I’ve done this mothering gig for the past six months and looking back on my journey, I feel like there were so many things that I could have done differently. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but if we are ever blessed with a baby #2, I will definitely not make the same mistakes.
I’m still me
Initially, I found myself despairing over how everything in my life had changed, including my relationship with Mr Thick. Instead of grading papers or teaching, I was wasting an hour of my life trying to rock my baby to sleep! What! I had stopped cooking and baking and reading. I felt like I had lost my identity and wept bitterly in a post-partum haze.
Slowly, I regained my sanity and realised that hey, it’s not that I can’t do what I used to love. It’s just that everything that I used to do has to take a backseat to bringing up my child. I still loved cooking; for a while, however, we had to rely on dinner take outs and frozen meals from my mother. I still read, but only after my little man has gone to bed.
I have changed, I have become a mother. But at the heart of it all, I am still me.
Throw out the parenting books
We all know how the kid never slept for more than 45 minutes in the day. I literally went batshit crazy in the first 12 weeks. I would put him down for a nap (taking way over 60 minutes at a time), hover around the crib to try to catch him before he woke up fully, frantically patting him or rocking the crib or shushing into his ear. I put him in his crib while he was drowsy but awake. I avoided nursing him to sleep. I refused to put him in a sling. Whatever the parenting experts suggested, I followed.
Since then, I have come to realise that most babies SLEEP LIKE CRAP in the first three to four months. 20-minute naps are not uncommon. Seriously. And if my baby wakes up smiling and happy after a 30-minute nap, who is to say that it wasn’t a good nap? The experts warn that anything less than 45 minutes isn’t good but SCREW. THE. EXPERTS.
Nobody knows my kid better than I do and there isn’t a prescribed set of rules that would apply to all babies. I should have followed my instincts and learnt that BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY was the way to go. These so-called experts sell books and make money based on generating fear and guilt among parents with their contradicting advice so it’s much better if I had ignored the books and just did whatever worked.
Stand up for my parenting principles
As a new mother, everyone had something to share with me about caring for babies. Never mind that some of them hadn’t looked after a baby in literally decades. I stupidly allowed them to mess with my brains, making me question what I was doing.
Gradually, though, my confidence grew. Maybe it was because I hadn’t killed the kid in my 12 weeks of caring for him by myself (!), or maybe it was due to the fact that I have become more attuned to Aidan’s needs. Over time, I find myself making decisions that were different from what others expected of me (breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, cloth diapering etc.) and not letting our family members belittle my actions. And if I feel strongly about certain things, I would make my opinion known. It doesn’t matter if they don’t agree with me, at least I was making my stand clear: This is how I will bring up my son, deal with it.
I think the biggest lesson that I have learnt from motherhood is the ability to pause and enjoy the moment. In my drive to get the kid to JUST NAP FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, I didn’t take the time to revel in his littleness and developments as much as I should have. Now, I frequently gaze at him in wonder, amazed at how fast he is growing and how much he is learning. I tell husband to put away his phone at dinnertime so that he can observe how his little boy has improved in feeding himself since we first started baby led weaning.
The little man teaches me all about humility and life everyday and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.