Brutally honest and real world picture of what it is to be a mom.
This is for all those incredible moms out there, who are a living testimony of super powers they never knew they had. Happy Mother’s Day!
Exactly 9 months ago, today, I pushed a little person out of my vagina. Yes. It was as crude as that sounds. After 24 hrs of excruciating back labor and surviving on ice chips when I could really use some energy, these were tears of happiness, relief — mostly coz I thought the hardest part was over.
The following 3 days were harder since I had to shuttle between my postpartum room and the NICU where they had my baby plugged into a million monitors. I walked back and forth dizzy with pain, with a tear between my legs only to go sit on a wooden rocking chair to ‘try’ and get my baby to latch. Surrounded by nurses, Lactation consultants, doctors, and family — all hovering over 2 amateurs who have not the slightest clue what to do but are suddenly expected to be experts at this process!
The thing is — No one ever tells you how steep this learning curve is, for both mom and child. “Breast is best”… suddenly the whole world is an expert on breastfeeding and is more than ready to tell you how you are totally failing to do the best you can for your child by supplementing with formula. There is so much pressure, that it actually ends up being counterintuitive to the whole process of producing milk. The process continues for months to come. And God help you, if your baby doesn’t latch and you are an exclusive pumper!
Impractical Advice 101: Sleep when baby sleeps
Once you have somehow wrapped your head around breastfeeding, the next biggest challenge is sleep. Or lets say the lack of it. People do tell you about this, but they also say one more thing — Sleep when the baby sleeps. I understand its in your best interest. But people, here’s a breakdown of how this makes for a slightly impractical advice.
A newborn wakes up every 2–3 hrs to be fed. In between that time, if you are pumping, you have to do the following:
- After feeding, burp the baby
- Change his diaper
- Put the baby back to sleep
- Wash all the bottles
This whole process can take anytime between 60–90 minutes based on how easily baby goes back to sleep and burps. That leaves you with the next 60–90 precious minutes of possible sleep before he wakes up and the cycle repeats. Now imagine doing this 24/7 for 4 months straight.
I wish, I could just sleep when baby sleeps.
Your partner can be really helpful. But they are not moms.
No matter how wonderful your partner is, and how much they want to help, but your role as mom cannot be replaced. Only you feel a letdown when the baby is hungry, only you know how it feels to have engorged breasts. Only you are ultra hormonal and would cry at a drop of a hat. Only you have carried that baby in your womb and now carry the remnants of this big physical change in your body in the form of tears, stitches, back pain, unwanted pregnancy weight, stretch marks, falling hair and dark circles that reach your knees. Yes, a supportive partner is a great morale booster. But the realization and the responsibility of being mom is something thats yours and yours alone.
Does my baby look like me or my partner? Or like my partner’s parents? Or like his siblings? Is he my baby at all?
A newborn is the weirdest looking creature and his looks have not developed completely until after he is about 3 months old. But that doesn’t stop people from comparing his looks to either you or your partner from day 1. I will not deny how nice it feels to have someone say that my baby looks like me. But if your child has borrowed his features from your partner, no one will loose one opportunity to reinforce and rub that fact in. Folks, the child is a result of me and my partner fornicating. He is not going to look like my neighbor.
Forget all those heart melting portraits of mom and baby bonding.
At first, you are just going to be food source. And you will feel like a cow, pumping milk round the clock to feed a tiny hungry beast. And you are going to feel bad, really bad about your baby not paying a lot of attention to you. After all, you are as needy as the baby. And it could really be taxing on your brain, heart and soul to just give and give more. This is where your partner and your friends and your family come in. You need them for chores, yes. But you also need them to make you feel good about yourself, be gentle with you and your feelings. And give you the opportunity to replenish your emotional bank.
Be prepared to become a Type A personality when planning travel with baby. Also, forget about traveling light.
If you like traveling, I would highly recommend doing it while your baby is not yet mobile. They are much much easier to handle when they are not moving. And of-course there is no need to buy their tickets. The only downside is that the smaller the baby, more are the number of things they need. So be prepared to lug a lot of luggage with you everywhere you go. This might be a good time to invest in a light weight stroller that folds into a compact size and is car seat adaptable. We traveled with our 6 month old to Hawaii, Florida and Costa Rica, and carried his travel system. That was a bad idea. So when we planned our extended trip to India, we invested in a light weight compact stroller (Graco Jetsetter) and that was probably the best thing we would have done for our sanity. Also, always factor in the time you will need at airport security as well as finding nursing rooms close to your gate. Carry lots of food, his teethers, and pack strategically so you know what could be needed and place it in an easily accessible place.
Transitioning to solids is very hard.
Just when you have it all figured out with the babies schedule for milk, its time to introduce him to solids. You will likely jump into this with a lot of excitement, but you will soon realize how tough this really is. Especially, if your baby is a picky eater. Besides researching endlessly about what is good and bad for the baby, you are also trying to cultivate good eating habits and please your child’s palette. Also, constipation/diarrhea are common side effects of food. And very unnerving when your child hasn’t gone for days and when he finally does, its painful as hell. And yes, it doesn’t help when your child tries to grab the spoon and make a mess or worse, throw/spit out the food you so lovingly prepared for him.
First colds and Ear infections are scary.
Seeing my child in pain is the most sad and scary thing I have ever experienced. And not knowing how to ease that pain makes it worse. Teething, colds and ear infections in babies are the most common and ‘not the end of the world’ problems. But when your child is going through it for the first time, all hell breaks loose. When a baby cries, your first thought is that either he’s hungry, sleepy, or gassy. You never think of the fact that your baby could be in pain. Or at least you don’t want to think of that. The amount of research and care that goes into raising a child, you would really like to believe that your child is invincible. When he is eating right, doing all the things he needs to do, then why would anything happen to him? Reality check: your baby is human. Like you. And he will fall sick every now and then. And he will get better too.
You will eventually fall head over heels in love with your baby.
All the craziness, sleeplessness and eternal exhaustion seems worth it when you see your baby smile at you. Even if you have been in love before, this is the true love you never experience until you become mom — selfless, nurturing, giving and just pure happiness. And you will finally know what your mom meant when she said — “You’ll know better when you become a mom yourself.”