I remembered having many discussions with my husbands and setting tall ambitions on what kind of parents we would want to be – the loving and encouraging parent, who is understanding and not indulgent, and does what’s best for the child. We had lofty plans before his appearance into our family – no pacifier, no formula and no rocking and patting. But in a short span of two days after the birth of our son, we threw them out of our windows.
I recalled crying through the entire first night, rocking and patting (breaking our first rule), trying to calm a wailing baby. After being tortured through the first night, I finally told my husband to run down to the nearest 24-hr Shop and Save to buy a can of formula milk to supplement and feed Samuel (broke our second rule). When we couldn’t manage his ongoing fusses and wails, we caved and offered Samuel a pacifier (the third rule). 3 days are all we needed to break all of them, and I felt like I’d committed some deadly crime already.
As I look back on this one year of parenting, I have experienced that parenthood is not for the faint-hearted. It can be an amazing experience to be holding a tiny life in your arms, yet at the same time, a hair-pulling experience with endless sleepless nights and continuous cries. If I could turn back time, there are a few things I wish I could tell myself to cling to during the challenging moments.
1. Simple-rule-of-thumb: Whatever works.
Eventually, sleep deprivation and post-natal blues won us over and we took the simple-rule-of-thumb advice of WHATEVER WORKS. Of course, not to the extent of causing my baby harm such as feeding him with drowsy medicine to make him sleep! This rule worked like a charm to calm my soul!
June Yong, a mother of two kids also agreed that it is important for new mothers to cut themselves some slack as they are already going through a challenging phase taking on a new role and managing a needy baby. Indeed! Remember that it is not a crime to go for Whatever Works, in fact, at some point in motherhood, sanity is key.
2. Let go of perfection!
I remembered holding on to Samuel after delivery and I was overwhelmed with the need to provide everything for him, to make life as sufficient and perfect as possible. I had the pressure of doing everything right (in my own judgment after weighing the pros and cons) and it was stressful and suffocating at times. Although I aim to be a responsible and non-indulgent parent, I have to remind myself constantly that I cannot expect my child to turn out the same as another.
3. It is ok to cry
Thirdly, having a new baby can be both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. In fact, if you don’t feel that “amazing” maternal instinct when you first delivered, you are NORMAL. In fact, whenever anyone asked me excitedly how motherhood has been, I usually respond honestly that I have zero maternal instinct. I was worried that something was wrong with me until my mentor told me that she felt the same!
Life we once knew suddenly changed in a span of a few hours, and we are expected to welcome it with open arms. I thought I would feel all wonderful after delivery, but once we got home, I started questioning what we have gotten ourselves into. I grieved for the next few weeks – over the insecurities of being a new mom, the loss of couple time, free time and sleep.
So, go ahead and cry. In fact, crying is necessary and therapeutic for the soul — cry with tears of joy over how in love you are with your new baby or even over how lost you may be or how exhausted you are and DON’T apologize for your tears. Eventually, your hormones will subside and you WILL get better at this.
4. Don’t worry about savoring every moment
As a new mom, I find that I will always have my phone with me, snapping away photos of his milestones and wishing that I could capture every moment with Samuel. But the truth is, I can’t. I don’t rush to my phone to capture moments like waking up umpteen times in the night, being shot with yellow mustard seedy poo and managing an unsettled baby that would cry hysterically for hours. So, don’t feel bad when you don’t savor the moment! It is OK to cut yourself some slack and just do what you have to do at that moment to tide over the challenging phase.
5. Your partner is a parent, too
In the first few months, I will always take control of how I want Samuel to be cared for and be the main caregiver for him. Even when my husband offers to help, I will stand by his side to ensure that he does it “right”. I have to admit that I am overly uptight. Like us, our husbands have to learn from scratch how to soothe and settle our precious baby. It doesn’t mean that we are more pro than them! While our husbands may care for our children in a different way than we do, it doesn’t mean that it is wrong. When our husbands offer to help care for our children, we ought to appreciate their efforts!
So don’t be afraid to go out and leave your baby with Daddy, let Daddy change his diaper and feed him milk from a bottle. Ultimately, such bonding moments your baby has with Daddy will be one that is treasured by both.
By Yvonee Chee.
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