The day after Christmas Lil’ Z turns ten.
Ten months! What?
Phew! I just feel like I have run a twenty month long marathon. Like I am participating in a 24 hour, ongoing- never- ending reality show. A show where I am being constantly judged- by family, relatives, strangers, the universe….
Heck, many a time I do something and the stare I get from my almost- ten month old makes me squirmy and embarrassed. She seems to be saying, ” Mama, what the heck do you think you are doing?”. Or ” Mama, are you crazy?”
Well, I’m sorry Zoe. I really, truly am. I really do NOT have a clue what I am doing. I am just making up stuff as they come along. Going by my sometimes not-so – great maternal instincts.
I’m sorry that you are my “trial- child” so to say. I will probably do a better job with your brother or sister. Or maybe not!
Actually, the first ten months outside the womb are not much different from the ten months they spend inside of you. The tiny, helpless human is completely reliant on her clueless caregivers.In fact, in may ways carrying them inside, where they are clothed and fed and nurtured by your more trustworthy physiological body is easier. The psychological, thinking you is far less reliable.
The pregnant you is anxious, yet hopeful that somehow, miraculously you and your equally scared partner- in- crime will turn out to be decent parents. You hold hands and take long walks by the sea. You talk endlessly about how the little one will turn out. Of whose eyes she will have or how her tiny limbs and fingers will form and whom she will resemble. You discuss strategies on coping with the much- publicized sleep deprivation and postpartum stress. You squabble over diaper- duty even before you purchase your first box of diapers. You often say things like “I will never do…..”, “We will not…” , “She will not be”, “We definitely will not…”. You decide to enjoy every moment of parenthood. You want to cherish the little human you created. You hope it brings you closer as a couple. Parenthood is said to be the ultimate binder. You are finally bound together by blood and DNA. Another human who is half of you. A blend of your chromosomes. Finally, you are truly going to be A FAMILY. Not just a random couple who plays “home- home”.
You read and talk and discuss and argue. You dream and wish and desire. You prepare. You think you are ready.
And then IT happens. And crap hits the ceiling!
All bets are off. All assumptions are proven wrong. All strategies go into the toilet. All plans go awry. And nothing makes sense anymore.
Your time which you took for granted, and most often abused; isn’t yours anymore. Your body that you worked so hard for, feels alien to you. Your carefully decorated home; your haven of peace and tranquility is a neglected mess.
Husband becomes DAD and wife becomes MUM. The couple dynamics change drastically and romance goes out of the window.
Yes. The first ten months were hard. But it was great fun too.
Probably the best ten months of our lives. Yet. Maybe.
So, what would I say to my fellow comrades, or to those who going to embark on this tiring but magical journey soon?
1. Don’t read/ research ad nauseam.
There is really something as “too much information”! I mean child- bearing and rearing is a natural physiological/ evolutionary / biological process. Many a situation has been made stressful by over- thinking and over- googling. Information is great, but too much information is a nuisance.
2. Get your affairs in order before The Birth.
Try to get your life in some semblance of order before the little one arrives. It helps. New home, new job, new anyhting… can maybe wait a while. Also, try and get some “newborn” shopping out of the way before she arrives. You really wouldn’t want to drag yourself to a mall to buy sleepsuits or onesies a week after you give birth. Naa…
3. Play tag- team.
You do, I sleep. I do, you sleep. This approach helps keep the sleep, deprived new parents sane. Rest is paramount. Both for mum and dad. Poor dads are never given enough credit. They too lose sleep. They have to not only care for the baby, but also are obligated (and often guilted into) to help and care for their recovering wives. They lose more sleep in some cases, as they have to work during the day; while the mums can sometimes sneak in some sleep with the baby during the day. The poor dads may even have to do more chores around the house. So ladies, do cut them some slack. You really need them on your team. Trust me!
And the gentlemen, please stay true to your name- BE GENTLE- MEN to your wives.
4. Smile and nod, smile and nod.
Well wishing aunts, relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues and plain ol’ strangers will all have something to say about your parenting. Take it or leave it. Just don’t waste your energy trying to “make them understand”, or dispel any long standing myths and beliefs. To each their own. Most of time, I realized; the best way to deal with unsolicited advice is to SMILE AND NOD. And keep repeating the same, till either they stop, or till your head falls off!
5. Sleep when you can, where you can, however you can.
This applies more to the first couple of months. Don’t stay up when the baby is asleep and stalk people on Facebook or watch ridiculously useless videos on YouTube (like yours truly!), you will regret it when she is awake and wailing and your lids seems to have lead implants in them- they just can’t seem to bear their own weight.
6. Ditch the OCD- clean freak.
The Clean Freak, Ms Organised and Mr Schedule have no place in a home with a baby. Atleast for the first few months. The chores can wait. The dishes won’t disintegrate and perish. The laundry won’t spoil. An hour or a day off WON’T make a difference.
7. You are not in the OR, stop sterilizing!
I don’t get this. Unless you have a immune compromised preemie, I don’t understand the concept of “sterilizing”. So many mommy forums and parenting websites talk about “sterilization” of baby items. We use gigantic, industrial autoclaves in the hospital for our surgical instruments. They are autoclaved from 3mins to 21 mins, depending on the temperatures and pressure (121- 132 degrees Celsius, 15 to 30 psi) and it’s super- heated steam we are talking about here. Still, at the end of it, we know that we have not killed off every organism on the instrument (there are “thermophilic” bacteria y’all). But I see people, putting their 7 month old’s spoons and toys in boiling water every time they are used, or falls down. Well, to each their own. But I wonder, a 7 month old literally cleans the floor with their palms and licks every surface available- how do you sterilize them?
Save yourself the trouble folks, just wash the darned bowl with some warm, soapy water, rinse and be done with it. Lord, you have no idea how many organisms live within your little one!
8. If all at possible, do what our evolutionary ancestors did.
If at all possible, breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, Mamas. It saves a ton of time, energy and money. NO hassles of boiling and cooling water, measuring and mixing formula, “boiling” the bottles and teats, worrying about the formula in your diaper bag spilling or going bad, and worse of all- being stuck somewhere without THE BOTTLE.
If you can’t for some reason, then no issues friend. Just do what works for you. And don’t fret or be bothered by what anybody tells you.
9. Grow a thick hide.
This will most likely happen automatically. You will suddenly become more carefree, less worried about people and what they think. The women lose some sense of shame and coyness (delivery room anyone?) and the men suddenly don’t mind not being macho and manly anymore. Honestly though, I now find a man changing diapers or cooing or singing to a baby extremely sexy and attractive. It must be the Mommy hormones.
If you are the sensitive types. learn to care less. Yes, it can be done. Even if are not born with this extremely important life-skill/ survival tool you can still acquire it. It takes practice that’s all.
10. Never say NEVER!
You may read all the books and articles you want. But your little one has not read them. And she will have an agenda of her own. So yeah, all your plans, strategies, schemes and thoughts can go to hell!
You will invariably end up doing many of the things you scoffed at or said your never will. Just saying….
11. Most importantly, ENJOY!
This sounds pretentious and preachy, I know. I remember being told to enjoy motherhood and this when I had stitches which made it hard to sit, a baby who had her nights and days reversed and a 6 week long hospital rendezvous- and I wanted to wring the neck of the person who told me this.
In retrospect though, I think she was absolutely, 100% correct. I already miss my “newborn ZOE”. The tiny, tiny human is now gone. Poof! I have no idea when and how it happened. And I miss her. I love my squirmy, restless, curious cat of a 9 month old; but I do miss the days when I did not have to worry about her tumbling out of the bed or touching something hot, or opening kitchen cabinets, or wandering into the bathroom …I could go on. I could hug her and not be pushed back as though ” Mama, get away, I have stuff to do!” I also know that a year from now, I will miss my nine- month old baby.
So yes, really do try and enjoy everyday. Really.
This is just what I have learned in the past ten months. From the best teacher there is- EXPERIENCE. She taught me well, and I might find all these lessons handy the next time around. I hope I do….
I could ramble on. For pages. Maybe a book even. But I have a bed that is calling out me, promising a night full of rest and recuperation. You have no idea how fantastic that sounds right now!
Till next time…
A beleaguered but ecstatic Mama!
P.S. I fell asleep typing last night. Thankfully Worpress saved my draft. So I posted it this morning. Have a good day y’all and Merry Christmas!