When I was pregnant, I picked up two books to prepare for the unknown that is motherhood. One illustrates the technical know-how of sorts, of caring for a newborn, you know, bathing, feeding, swaddling, etc. The other highlights the fussy phases that babies go through as they hit different milestones of development.
These resources, and the internet, have helped me stumble into the third year of being-Mama, but of course, there were (still are) certain things that no one told me about motherhood, in spite of the vast literature there is on parenting.
Some are taboo thoughts to bring up, so it’s all hush-hush. Some are experiences that one needs to go through in order to fully appreciate the nuances. Here are some that I wish I was told before I became a mother.
1. You don’t have to always enjoy motherhood to know that you do love your child
Motherhood isn’t always that picture-perfect moment that you see in the magazines. It is a hot, teary mess of the worst moments, and the best that you will ever experience. I don’t always enjoy motherhood and I used to feel so guilty about this, because I thought it meant I didn’t love my daughter.
I know better now. I mean, who in the world revels in getting up for the 12th time in the night to rock the wee one back to sleep or having your screaming baby throw up all over you after you finally found time to take that much-needed shower? But you still do what needs to be done to get through each day, albeit grudgingly so. And that’s because you love your child.
2. It’s your work-in-progress
You will find your way. Every child is different, and there isn’t a cookie-cutter way of taking care of a baby. I used to beat myself up when my daughter didn’t sleep like other babies do by a certain age and constantly felt like I must have done something wrong. But after trying everything that everyone suggested to no avail, I realised that it’s a tango that she and I had to work on, in our own way. Things eventually fell into place in the sleep department, but other issues came up, and then we hatched our own plans to get them out of the way.
Sometimes, we try everything and nothing works, and that’s okay too. Sometimes, we lose our marbles. When the going gets tough, breathe and remind yourself that everything is a work-in-progress and not having a solution right away does not mean that you are a bad parent.
3. You will always feel tired
Babies don’t sleep in the early stages of their lives. Whoever coined the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’ lied. And when your child eventually sleeps through the night, you would have acquired such a keen sense of hearing in the sub-zero ranges, that you jump out of bed in your ninja get-up when your partner’s big toe itches.
My point is, you won’t ever get a good night’s sleep anyway. Embrace your eye bags, get help whenever you need it, and invest in a trusty coffee machine.
4. Even your neighbour’s dog-sitter will have an opinion on your parenting
Suddenly, everyone has something to say. Like how you shouldn’t breastfeed because ‘you don’t look like you produce enough milk’, and how you should because ‘it’s the best’. How you should sleep-train because ‘not enough sleep damages the brain’, and how you will (also) damage your child if you do. How you should baby-wear because ‘your baby needs the physical contact’ and how you shouldn’t baby-wear ‘because your baby’s joints will go wonky’.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Ignore those who have too much to say and nothing good to offer. Get on with what you think works best for your child.
5. Nothing will ever prepare you for motherhood
You can read all the parenting resources out there, or rally advice from more than a few mothers’ groups. You may have yearned for a child for the longest time. But I assure you that nothing will ever prepare you for motherhood. The physical demands, that terrible ‘mummy’s guilt’, the balancing acts, the occasional loss of your identity.
You wouldn’t know what it feels like to give everything up and love unconditionally, have your heart completely shattered and yet, feel whole, until you become a mother. Don’t fret too much about what you need to do to prepare for motherhood, because the truth is you can’t.
Your love for your child will lead you to places that you have never been before and I assure you – it’s a ride that will astound you.
By Rachel Tan
Stay tuned for the rest of our ‘First Time Mum’ series!