And just like that, my baby turned one.
Becoming a mother for the first time changes life as you know it. The truth of the matter is I had zero experience when it came to babies until my son, Khaled, was born. Khaled is the first grandchild on both sides of the family spectrum so you can imagine the excitement.
In preparation for his arrival, I did not read any of the best- selling books. Nor did I attend pre-natal classes (I withstood the peer pressure!), because I believed in the shared, collective wisdom of females and mothers in learning how to mother their babies through their babies. Therefore, my decision was to snub the literature and follow my instincts, but most of all, let my baby decided how he would like me to mother him. In short, being a person who is big on reading and researching, I was set on approaching things differently.
One year on as a first- time mother, I have learnt and I have grown. I have also learnt to distinguish between real advice and seasonal fads. So here are my top takeaways; the tried, the tested and the inevitable.
The person you are will change and your identity will struggle for a while.
Somewhere between pre-delivery and the baby arriving, something changed, driving my life into pre motherhood and post motherhood. Everything I held dear suddenly took second stage.
Was there an instant connection? Not as much I hoped there would be. It took time for me to connect with my little boy, weeks, in fact. I now attribute that to both fear and raging hormones. There was an overwhelming sense of split between wanting to protect this little human and not wanting to let go of my old life and identity. Am I now a mother first and everything else I knew about myself second? Or was I still the same person with another new role on my hands? What I discovered was that there are a large number of women out there who go through this and who also fail to experience the overwhelming sense of love straight away. If you ever felt the same way, I hope you truly realise that you are not alone.
Your body will not be the same.
The body I knew and learnt to manoeuvre over the years has changed – I do still look at these changes with a critical eye! But despite working out during my pregnancy and losing most of the baby weight in 8 weeks post-partum, my body still looked different. My hips suddenly became wider and my usually tiny upper body became more pronounced. It is as if your body goes through a second wave of puberty, transitioning again from girl to womanhood! Oh, and my arms hurt all the time – Khaled is 13 Kg! So I guess I had to welcome my new ‘normal’.
The “You will Enjoy Every moment” phrase is a myth
It is impossible to enjoy every moment. I did not, and neither will many women. Operating on a 3- hour sleep schedule for days on end is not fun. Laughing one second and crying the next due to your raging hormones isn’t either (Hello 4th trimester!). Some of the “wise” words shared by good willed people can be very comforting, yet others will be false and will add on to your pressures – Please ignore most of them. But what I learnt for sure was that it was ok to complain and that complaining does not make you a bad mother or mean that you love your baby any less.
Mom Friends are The. Best. Gift. Ever.
Becoming a first- time mother means that with no previous experience, you are trying to make sense of all the emotions, hormonal changes and responsibilities alone. During these difficult days, no one will fully understand you more than your friends who are both from the same generation as you are, and who have gone through this same experience. These women are your anchors and the support they provide is priceless. I developed a new kind of appreciation towards them and I depended on them like never before in my life, and mom with kids around the same age as mine? More kudos! Your babies become playmates and you create your own supportive gang!
…So are Mom Groups
If you are the first in your circle of friends to become a mother, find your own local social media group for mothers (sounds scary but they are the best!). They are there for question, playdates and mother rants and they provide emotional support around the clock.
Breastfeeding is Hard. Formula is Okay.
I tried breastfeeding for a whole week – an agonising experience for both me and my son. Without venturing into the technicalities, I’ll tell you that my physical setup made it difficult for my son to leach. So to feed him, I had to start with formula. If you decide to continue breastfeeding and are finding it challenging, definitely call up a lactation consultant – I had no idea they even existed! The challenge is real ladies and professional help is welcomed.
My best advice? Feed your baby how it works best for him, for you, and for your family.
Your sleep will change forever.
One of the most annoying phrases I would hear when pregnant was “Try to get as much sleep as you can now before the baby arrives”. Was there a sleep bank where you get to stockpile on sleeping hours and use during rainy days?
While there are many sleepless nights, this, too passes. White nights are at their peak the first 4 months, after which most babies start to enjoy long stretches of night slumber, reaching the 10 hour mark by the time they turn 1. So it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. But there is a catch. Once my son started sleeping through the night, I still have not had one solid night’s sleep because now I find myself wide awake at the sound of his toss. Something does change. It is probably a mixture of your new biology and the new antennas you develop as a mother.
Ignore most unsolicited advice and please drop the comparison
Unsolicited advice was the theme of my fourth trimester. Everyone and their daughter had something to say, or a lesson to teach. Did I ask them for them? Absolutely not, but they were offered anyway, and most of them were either dated with absolutely no relevancy to my situation, or outright false.
So, my advice is to shrug them off and listen to your instincts, or better, call your paediatrician.
And please avoid the social media comparison trap. Remember, not only are we different, but those flushed cheeks insta mamas who airbrush every picture before posting it are just that; flushed cheeks airbrush portraits.
We all have our highs and lows and snapping yourself after hours of prepping is definitely not reality. It is also toxic and it does take all the joy out of this new experience. As cliché as this may sound, do try to appreciate your small successes and remember that you are not alone with your lows.
At the end of the day, motherhood is messy; It’s sweat, tears and all the in-betweens. But things start to look up 6-7 months post-partum. If you can stay calm during those first few months then what follows makes all of being a mother a whole lot more than you imagined.