Pregnancy must have been the most exciting time for me. I couldn’t wait to meet my baby, had most likely read every parenting book on the shelves of Kinokuniya and began packing my hospital labour bag six weeks before my estimated due date.
While my hospital bag may have been equipped with everything the BabyCentre page could recommend, it was packed really for just that – the hospital. But the journey goes far beyond that. I was embarking on something everyone had described as being the most beautiful thing – becoming a mother.
And then I became one.
And too often in the beginning of that much-anticipated journey, I asked myself, “Why wasn’t I told this?”
A Farewell to Independence
During pregnancy, I concentrated mostly on the cute mitten designs I was getting my baby and the beautiful notions of motherhood I imagined to be all rainbows and butterflies. But those things are really just one part of the whole package, and just a portion of a major life transition.
A newborn has basic demands at various times around the clock, all of which are to be met by a parent’s love. A few days into the daily grind of caring for a newborn made me realize I was bidding farewell to the independence I had just weeks earlier. I had to forget any plans made for the day, including the shower I thought to have once baby naps after a particular feed – because napping may not sound too exciting for her at the time. Effectively, my days and nights were dictated by my baby’s cries.
A Crying Feast
Babies cry. Everybody knows that. But the cries may sound a lot more than that for a new parent.
I was often nervous over what the next minute of motherhood would offer. Each time my baby slept, my heart raced over the possibility of her waking up to a colicky crying episode and of my weak, uncertain self not having a clue what to do. I was nervous to take that much-needed nap even when it was my only chance. I had all these questions ricocheting in my head – “What if my baby wakes up? What if she cries when I’m just three minutes into my sleep? What if that little sleep will only make me groggier?”
These were feelings that came due to the transition into motherhood. The good news was that they faded soon enough. The fourth week of motherhood had rendered me calm and confident with the sound of my baby’s cries. I tried my best to soothe her, and by now I was enjoying it.
A 24-7 Meal Joint
While I had gotten myself familiar with names like Medela and Avent, I hadn’t a clue on the frequency of a newborn’s feed. The first few weeks of breastfeeding left me wondering if my baby and I were on the right track as we were on an almost constant feast! At least, she was.
Some wise words from the hospital’s lactation consultant, some reading and a ton of Google search results finally gave me comfort. I learned that breast milk is digested more quickly than formula milk, and that a newborn’s tiny tummy only meant she could take a small amount at a time, hence the frequency. I learned too that her frequent feeds were helping with my milk supply, leading us to a beautiful breastfeeding journey. Although feeding every two hours meant I couldn’t do much of anything else throughout the day, I was happy knowing she was getting my best. It was a beautiful sacrifice. Plus, it wasn’t going to last forever.
The (After) Labour Pain
While we know that labour isn’t much fun, I didn’t expect the healing time to be unpleasant. I imagined mothers to be up and about by the day after labour full of energy taking care of their babies. But that’s not quite the case. Not for me, at least.
I had a natural vaginal birth and unfortunately scored myself some perineal tears requiring stitches. The first week following labour had left me almost immobile as I was in pain just trying to walk, to lift myself up from a sitting position, or to just slightly switch positions in bed. The pain and slight immobility had gotten me feeling somewhat incapable and powerless, a far cry from what I know a mother is.
I may have been in tears in between these challenges as I realised this new journey isn’t all rainbows and butterflies the way I imagined before.
And then there was this moment of rocking my baby to sleep that left me unexpectedly in tears again, but this time they were tears of joy, of amazement. And mostly, of falling in love. I finally understood what the beauty of motherhood meant.
Azalia Suhaimi is a poet, a photographer and a first-time mum trying hard to write poems in between diaper changes while enjoying all the surprises that motherhood has to offer.