Thursday, 28 July 2016

A year into motherhood...

Motherhood... its been a year for me now... and let me tell you, nothing, basically nothing, in my life (or your's, my dear reader, if you are a mum) will ever compare with this experience.

Honestly, I had never given this particular aspect of life much thought until a squiggly, red, wet and screaming human being slid out of my vagina. The recurring days are somewhat blurred to me because of an onslaught of new activities and skills that I was to learn.

I learned how to change diapers, learned that sleep was a luxury to some people, learned, that when a baby screams there is nothing much I can do about it and learned that patience is indeed earned.

Basically when people tell new mums how to cope, I just want to laugh out aloud... Cope... one cannot cope with the avalanche of responsibilities that swamp down upon you. What can possibly be done best is compromise... mind you that's very different from 'coping'.

However, I do not want to disappoint new mums or to-be-mums.

Its indeed a lot, a lot of pain... but every pain is doubly rewarded. Around 6-7 weeks when your baby learns to smile socially. Really, before that life is just a plethora of tears, tears and more tears, and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise.

It's only when your baby starts to recognize you a bit around that 7 weeks time and starts smiling that toothless smile, probably you feel that, some of your earlier efforts are rewarded.

Anyway, coming to why I sat down to write this article is because I wanted to share some of the stuff that I learned about motherhood in the past year. This is based on my experience and solely on my experience as a mother. All experiences of course differ, but these would be the top five takeaways from my first year of motherhood. For all new mums, and for all mums-to-be, perhaps this would be helpful.

1) Do not stress about whether your child is born naturally or via procedure: Many a times, our bodies require extra help in giving birth to a life. Now, more than ever before, C-Sections are becoming extremely common. Some of the literature I read prior to giving birth to my baby scared the hell out of me about C-sections.  Really, whoever wrote those books are extremely stupid people, definitely they haven't experienced motherhood. Natural births are desirable but for some reason if one has to go through a procedure to bring the baby into this world, there is absolutely no problem. What matters and is of utmost importance here, is the health of the mother and the child. There is absolutely no, none, zero difference between a child who has had a normal birth and one who has had a birth via c- section.

2) Breast is best for babies but Formula really isn't so bad: Ok, I did breastfeed my baby for a full six months and really, it does have many advantages. For example; my baby never suffered from a cold or an ear infection in the first year of his life. For the first year in fact we did not have any 'sick' visits to his pediatrician. But do not despair if you are unable to breastfeed your baby. There are several reasons why some mums cannot breastfeed their babies and its really, really alright. Before I became a mum, I had read an overwhelming amount of literature regarding the importance of breastfeeding. And some of them honestly, made mums who did not breastfeed seem like demons. Relax... there are several very good infant formula available in the market and it is meant for those mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies.
I was formula fed from week 3 and I turned out absolutely fine. As long as the baby gets the required nutrition, its ok..,  There was a study that I came across which stated that breastfed babies have a higher intellect than formula fed ones. If the authors weren't high on dope while writing that study I would be seriously amazed. Trust me, the intellect of a child is dependent on well rounded nutrition, his/her upbringing and the skills that parents impart to the child. Its entirely unrelated to whether one was breastfed or not.
So, for any reason, if you cannot breastfeed your baby, please do not feel guilty. Your child can easily get into that Ivy League school you dreamt of. It really does not depend on whether he/she is breastfed.

3) Do not compare your child's growth: This is one instance where I stand out a clear winner. I never, for once, compared my baby to other babies of his age in the past year and going forward will never, ever do. My mother and mother-in-law, who both have had two children each, love comparing their kids and as a result started comparing their grandson with other babies in his age bracket, the day he was born.
Please do not do this, or even listen to those who do this to your baby. Remember each baby is unique, every baby will grow upto be an individual on their own. If, from the day of their birth, you start pushing them to be like others, they will forget to be themselves.
When it comes to real physical growth, ask your pediatrician for a growth chart, or better yet, download it yourself from WHO's website.
I am giving the WHO-CDC approved growth chart for boys and girls for mums who are interested :

Try to follow this growth chart to see if your baby's growth rate is normal.
One rule of thumb that most pediatricians recommend is that your baby should double his/her birth weight within six months of being born. For eg: if a baby is born 8 lbs, he/she should be 16 or closer to 16 lbs by the time of six months.

4) Postpartum depression is real; seek help: A countless number of new mums experience postpartum depression, and most ignore it as 'baby blues'. Postpartum depression is a clinical depression and is very different from baby blues. If you are a mum-to-be or a new mum experiencing any of the following, please, please consult a professional:

a) You feel like crying most of the time without a valid reason.
b) You feel like you are the worst mother on earth and you cannot provide for your baby.
c) You lose your appetite and get no joy in seeing your newborn.
d) You welcome dark thoughts about yourself and about the baby you have given birth to.
e) You feel you would have been better off if you hadn't given birth to a baby.

You can also take this quiz to find out, if you are suffering from postpartum depression:

The internet has a wealth of information on postpartum depression and it would do you and your baby a ton of good, if you are prepared. Please read about it and sensitize other family members about postpartum depression. If the mother is unwell, the one person who suffers most is your infant child.

5) Do not try to be a super-women: There was a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, on covers of major newspapers and tabloid magazines, appearing in a designer gown and looking fabulous just days after giving birth to little Prince George.

That is not a reality.

Most of us are average working, middle class women who look extremely different than Princess Catherine days after giving birth. And that is completely ok. Also when you come home after the birth of your child, make sure all hands are on deck. This is not a time to be polite and refuse help. If anyone, and I mean anyone, offers help, take it.

You have just brought a new life on the planet, trust me, half of our population cannot even conceive (the half comprising men), let alone give birth. You can and you have. So now, just relax for a few days, weeks or even months (if you are lucky). Make sure all hands are on deck to help you with the few days just after the baby's arrival. Make meals and freeze them a week or so before your expected date, so that you are relived of the burden of cooking. If you have absolutely no help, consider hiring one for a few weeks.

And this is a real world we live in. No one expects you to be going out to an Oscar evening days after giving birth. Be realistic in terms of what your body is capable of and make adjustments accordingly.

There is though, a strong connection between looking good and feeling good, but its entirely upto you whether or not you, even want to take a bath. This of course implies that cleaning the house and doing laundry is entirely out of bounds, unless, you feel an overwhelming urge to clean things. Remember parenting was not meant to be a one person job. Nature did not intend it that way. That's why it takes two people to conceive. Take the help of the other person responsible or if that person isn't around (the moron), then take help of your parents, his parents, your siblings, grandparents, bosses (yes, some do help), colleagues, friends, just about anyone who is not a certified maniac and is good enough to offer help.

So yes, motherhood is an experience, unlike any other...

Do I love it?
Yes, absolutely, hands down...

Would I do it all over again?
No... probably not in near future.

All the very best to my dear ladies who are stepping into this wonderful journey. Trust me, your life will never be the same again... and what it'll be, it'll be for the better...

Picture Courtesy: