I was never a baby person. I would look upon these crying yet cute specimens of pro-creation when I came upon them occasionally with a polite smile and an aloof nod. Babies didn’t like me much either. They started bawling upon contact. When I got married, children were meant to follow like a checklist item. I couldn’t live my marital life in peace until I popped one out. Constant nagging, questioning and prayers followed me wherever I went. Thus, I embarked happily on the mission to birth one. Afterall, how difficult could it be?
When I was pregnant, I thought labour was the difficult part. Motherhood is something else. It is one of those things that you need to experience to understand. Like sky diving or citing a ghost. I had an easy pregnancy. I didn’t even have morning sickness. Sure, labour was like being trampled over by a truck at high speed but afterwards was something else. I still don’t have a word for it because I was meant to use the word ‘elated’. But elated was not my word to start with. Gob smacked came close.
The big switch
As a new mum you are expected to immediately switch into the doting role of a mother hen fussing over her chicklets. Many times it takes a long while to bring yourself into that mode. It’s not like a switch being turned on. For some women, it might be but others may require some time to come to terms with how much life has changed for them. It was a progressive trend of love and adoration for me. Each day that passed I fell more in love with my baby. My mother pointed this out recently that I’m kissing her all the time. I didn’t even notice.
Guilt in a loop
I see vlogs of super mummies (they call themselves that), with shiny makeup and even shinier meal ideas for their little ones. They even make funny face shapes with fruit on their overnight oats before presenting it to their darlings. My little one on the other hand doesn’t consider oats a food group. I suspect she thinks it’s play dough. There is always judgement thrown at a mother. It could be well meaning but condescending advice or downright disapproval. There is a constant comparison with other babies. Hence, the constant nagging guilt that you aren’t doing enough.
Carry on, Jeeves
It doesn’t matter if I’m popping an extra strength vitamin every day to lug my baby around. I don’t have the strength to charge through the day with a toothy grin and a super mum cape. Most of this lethargy lies in my brain. For most of my life I’ve had to just look after myself. Now, I have a headstrong toddler who controls me. She controls my actions, my phone, my sleep, whom I talk to and when. She dials my father and mother randomly for which I take credit. She also dials every forgotten contact on my phone for which I am quick to pin the blame on her. It’s a constant battle of wills with her and she wins hands down each time.
No break, No sick leave, No rest
There was a video of people being interviewed for a fake job with the duties of a mother. It was called ‘Director of Operations’. Most interviewees laughed at the ‘inhumane’ and ‘insane’ nature of the role. It’s known to be the toughest job in the world. It’s all true but you still do it. And you feel a sense of achievement and love unlike anything you have ever done. You carry on despite lack of sleep, cramps and sickness because your baby takes precedence over everything.
Sometimes, I look back at all the romantic travel and dinner pictures with my husband and wonder if we are the same couple. After the baby, couple time is replaced mostly with shift duty. Couple goals takes a backseat. We don’t have enough time to engage in a two minute dialogue forget anything else. In those occasions where we try and demonstrate physical affection our baby comes flapping her hands in disapproval to shoo us away from each other. One day, she will grow up and understand the concept of romance so we’ll be allowed to have some. Until then, we just have to sneak it in when she’s sleeping, if we have any energy left.
Forever love (read worry)
Once you become a mother, there is no escape from the constant worry of making sure your baby is safe, happy, healthy and is living the best life they can. This worry is all encompassing and doesn’t ever go away. Even when your baby is no longer dependent on you and might herself be a mother of a baby. Your happiness and health is directly related to her. My mother would constantly worry about me and I would tell her not to. Now, I see myself doing it and my mother tells me off about it. It’s a never ending cycle.
Being a writer and a mum? There is a covert assumption thrown at me that to write I may be ignoring my priority-my baby. But here’s the thing; I ‘steal’ this time for myself. I sneak it in when she naps or when she sleeps at night. It’s my one act of redemption to claim some ‘me time’. It keeps me sane, grounded and happy. It doesn’t tire me out, in fact it refreshes me and makes me a happier person. Afterall, a happy mum leads to a happy baby.
Being a mother is part of who I am. It’s not everything I am or can be in life.