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“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ll be leaving (the company) soon.” I was on the phone to a colleague based at another site, whom I hadn’t seen in a while.

“Oh? No, I hadn’t heard – where will you be going?” she asked, surprised.

“I’ve got another job coming up,” I told her. “It’s a new role. I’ll be on-call 24/7, the pay’s… well, terrible and scheduled lunch breaks will be a thing of the past. My new boss will be completely dependent on me to get everything done. But you know, new challenges…”

My colleague inhaled slowly, weighing her words, wondering what had possessed me to say yes to this. “Sounds rough… what will you be doing?” she ventured, cautiously.

I couldn’t hide the smile from my voice. “I’m going to have a baby,” I said.

We both laughed. “Sounds about right!” she said, adding her congratulations.

We discussed other details – how far along I was, how much time I was taking off work, whether it was a boy or a girl. But as we hung up, the reality of what I said to her hit home.

Here I was, a career-oriented woman, working in a fulfilling role in a country I had just started over in, three-and-a-half years ago. We’d just bought a house and had grand plans, but news a baby was on the way was welcome. It was what we’d always talked about.

But it didn’t stop me from feeling a mild sense of panic, and even a sense of loss. I enjoyed my work. I had a million worries: How much would taking this time off slow my career progression? How would I cope going from full-time employment to staying at home for 12 months with a baby? We want more than one child – this was just the start. What would happen to my career then? How would I know if I was doing it right?

Since the initial meltdown, I’ve told myself repeatedly that nobody ever gets it 100% right. Sometimes, you have to fake it until you make it.

“A woman is not a mother just because she has had a baby, a mother is not born when a baby is born; a mother is forged, made”, wrote Naomi Wolf in her book Misconceptions: Truth, lies and the unexpected on the journey to motherhood.

Motherhood sounds like a work in progress – chances for research, evaluation and feedback. But it also sounds like hard work – steel is not forged through paperwork and consultation, but extreme heat and mechanical energy – beyond anything one could expect to see in a corporate environment.

And while the idea of traversing the new terrain of parenthood is scary, it’s second only to the idea of emerging an entirely different person because of it. Would I like the new person I become? Would my husband?

Wolf also acknowledged the hidden losses motherhood brings: “we deny the many symbolic deaths a contemporary pregnant woman undergoes: from the end of her solitary self-hood, to the loss of her prematernal shape, to the eclipse of her psychologically carefree identity, to the transformation of her marriage, to the decline in her status as a professional or worker.”

I have come to realise – though it doesn’t fit the socially-accepted narrative of what a ‘good mother’ is –  it’s not wrong to feel upset by this loss of self. I don’t think that I am alone in struggling to reconcile the selflessness of being a ‘good mother’ with self-focused goals we have been taught to desire – financial independence, equality in the home, self-improvement and fulfilling friendships, not to mention maintaining one’s health and looks.

I won’t let the guilt of mourning the loss of my former self wear me down, but neither will I pretend to be able to shrug it off as “what happens when you have children”. I’ll miss the old me.

Motherhood will just have to be another role I take on and work hard at – even if I have to fake it until I make it. I may not be able to have it all, and to have it all at once, but I can certainly try.

Faye Song is a city girl finding her feet in regional Victoria, Australia. A former journalist, she works in marketing and communication, but has found that her real passion lies in dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing – while she awaits the arrival of her first child.

Image Credit: Flickr user Mightyboybrian

StrangePregnancy

The sight of a growing, pregnant belly can bring out the best in the people around you – though sometimes this includes unsolicited advice, with the best of intentions, of course. From what not to eat, what to wear and even what to look at, every mother, grandmother and their neighbours have some well-meaning – but sometimes strange – advice to pass on. Here we take a look at some common pieces of strange pregnancy advice:

Strange Advice #1: Pregnant woman shouldn’t have baths.

By ‘bath’ we don’t mean showers – we refer to soaking in a tub. But unless you’re almost at term and your membranes have ruptured, or you’re having a steaming hot bath (unlikely in the Malaysian heat!), baths can be a nice way of relaxing and even provide some pain relief in early stages of labour. It’s true that hot tubs, heated jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas are best avoided during pregnancy as you’re more likely to overheat, dehydrate or get dizzy, with feeling extra warm anyway, you’re more likely to want an icy cold drink than a hot bath.

Strange Advice #2: You should not be active while pregnant.

A pregnant woman doing cardiovascular exercise on a crosstrainer in a gym

This advice that pregnant women should not exercise comes with the best intentions, but also needs to be tempered with common sense. It is generally accepted that light to moderate exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, three to four times a week is beneficial in all stages of pregnancy provided you don’t have any complications – this could include swimming, walking and yoga or pilates. For regular gym bunnies, there is often no reason why you can’t continue with your regular routine, with adjustments – like steering clear of heavy weights or being flat on your back after 20 weeks.

While many things in pregnancy are frowned upon, like alcohol, undercooked meat and (probably) dangling upside-down from a crystal chandelier, moderate exercise is definitely not one of those things. Check with your doctor or an experienced trainer at your gym to come up with a special routine to suit your stage of pregnancy.

Strange Advice #3: Eating pineapple can cause a miscarriage/bring on labour.

Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, which is carried primarily in the stem of the fruit. Bromelain is often used as a meat tenderiser, and is thought to have a similar effect in softening the cervix although there is insufficient scientific evidence to support this. Like many other myths, there may be a sliver of truth to this, though it’s been pointed out you’d need to eat as many as several pineapples to feel any effect – which could be prefaced by indigestion and tummy aches, and not to mention a very itchy tongue!

Strange Advice #4: Taking pregnancy multivitamins will mean you will have a big baby and therefore, a harder labour.

pregnant women taking supplements

Pregnancy is the start of a journey in making choices that would most benefit your child. While it is true, according to a 2010 study in the UK, that taking a daily pregnancy supplement can reduce the chances of having an underweight baby, it does not necessarily mean your child will be big or overweight. Babies with a low birth weight are thought to be more susceptible to jaundice and breathing problems, and may be more likely to develop chronic illnesses later in life.

Generally speaking, supplements are great if you’re vegan, vegetarian or on a special diet (which isn’t recommended during pregnancy anyhow), but if you’re eating well and moderately, pregnancy multivitamins are encouraged, but not compulsory. As long as you’re getting enough iron, calcium and folic acid, you should be on your way to having a healthy baby. Considering supplements? Read more here.

Strange Advice #5: If you want a fair baby, consume lots of ‘white’ food.

Um. We don’t need to tell you this one is probably more of an old wives’ tale than scientific fact – the colour of your baby’s skin will have significantly more to do with genetics than whether you religiously ate blocks of tofu and drank copious amounts of soy milk throughout your pregnancy.

Faye Song is a city girl finding her feet in regional Victoria, Australia. A former journalist, she works in marketing and communication, but has found that her real passion lies in dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing – while she awaits the arrival of her first child.

Image Credits: EverydayFamily, Coles and Flickr user MissJanetB

FS1

There’s nothing quite like the impending arrival of a new baby to send parents into a tizzy. Have we got enough diapers? Which pram do we settle on? What arrangements need to be made before taking time off work? It can feel overwhelming, but it’s also an exciting time, especially for first-time parents.

However, it’s important to remember that you don’t stop being you just because you’ll soon be taking on the role of new parents – here are some simple things you can – and should – do for yourselves in the weeks leading up to the big day which will may help, even in small ways, when you’re caught up in those first weeks of new parenthood.

1. Get your hair done

It’s likely in the month or two post-birth you’ll be pretty busy. And tired. And occupied with the littlest member of your new family. Do something nice for yourself before the big event (easier still if you’re booked in for a Caesarean and know exactly when you’ll be having your baby) and get your hair trimmed, treated and washed – if you’re adhering to the ‘no hair-washing’ confinement rule, it could be a while before your hair looks and feels this great again.

2. Go on a date night

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Heck, go on several date nights – go out for brunch, dinner and supper as often as you like, because soon, spur-of-the-moment dining out will be a distant memory. Get dolled up, go for a movie, dinner and drinks after (you can have mocktail!) and just enjoy each other’s company. You may be almost-parents, but you’re still partners, and it’s important to make each other still feel loved and special.

3. Stock up on supplies

When you’re out and about and find your usual brand of skincare and beauty products on sale, pick up an extra bottle or two to stash in the cupboard – you’ll be saving money and ensuring you have supplies on hand. The same applies to household products like laundry detergent, especially if you’re intending on using cloth nappies, toilet paper and cleaning products. This simple step is absolutely worth the satisfaction of having back-up when you run out of your preferred products.

4. Get your garden sorted

If you’re a bit of a green thumb and have been growing your own herbs and vegetables, now’s a good time to get things organised for a brief period of minor neglect. Weed, prune plants back, put down some slow-release fertiliser and plant some veggie seedlings so by the time baby arrives, you can have a nice little harvest fresh from the garden.

5. Organise some boredom-busters

It goes without saying that during the confinement period, if you’re sticking to the rules, you’ll be at home for the better part of a month. And while you may be under strict orders to rest, there will be times when you’d be wishing for something to occupy your mind – get a friend to bring you magazines or newspapers, relive your youth with a favourite old TV series, and buy or borrow books you’ve been meaning to read.

6. Surround yourself with pretty things

You’ll be spending a fair amount of time in bed, so why not splurge on a set of high thread count sheets? While you’re at it, throw out your flat old pillows and get some new ones, too. Ask your partner or visiting friends to bring you a fresh bunch of flowers every week, and give a place of prominence to a beautiful new print or artwork which you love. Don’t underestimate the power of simple pleasures.

7. Book in some pampering

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You’ll soon be caring for a baby, but who will care for you? If you can, book yourself in for a pregnancy massage with an experienced masseuse – they should ensure you lie on your side and know to avoid certain pressure points. Alternatively, book yourself in for a full-body pampering session in the months after birth so you’ll have something to look forward to. Better yet, book your partner in as well for a couples’ massage to feel blissed out together.

Faye Song is a city girl finding her feet in regional Victoria, Australia. A former journalist, she works in marketing and communication, but has found that her real passion lies in dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing – while she awaits the arrival of her first child.

Image Credit: Flickr user Allan Foster, Erick Gustafson, Melanie Wynne,