Reflections on Motherhood part 1 – the first three months…
It’s been a long time since I have written a post. But I have a good excuse: I had a baby. Her name is Nellie, she’s now 3 months young; growing and glowing. You’d think I’d have more time to write now? WRONG. Therefore I decided it’s time to share some precious information regarding pregnancy, childbirth and the beginning of this new life and your new title ‘Mom’. Despite the fact that I was well surrounded by experienced friends and family, there are still many things I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t want to truly hear. So let’s start with breaking a few myths:
1. “Maternity Leave” congé de maternité, zwangerschapsverlof or חופשת לידה all have the word leave, congé, verlof in them: there is none of that for you these first few months. It’s the hardest work you’ve ever done. Physically and mentally. Period. And it’s my first child.
2. “You go to sleep when the baby sleeps.” No you don’t because during that time you have to: cook, clean, eat, shower, shit, arrange, run errands, see visitors, be social and any other activity you’re supposed to do. And the first few days after giving birth you are insomniac anyways.
3. “It is love at first sight.” No, it’s not. It takes time to learn and to love. Yes you are so excited and overwhelmed when you finally get to hold that baby in your arms. That baby you have been waiting for for so long. That baby you imagined, seen on the ultrasound and wondered how it will come out. That baby that kicked your belly for months. That baby you’ve been talking to in the street while passers-by were wondering if you were crazy. There have been loads of psychology books written about it, some call it ‘baby blues’ etc but fact is: there’s a transition between the imaginary baby and the real baby. It takes time to understand what has happened and it can feel empty despite what people are willing to admit. And don’t forget: you are tired from giving birth even if you had the easiest delivery ever. And yes, the hormones… And then everyday, you learn to love her more and more and more and cannot imagine what life was like before she came – and mine is only 3 months now… The attachment, love and care grow daily…
4. “It must be gas/colic” Everyone has an opinion and will tell you what to do, especially those who have children of course. I could write a whole post on this: in the name of what do people allow themselves to tell you things? I’m sure they don’t have bad intentions, but don’t they know how annoying it is. Do I tell others what I think of the way they dress or talk? NO so?? In the first few weeks it will stress you out the most because it may not work on your baby and you don’t know what those cues and cries mean. It’s only after 6 – 8 weeks that your mommy confidence is slowly but surely getting strong enough to be able to say out loud: “I know my baby and I know what is best for her”. So then those comments get even more annoying. I just try to stay nice. And for you and yourself: it is a process of trial and error. You have to try what works best for you two. And not freak out because you cannot trust your gut feeling from day one. It is by overcoming crises that you gain this confidence. And what worked yesterday may not work today.
5. “What? You haven’t read this book?” Same rule applies for books. Knowledge is power, it is great to be informed indeed and maximize your knowledge of facts. But again, a lot of these books will make you stress out and put you in a constant state of guilt when your baby doesn’t match the guidelines or doesn’t reacts in the same way as the book says. For instance how many hours a day a baby sleeps, whether or not she takes pacifiers, how much she should eat etc. Again, with time it will reconfirm itself: mothers know best
6. “Food, food, food” When you breastfeed* you are hungry, very very HUNGRY. Hungry at another level. I couldn’t eat much during my pregnancy because my stomach was upside down and I had a lot of heartburn so woohoo I didn’t gain weight (only 9kg in total) and woohoo I am catching up on food now. So you will obsess about food and preferably good healthy food in order to produce good milk. But as you have no time to go buy and cook it, you will appreciate the good people around you helping out with that: bringing food, cooking in your house and storing it. I’m not so good with the freezer, I usually open it years later when it’s too late while cleaning it out with my mom. You will hate anyone who comes to visit and doesn’t offer to bring something to eat – even if they bring baby gifts. And you will remember this months later too. *a footnote on breastfeeding: just like many other challenges that come with motherhood, breastfeeding will feel like the best feeling ever and worst feeling ever. Especially in the first few days, again, it is a skill to learn and yes your instincts will help but it’s not all natural from day one. Whomever says it is, may not be completely honest. Doctors, nurses and friends or family may have good intentions but can raise the pressure: for good milk you need good nutrition, lots of fluids and sleep –> SLEEP: n°2 already mentioned it: no you don’t sleep. Vicious cycle.
7. “So what do you do all day?” You will forever hate the person asking this. But I used to think the same I admit. All the cliches are true and you don’t understand things until they happen to you. To answer the question partly: just the breastfeeding can give you an idea: if you feed 8 à 10 times for about 30 minutes, and add to that burping, pumping etc. you have already filled at least 6 out of 24 hours. That’s half a day isn’t it? Got it?
8. “What now?” During pregnancy you are well surrounded by your doctor, your nurse, your apps and your midwife or doula. You even have classes that prepare you for giving birth, breastfeed etc. Where is the class that prepares you for what comes AFTER? All of a sudden, you go home from the hospital and are thrown to the lions. Long live Google to find out what happens to your body, to your baby etc in those first few weeks. But accept that the overwhelment lasts and can make you feel completely out of balance, even depressed.
9. “You have to put your baby on a schedule” Newborns don’t have a schedule, they don’t even know the difference between night and day, so chillax your brain, instead of trying to force all kind of tricks to get your baby in to a routine, take your time and let it happen naturally in the coming months. So the schedule thing is for later. Again, don’t fight it. (Easier said than done, I know that). Most women I know are strong independent women who are used to control their lives. A baby is the ultimate challenge there: you learn you cannot plan your day like you used to. And your daily happiness is based on matters like: did I manage to finish brushing my teeth, eating my breakfast, knitting one more line etc.
10. “Why is the baby crying?” Babies cry. They just do. There are the basic needs like ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m dirty’ like you read in most books. But there are also many other reasons babies cry. Keep in mind that just like in adulthood, tears are made to release tensions and let emotions out, babies do the same. We need to let them cry – still haven’t exactly figured out how to do that.
10 random tips I’d like to share:
1. Keep a book where you write everything down because with time you forget things. I am keeping a book for my baby that started with the predictor pregnancy test and in which I write daily or weekly. Nellie’s first bath, Nellie’s sleeping schedule, her size, her weight, her smiles, her toys etc. My thoughts, facts etc. Think about the amazing memories for later. My mom made one for me and I thank her for it every day.
2. Make space in your cameras, computers and iPads because you’re gonna fill it up with many photos.
3. The beginning of this new life is filled with ambivalences and contradictions: a. time goes by fast and slowly at the same time. b. you are bored and super busy at the same time. c. you’re the happiest and the saddest you’ve ever been, all this in one day – or even in one hour in the first few weeks. And once you passed the 3 months milestone, it gets better they say. And worse I add. Contradictions.
4. Remember: Nothing comes completely naturally, it takes time to settle in and just remind yourself you are doing as good as you can. Easier said than done, I know.
5. The first 6 weeks are not about happiness, they are about survival, you only care for primary needs: eat sleep shit – double check you buttoned your shirt, brushed your teeth and have no spit up on you those first few weeks when leaving the house
I also borrowed a few funny tips from this lady Adriel Booker, she made a list of 100 tips for pregnancy, birth and motherhood:
69. Your baby will sleep through the night sometimes… and when he does you will have insomnia.
78. There will be days where you cry as much as your baby. This is normal. There will also be days when you cry more than your baby. This is also normal.
85. Keep in mind that immunizations are harder for mama than for baby.
88. Always try to leave five minutes earlier than you need to. Then you will only be five minutes late to wherever you’re going (instead of ten) after you’ve changed the pooey diaper that inevitably happens when you’re walking out the door.
90. Doing a load of laundry, folding it, and putting it away all within the same day will make you feel like wondermom. (Go ahead and congratulate yourself and tweet about it when you accomplish this.)
So to end this personal piece: enjoy your pregnancy and get as much rest as you can. Being pregnant is the best excuse ever to be lazy. I enjoyed every stage despite sometimes being impatient, worried and anxious. But that’s my nature anyhow. Only in the last trimester did I really start thinking and preparing for birth (class, books, doula etc) and preparing the home (nursery, baby accessories etc). I couldn’t really think of what would be AFTER giving birth and maybe that’s for the best, I don’t know. We just passed the 3-month milestone and every day means more happiness and more challenges. Trial and error once again.
Oh and also, try to calculate not to be highly pregnant in August – especially if you live in Israel. And we had a war on top of it all this August! You will probably go through a roller coaster of emotions due to fatigue and hormones; spontaneous cries for all and nothing. Enjoy it and let it flow.
Feel free to contact me if you want to share your personal story. We all need to be encouraged and hugged. We all deserve some understanding and a shoulder to cry on. Our guys can be amazing, but can they really understand what we women are experiencing here? In the past when asked who I admire and who are my inspirations, I had no answers. Now I know: Mothers. I’m just one of those who need to talk about it and let it out. How come I never see them crying in public? It’s a pity many have to experience this alone and in solitude.
And to end, here is another nice article to read at night by another mommy blogger called Megan Minneman Morton “Mommy, Somebody Needs You”
photos by Yariv Fein