Parenthood has changed us. I expected this, but I didn’t expect just how radically it would.
In the first two months, I find her cries so grating, sleep so erratic and breastfeeding so painful (a baby who suckled, suckled and suckled every 30 to 60 minutes – it was like “forever”). Most crucially, I did it all by myself from nursing, cleaning and calming the baby (though I had my mum’s help for the first five days and occasional visits from my sis-in-law to calm me down that I am doing alright). It was my choice not to have a confinement lady as I didn’t like to be bound by rules and wanted my independence. It was my choice not to stay in my in laws place (though offered) because I wanted to raise my baby my way (and not theirs). It is embarrassing but I had to admit that I even cried several times in the first month when I couldn’t take how drastic the change in life turned out to be. This is owing to the fact I was (am still) a perfectionist and accustomed to having control of my life. I even pondered if I made a huge mistake in life and remembered asking my hubby “have you got any regret having her?” (Thinking back, I was so stupid to ask the question).
Some people told me it was hard (while some people – those that never actually looked after their own babies – have “cleverly” suggested that “it is darn easy!”). But it’s impossible to truly convey just what it’s like to wake up at night every two hours for several months. Or try to calm a baby who’s screaming inconsolably. Or deal with a clingy baby, who cries whenever we put her down (worse still she only wants the mummy). Or encounter with people who weren’t supportive of our intention to breastfeed our baby. Or cope with others’ opinions of our parenting styles. Or struggle with not feeling like myself – having a body now being two sizes bigger than it used to be (graciously, this happens to dads as well as mums *grin*). Chores multiplied, finances altered, daily rush.
It’s not like we turned into a mum and a dad overnight, but our perspectives and habits get realigned to one single creature: little 17chipmunks. It means our habits might change for the better, for example, I’ll think more of the nutritional value of food and exemplifying good ethics. Becoming a parent, time shifts. We never take free time for granted again. Every second is so crucial. Going and eating out is also a whole new experience. We run around to find the nursing or baby room or maybe a corner of somewhere that we can hide from the “prejudiced” thinking about breastfeeding (I have soon overcome it – I just do it anywhere now!). We cleverly selected timing to watch movies in the cinema (i.e. her nap times) so that we can enjoy our show. We can’t dawdle over tea/coffee any longer (unless the baby is asleep). Instead, each time we will take turns to eat our meals quickly while the other handles the baby (unless the baby decides to sit quietly). As the baby grows, extra time needed to pack food for the baby. Feeding the baby in restaurants would be a challenge. Obviously, finding a place to eat with a baby is a challenge too.
These are indeed the trials of exhaustion, loss of freedom, feelings of incompetence.
As “bad” as it gets, we have gone through it. There are many, many more blissful, amazing moments during that period too. And, after enough time passes, we even thought back wistfully on this period. If we look at it, the decision to bring another life into this world is by itself very momentous. We have also experience love and bond that we have never imagined. We have become stronger and more vulnerable in a sense too. Parenthood also provides lessons in patience and humility in its most generous form. We have calmly fit our ever changing traits of our baby into our life. We are grateful for the time we get to spend together. We love watching her grow and explore the world. We are proud parents whenever we find her reaching her milestones/ development day-after-day (and by that it means we have done the things “correctly”). Now, we can’t imagine life without her.
little 17chipmunks, you may not consistently make us happier in quantifiable ways, but in our experience, you make us more alive and in my opinion, feeling more alive is better than feeling “more” happy. Happy birthday darling!
P/S: As much as I would like to deny this in the past, I would admit now that “mum truly makes the greatest sacrifice!”