“Just breathe. It’s all going to turn out fine. Don’t be perfect. Do a fantastic job.”
Leah, a midwife for 16 years and a mum of two, says motherhood means love – an overwhelming, soul-changing type of love.
“I really love the expression: ‘When a child is born, a mother is born’. You’re learning two things – not just to be a mum, but how to be a mother. Motherhood is a constant state of becoming someone we didn’t use to be,” Leah says.
“It’s messy, challenging, crazy, sleepless but unbelievably beautiful.”
Leah admits that even with her 16 years’ experience as a midwife, being at home with her first-born son, Austin (now aged 5), was overwhelming.
“I didn’t have any idea. I knew it would be sleepless and difficult but I didn’t know that it could overwhelm you. You can never understand how hard it is until you experience it. In my professional role, I try to be the voice of reason and tell my new mums that it is normal, okay and they are going to make it. It was quite shocking to me to feel the way I did. Being a midwife, I thought I should know what to do!
When her daughter, Finnley was born just five weeks ago, Leah found motherhood changed in many ways.
“You’re suddenly a mum of two. It’s different because you are dividing and sharing yourself even more. Finding time for an extra person is a challenge but a worthwhile one,” Leah says.
A new level of understanding
Leah has always been passionate about her work as a midwife, but becoming a mother herself has taken her understanding and compassion to a new level.
Midwife means “with woman”, and Leah does exactly that – guiding the mums in her care through pregnancy, birth preparation, delivery and postpartum care including breastfeeding and advice on the many challenges of motherhood.
“Society tends to just focus on the positives of motherhood. Nobody talks about how hard it is. You need to cry. You need to let it be hard. It’s the toggling balance that you have to find.”
Often when Leah meets new mums, they’re in an initial euphoric state.
“I meet them when it’s not hard yet. Saying the wrong thing – with even a word – can ruin a mum’s day. When I’m teaching a mum to breastfeed, they are so vulnerable. It’s about striking a balance between positive reinforcement, realism and choosing the right words.”
“They may at first see me as the pessimistic midwife, but after a few days they thank me for my honesty about the difficulties as well as the joy.”
Mother’s Day celebrates the ‘every day’
“To me, Mother’s Day is like any other day…it’s nice to be recognised,” Leah says. “But my husband also likes to surprise me with a Mother’s Day gift on some other day of the year. Mother’s Day is a day of the year to celebrate what is the focus and centre of our ‘every day’ of being a mum.”
About: 'Those who mum' series
Meet 40 women across Australia, from as far as Cairns in North Queensland to Baldivis in Western Australia, as part of a 40-part editorial and portrait series that celebrates the faces of women and mums from across Australia.