Being a mother is far more than what I had expected it to be. So much back pain. So much anxiety. So much tears. So much remorse. More than everything, so much hard work. Having a child is by far my hardest job ever. It will probably will be for a very long time. Perhaps forever. My baby is constantly on my mind 24/7 that it feels like anything else is just useless commercial running in between a good movie. Not worthy of my time. He is always number one top priority. Eight months in and I am still constantly bewildered. When I feel like I'm getting the hang of it, the universe will disagree and give me more concerns to ponder over.
There are just too many decisions that I have to make for my little one. It varies day by day, starting from trivial things such as "what should I feed him today?" to bigger, more significant things like "should I hire a baby sitter?" The decisions are endless. If you think picking a wedding vendor is baffling enough, wait till you have a kid.
This may sound like I am scaring you off and deterring you from even thinking of having a child, but trust me, it is always nice to know what you're getting into. Obviously, I learned it the hard way. I had always considered being parents is one of the most exciting things in the world. Disclaimer: I love little children. Even though being a parent turns out to be much harder than I expected, I still give thanks daily for this little human being. He is a blessing not in disguise. He has changed my life for the better. He gives me bigger purpose in life. He matures me in ways that nothing will ever be able to. He teaches me about life more than anything. Lastly, most importantly, he lets me understand God’s love even more. More than one could possibly signify.
These are things I have learned/realized through being a mother of Cody in the past eight months.
1. Smile from the heart
When he is in a pleasant mood, Cody smiles a lot. Even at the most random strangers. Sometimes he even would stare at someone curiously, even when the person is not looking at him. He is waiting for attention. When they finally see him, he will give his widest smile. The one that makes his eyes taper off. Seeing how full of smile he is, it makes me wonder.
I am not like that. I rarely smile to strangers. I only do when they smile at me or when our eyes meet and it is kind of awkward and rude to just look away without smiling. When I do, I know for myself that it is not a genuine smile. I am just trying to be nice and polite. Often times, I also avoid eye contact when saying sorry or thank you to strangers. I am just not comfortable with too much eye contact with strangers I guess. Even when I do, it is only out of courtesy, not out of sincerity.
Seeing how Cody gives his brightest widest smile to strangers make me realize that the world will be a better place if everyone gives innocent, genuine smiles to strangers. I bet it could make someone’s day.
2. Pray often, even when you’re not praying
Faith is to trust in something. Something arbitrary. Something not necessarily tangible. In my case, it is God. I pray everyday for decision making, strength, protection, and especially patience. Faith gives me the assurance that good things are to come. This is especially relevant on longer nights where my patience is really challenged. I struggle to maintain my composure when Cody wails in the middle of the night. There are times that I cry with him out of frustration. As he grows older, he does not cry in middle of the night anymore. I would have thought that this is SO GREAT. But no, instead, he wants to play at 3-4 in the morning. Dear God, give me more patience.
Personally, I believe that my prayers have somehow been actualized when I see how far I have come and how healthy Cody has been. Despite his recurring rashes due to eczema, he has never been to the paediatrician for any illness. So even when you're not in vain, just pray. Your prayers could just be saying your gratitude.
3. Don't be too worried
When it comes to parenting, I would say my husband and I are pretty lax. I believe any extremes is no good. The theory and the reality is different.
I used to vow not to co-sleep with my baby. I was worried that my baby will be squished. I was worried it would be hard later on to kick him out of the bed when he is older. Well, when the time came, I could not care less. I cherish every second of every night sleep. The time spent picking up the baby and putting him back in the crib could be my extra few minutes of sleep.
Another dilemma I had was whether to spoon feed him pureed solids or just do baby led weaning (BLW). I was really drawn to BLW as I would like my baby to be able to eat by himself so we can enjoy meals together. However, my concern with BLW was lack of food intake and thus nutrition. With spoon feeding, I thought it would be so troublesome to puree everything. In the end, I just do a bit of both. Anyway when he grows up, I do not think it will make much of a difference. At the end of the day, sooner or later, he will be able to eat by himself.
Sometimes the things that you think is important at the moment may turn out trivial in the future.
4. Travel with your baby
I have always thought traveling is impossible when you have an infant. Guess what? I have actually traveled a few times with my baby. The longest trip was to Japan when he was 4 months old. It was beyond exhausting but looking back, I can only recall the good memories. For me, the most tiring part was the plane and train rides. Other than that, it was actually a lot of fun.
5. Respond well
One of the most frustrating part of being a mother is when I have to soothe my crying baby. During that period of time, especially in the middle of the night, it feels like he is never going to stop crying and let me sleep. Well, you know what, it does not last forever. In the end he will stop crying and go back to sleep.
Most of the time it is our response to the problem that makes us more frustrated. I have learned to try to respond in a calmer manner in order to suppress my irritation. Even so, I fail from time to time. Since I cannot project my frustration to the baby, my husband has become the victim of my hostility. Many sorries involved though.
6. Sleep is for the weak
I could not recall how many times I have googled or ask someone about making my baby sleep through the night (or at least sleep longer). It was really hard the first few months but after that I think your body is able to adjust to your new schedule of fragmented sleep.
Even now at 8 months old, he still wakes up 2-3 times a night. Sometimes more. There are good days and bad days. The longer my baby has ever slept was perhaps 6 or 7 hours. That was during our trip to Singapore, in which my breasts had become hard rocks. So refreshed yet so much pain to them boobs. Ouch.
7. Every baby is different
Since he is my first child, I have no benchmark on my baby’s development. More often than not, I would, again, google or ask around. I usually get various answers. Sometimes I wonder whether he should already be able to do this and that. However, at the end of the day, I just come to a conclusion that there are no specific guideline as to what your baby should already be doing. I just let him be. Less worries for me too anyways. And also, don’t ever force your baby to do something he/she is not ready to.
Same goes for sleeping through the night. I have given up to the idea that babies should be able to sleep through the night at a certain age. I have a friend whose baby sleeps through the night at around 3 months old. So I thought there was something I could have done to make my baby sleep through the night. But in the end I came into the conclusion that each baby is different. Some sleeps through the night from day 1, some still wake up multiple times even after their first birthday. As much as I wish my baby can sleep through the night, there is currently nothing I can do to force that. I believe eventually he will.
8. I’m a master in treating milk blisters
I lost count on how many times I have had milk blisters. Some of which are still ongoing. When I thought my right breast was the good boob (because I never got any blister there), it betrayed me. There are times when I have blisters on both sides.
They may be tiny, but never underestimate the pain they can cause. Not immediately treated, they can lead to great agony. I have had fevers due to clogged ducts caused by them. Moral of the story is, treat them as soon as possible. Hot showers every day while scrubbing your nipples also minimize the chance of encountering them.
9. You don’t always need to know why he cries
I get frustrated when I can’t figure out why my baby cries. Obviously because then I don’t know what to do. Then I realized there will be times that we will never know so it is okay. Just focus on soothing him.
10. Enjoy every moment
I am someone who always can’t wait for the next stage. When I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, I could not wait to get to the second trimester, then the third. When I was in the third trimester of the pregnancy, I could not wait to deliver the baby. After the baby was born, I could not wait for him to turn one month, and so on.
My point is, a lot of times, I feel like I’m not fully living the moment. I hang on a lot to the better tomorrow while forgetting that the current moment will be gone in a blink of an eye. Now I have learned to enjoy every stage of life, every stage of my baby’s development. As cliche as it is, he really grows so fast. Time passes like a jet. Looking back, I have always missed the moments I did not fully enjoy. I kind of wish I was more present in each moment of life.
11. Everyone will say something about your child
My advice is bear with them and don’t take it personally. I lost count on how many times I get annoyed by the comments. I try to tell myself that they’re just being nice and trying to help. Maybe I’m just being sensitive.
But with this I learn to keep my mouth shut. I try not to comment on how others take care of their child. I mean it’s their business. I don’t comment if it is just something they do differently. Even if I comment (usually only when asked), I say it carefully so as to not sound judgmental.
I lost count on how many times people have told me to do this and that with my baby’s eczema. There are times where I take it personally. I feel like they are judging me for his skin condition. It feels like they’re trying to say that I’m not doing shit about it, which might not be the case. But, of course, there are people who really judge that way and please don’t be one.
Everyone has their own way of parenting. If it works for you, doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. And vice versa.
13. Parenting is all about trial and error with common sense
There you go, the ultimate parenting lesson.
We all have this idea of being our version of a perfect mom, which you eventually will fall short off and feel so much remorse for. I believe there is no right or wrong in terms of raising your child so long as you have a healthy common sense. Everything is trial and error. I mean, it is the first time you become parents. Don’t take it too hard on yourself. There will be a time where you will be at peace with it and enjoy everything that comes.