Life is wonderful with children, they say. Children bring you so much joy and fill a gap in your heart that you never knew existed.
Everywhere on social media, my feed included, portrays motherhood as an extraordinary experience. A positive, fulfilling experience complete with gleeful smiles from cute babies who always seem to be beaming from ear to ear. People talk about the lack of sleep that becomes part and parcel of motherhood but hardly anyone talks about post natal blues, depression or even just the anxiety that comes along with being a mum. Nobody tells you your hormones are a mess after delivery. You cry a lot for no reason. You feel anxious because you have no idea how to deal with your newborn who is solely dependent on you for survival – even if you’ve placed him or her in the care of an experienced nanny or helper, you can’t help but check in ever so often just to make sure everything is ok, because your maternal instincts have kicked in, like it or not. You also realise that your baby wakes up frequently at night (it’s normal for young babies to feed a few times at night, especially during growth spurts). Rhapsody had colic from bottle feeding and would burst out crying for extended periods of time in the evening until we gave her medication. The nightmare finally ended when I decided to direct latch her and co-sleep (for my own sanity).
Physically, your body is not quite what it used to be. Your stomach feels jiggly because well, simply put, a 3-4kg human just evacuated from his/her home for the past 9 months. Without a body binder, you will feel your insides jiggle every time you move or laugh. When will you feel normal again? Will you ever get back into shape?
Then there’s breastfeeding. There’s societal pressure to breastfeed, which adds to the stress of a new mum. After all, breast milk is best right? I can probably write another post on breastfeeding alone but let me just keep this as succinct as I can. Your boobs get engorged on the 3rd or 4th day after delivery. The pain is worse than delivery (if you had epidural) especially when you try to massage the milk out. I got a trained masseuse in and to say the pain was excruciating is an understatement. Fortunately, R had no problems latching, As a newborn, they also latch all day but not everyone understands that that’s normal. I got asked all the time “Are you sure you have enough milk? Why is she always hungry?”. I must have rolled my eyes a million times. There were also times when I gave in to formula milk because the experienced nanny and mums around me told me she wasn’t full. I believe in fed is best. However, if I can offer breast milk, I would rather do so at least for the first 6 months. But I had no idea why every time formula milk was given during the first 2-3 months, a part of me just felt like I was inadequate.
And then comes the couple dynamics. If you think you’re clueless, your hubby probably is, or even more so. Also, your focus switches from your hubby to the baby. You try to strike a balance but when you face all these changes at the same time, this new normal doesn’t feel so normal. It is overwhelming, physically and psychologically for both parties.
Every mum gets some degree of post natal blues but some end up with post natal depression if they or their loved ones do not recognise the signs early and seek help in time. It doesn’t only happen to new mums. Every time you conceive and give birth, your hormones wreck havoc. Recently, someone told me that she knows a mum who is always behind locked doors sleeping and doesn’t seem interested in her kids. Perhaps it isn’t because she doesn’t care. It may be a sign that she needs help and isn’t getting it. Perhaps we need to stop being so judgmental and just be more supportive of one another.
My purpose of penning this post is to increase awareness on what motherhood entails so that everyone around us can hopefully empathise better and lend a helping hand when possible.
Now, the good news is, the days are long but the years are short. Things do get better with time and you begin to embrace the new normal. In the blink of an eye, it has been 1.5 years since I became a mum and it is still the most rewarding role I’ve taken on. Returning home to a little toddler running towards the door, flashing a wide, innocent smile with her arms flung open for a hug, is one of the simplest pleasures in life that also happens to be absolutely irreplaceable.