By Deepika Sandhu
In what seems like the blink of an eye (or a slug through the mud depending on the day), the gigantic baby girl that the doctor placed in my arms 14 months ago is now a walking, talking, bright-eyed little person filled with personality, curiosity and joy. Like many Moms, I have selective amnesia about the hard parts of early motherhood.
The late nights, lack of sleep, challenges breastfeeding, painful recoveries and wild hormones are now just a thing of the past. What has stayed with me is how much having my daughter feels like a natural extension of my life. I never knew that I would enjoy another little person this much. I never knew that having her in my arms and looking into her eyes would feel like I have known her across lifetimes.
The first year was filled with high highs and low lows but through it all I learned the following five things about my first year with a baby.
#1 Every Mommy finds her own rhythm.
You may buy Pampers and your friend may buy Huggies. You may always put the baby to sleep in its crib or let the baby sleep on the sofa. You may be breastfeeding while someone else is formula-feeding. You may let the baby stay up until 10pm while someone else puts the baby to sleep at 7pm.
Your mom may be living with you for the first few months to help you adjust to motherhood or you may be handling things solo. Whatever it is and however you do it is totally and completely okay.
Every mom finds her own rhythm. You are going to find your own unique way of doing things. You are going to discover the way that works for you. Whatever that way is, it is going to be your way, your rhythm. Don’t listen to critics on your approach (not the other mommies, not the in-laws, not even your husband). It is your way and no matter what others think of your approach, it is working for you. It may take a few weeks or a few months but rest assured you will find your rhythm as a Mom and that rhythm is going to take you through all the stages of Mommyhood – the good and the bad.
#2 Let some things go
New moms are under incredible pressure. The pressure to learn to care for their new babies. The pressure to lose weight. The pressure of deciding whether or not to go back to work. The pressure of making sure your marriage keeps working with all the new stresses of life. It isn’t easy, which is why I say let some things go.
I would like my daughter to always be perfectly dolled up in cute clothes and matching hair accessories. I would like my house to be spotless all the time. I would like to be in my spotless house with my perfect figure, perfect makeup and perfectly blow-dried hair.
I would like to not have arguments with my husband. I would like to take the baby out in the evenings and not have her scream up a storm.
While I would love all of these things, I can’t have all of these things at the same time, at least not right now. Some things have to go. While I keep my house very clean, it isn’t always sparkling. If my kid is dressed to the ultimate level of cuteness, I might be accompanying her in yoga pants and a hoodie. We may wish for date nights but we settle for date lunches or date afternoons. Slowly but surely I have learned to not fret the small stuff. It isn’t easy but to keep any semblance of sanity in those early months this is what I needed to do. At times, this required a lot of convincing because I want everything to be in order (and I mean everything) but it can’t always happen and I have slowly learned to accept it.
What you should let go of, is your own personal choice. For me, getting back in shape took a back seat to caring for my daughter and going back to work. Now that I am settled into caring for my daughter and my work schedule, I am placing a greater priority on my health and my marriage. These are my choices and they work for me. Notice I am not prioritizing the sparkling house. Sigh. Maybe next year.
#3 Celebrate and Share
Being a parent is an exciting achievement. You brought a whole new little person into the world and if anything should be celebrated, this should be it! Your little person is having oodles of milestones – like talking, walking and waving hi. Big or small, these are all exciting advances. So celebrate that little one and share his or her exciting moments with the people who care.
How you choose to celebrate and share will vary. For me, I wanted to take on hosting a traditional Punjabi party for my child’s first Lohri and hosting a cowgirl-themed first birthday extravaganza (yes, there was a pony). I share pictures on our family Whatsapp group and post on Facebook. I have a photographer I love and have already done family photo sessions twice. I haven’t quite filled out the baby book or completed her photobooks, but I will!
You may forgo the big parties (your sanity will thank you) and focus instead on private ways of celebrating. However you choose to celebrate your little one is entirely up to you and there is no right or wrong way to do it. But capturing and sharing your baby’s adventures gives oodles of joy to yourself and to others (especially grandparents). So create, capture and commemorate your little one’s special moments.
It’s not just your little one that needs to be celebrated. It is you too. You are doing one very tough job and no matter if there is a pile of laundry that needs washing or toys all over the floor, you are a wonderful parent and you deserve a little celebration of your own. If that means leaving the baby with your husband or the grandparents so you can meet a girlfriend for a cup of chai and some gup shup, then do that. If it is honouring the new role you have taken on as a Mom in a yoga class or during a mediation session, do that. Find a way to pat yourself on the back and reflect on a job well done.
While you are sharing your kids undeniable cuteness, don’t forget to find an outlet for you to share what you are going through as well. Mommyhood has both good and bad moments. Having an appropriate support system will make all the difference. Share what you are going through with people who are sympathetic to your situation. For me, that was two new mommy friends who were knee-deep in the same challenges I was experiencing. Knowing they were there to text and call made all of the difference.
#4 Let Dads be Dads
Moms need to encourage dads to be great. We need to give them the freedom and leeway to discover their Daddy style. We need to give them space to learn how to love and how to show that love to their children. In short, we need to let dads be dads.
This isn’t easy for us moms. Most moms want to tell the dad how to dress the baby, change the diaper so it’s on tighter, or how to feed the baby so there is less of a mess afterwards. But what if the baby’s outfit isn’t cute or perfectly coordinated? What if that diaper leaks? What if there is a huge mess? It’s just another thing we have to deal with, which isn’t ideal given all we have going on, but it is necessary so dad can be dad.
Dads are going to develop their own way of doing things. Just like you have a mommy rhythm, dad is going to develop his rhythm, and however weird it may seem to you or however different from your own way, it is going to work for him and for your child. He is going to figure it out and we as moms need to give them space to do that, even if it doesn’t generate optimal results for us in the short run.
My dad was an amazing father. But I don’t think he started out that way. My mom said he was too afraid to actually hold me so he would stand in the doorway and watch me sleeping in my crib. Once my sister came along, he got the courage to actually hold her as a newborn. By the time my memory kicked in and I can recall all the amazing things my father would do with us and for us, my dad was already a dad for four or five years. He got practice and in that time, he got really good at being dad. I bet he didn’t start out that way. He had to learn his daddy rhythm and my mom had to give him the space and the encouragement to be the kind of dad he wanted to be.
#5 Focus on the positives
Being a new mommy can be an incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating experience all wrapped into one. We can easily slip into being overwhelmed by our newborn and exhausted by the new demands and lack of sleep. We can become frustrated by our inability to lose weight or our changing relationship with a spouse. While all the changes can leave you feeling unsettled, it is important to try to focus on the positives.
You created an entire human being, who needs you and wants you in his or her life. You created a little person who gives perfect smiles and is discovering this world with your help.
For me, my favourite Mommy Moment is when my daughter says a new word perfectly and unexpectedly. I can’t help but smiling and loving the person she is becoming. So next time you are up all night with a crying, teething baby, try to remember all the positive experiences of Mommyhood. Focus on what is going right and have faith that the hard stuff, that incredibly difficult mommy stuff that may be weighing you down, will pass in time.
What are your favourite lessons from motherhood?
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