on all other relationships.
As the world opens up again, just like a flower in the first smell of spring, your child will begin to open up. As they begin to develop new loving relationship experiences new neural pathways will form in the brain. This process continues throughout the life span, but these pathways all grow out of the foundations of their first ever relationship experience – you.
Now I know at this point your mind may be going to the negatives, all the times you haven’t felt calm and emotionally ‘with’ your baby. You have your own needs, you are tired and you have others around you who need you. But know this. You are enough.
So, calm your nerves, grab a brew, know you are doing a fantastic job and that right here, right now, in this moment you and your baby are safe. When we do start to re-open the world – go slowly and gently for you and your little one.
I will be rooting for you.
Love Helen x