The first thing I learned as a first time mum was that I owed my mother many thanks and endless apologies. This was in my very first trimester. The nausea, acne, weakness, and general disorientation had me feeling like an alien had taken over my body. I mean, this child would grow up and tell me, “It’s my life, Mum!” Well, it would be his life no doubt, but I would have my say!
The next thing I learned was that I didn’t have that much of a say, all things considered. I would adjust to the child, not the other way around. He would, for all intents and purposes, be the boss for at least two years. Then the ‘terrible t’s’ would arrive, and the battle for supremacy would begin. This is where I’m at right now, and here are a few things I’ve come to realise:
– The love is fierce
Some say it’s love at first sight with your baby. Well, I was too groggy from the anaesthesia to fall in love when I first met my son. And as soon as I was awake and conscious enough to ask for my baby, I was more worried than ecstatic. And so, I can’t tell the exact moment when I fell in love. But by the end of the second day after his birth, I knew I would kill for him. It took another six months for me to learn that I would also die for him. I just had to be sure that he’d be in good hands if I did have to die sha.
– The mess is incredible
As I write this, my son is pouring his milo all over us both, as well as the hospital bed we’re sitting on (we’ll talk about this sometime). Anyone who really knows me, knows that I’m quite finicky. But these mum hands have caught and wiped all sorts of bodily emissions from puke to poop. You will clean the mess. And if it’s happening when s/he’s ill, you’re not going to care one bit about the mess. You’ll find yourself worrying instead, about qualities you never imagined you’d notice, from colour and consistency, to texture and frequency. And yeah, I’m still talking about poop!
– The learning curve is steep
See, forget story. Like the old wives’ tales insist, you WILL find yourself doing some things as if by instinct. Like becoming so attuned to your child that you respond to every whimper, sniffle, and movement. Or ‘knowing’ that he’s hungry just by the tone of his cry and the heavy fullness of your breasts (especially if you’re breastfeeding exclusively). But there’s so much more you’ll have to learn by trial and error, or by calling the doctor in a complete panic about a harmless symptom. And that’s long before you have to deal with potty training and discipline methods.
– The nights are so much shorter
Except for the long nights when your baby is ill and seems to be shrinking before your eyes, of course. Then if you’re watching the clock for a godly hour to leave for the hospital, the slow ticking of the clock will mock you. But listen, sleep is a luxury now. You will learn to treasure everyone who ensures you get a few hours of sleep, whether it’s your partner or your domestic staff.
– The crying is regular (and intense)
There’ll be a lot of crying, and it won’t be just your little one. From baby blues (or even post-partum depression) to sleep deprivation and exhaustion, you will cry. You will cry because your baby is crying in distress in the middle of the night and you’re tired with no idea what to do. You will cry because you can’t take one more minute of caring for one little human round the clock. You will cry out of love, out of joy, out of fear, and out of exhaustion.
– The anxiety is nerve-wracking
Waiting for test results is never easy, but with an infant/toddler, it’s a whole other kettle of fish. You’ll hope for the best and imagine the worst. You’ll worry about your baby meeting all the milestones too early or too late. You’ll feel anxious that your child is eating, pooping, talking, crying, sleeping, or playing too much or too little.
– The joy is indescribable
Parenting is tough but immensely rewarding. It may sound clichéd, but I think clichés are clichés because they are true. As a mother, the moments where you’re so grateful for the little bundle of cuteness and wahala often catch you unawares. But they come, and frequently too. You can’t imagine your life without your child and you want to multiply your joy by having another child (Don’t fall for it! Just kidding).
So, cheers to motherhood with all its joys and pains. I am still learning, unlearning, and relearning what it means to be a mum, while reminding myselfthat my Self Care Is Family Care.