I have been bogged down recently by commitments and obligations to others and unexpected events that have suddenly called for my attention. I have made these things a priority and as a result, I have not written about something I’ve been intending to write about, for nearly the past 2 months. It is quite disheartening to me some days (and very much so today) that I have to ‘fight’ to make the time to write for my blog and to focus on the work I want to do. I am sure there are many mothers, daughters, wives and women who play several other roles out there, who find themselves in the same predicament.
But, I digress. What I wanted to write about was the changes the first year of my son’s life have brought about in my life.
I am not talking about the sleepless nights, the endless tiredness, the days of despair, the anxiety when he’s been sick, the worry that you may not be doing something right – any mother must know this endless list I speak of!
I am talking about the unexpected positive impact all these ‘difficulties’ have had on me and the way I look at life.
Before the birth of my son, I had never been around babies much. I was terrified of touching any human being younger than 6 months of age. In fact, I was so petrified that I might ‘break’ him somehow, that it was actually my husband who did most of the carrying around during his first couple of weeks! I knew nothing, and I mean NOTHING about looking after a baby.
I managed to get a full time Nanny when he was 2 weeks old and she stayed till he was 2 months old, but had to leave unexpectedly when she fell seriously ill and was diagnosed with cancer while staying with us.
I suddenly had to take care of a 2-month-old baby. I think it was the most difficult challenge I have been faced with till date. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I had to. I wanted to. So every day I just went through the motions of what had to be done, figuring out a schedule and trying to stick to it and figuring it out all over again, when it didn’t seem to work. Bathing him was the most terrifying task. Twice a day, every day, I think I used to practically hold my breath from the time I carried him into the bath room till I lay him down safely again, wrapped in his baby towel.
I had been told so many things about schedules, feeding, bathing, clothing babies appropriately, sleep timings and much more, but what I realised in those initial few months of ‘being with baby’ was that I had to figure out what worked best for him and for me. I don’t think there are too many ‘set’ rules. I think every baby and every mother is different and when a new baby comes into your life you have to take the time to figure out what he/she needs – you have to pay attention. They may be unable to communicate, but if you ‘listen’ carefully, you can ‘hear’ what they are saying.
Looking back on the past year, I realise that being forced, in a way, to look after my baby, practically by myself, allowed me to do things I never believed I had the capacity to. And if I was able to get through what I term ‘the most challenging period of my life till date’ perhaps there are so many other things I believe I ‘can’t do’, that I actually can!
That idea has translated into action and I have actually found myself attempting and successfully undertaking things I earlier believed I just couldn’t do. From the small ‘impossible’ tasks to the big ones, my first year with my son has made me a much more confident person that I previously was.
Patience and acceptance of the ways of the world
Until the birth of my son, whenever I’d set my mind on something – be it a work related or personal goal – I’d expect results immediately. I would tend to put an enormous amount of pressure on myself and would feel extremely dejected if I didn’t see results really, really soon.
Babies teach you to be patient. You have to slow down (or speed up, as the case may be!) and fall in line with their pace. You may want them to sleep at 8pm every night and may work really hard to put them into that schedule, but there are some days (or many days for some parents!) where there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, you can do, if your baby just refuses to sleep. You have to be patient and you have to accept that that’s just how things are when you have a baby. The best laid plans of mice and men…..AND mums too apparently…..often go awry.
My son has, in a way, forced me to become more patient and accepting of the fact that some things in life are just not in your control. I find myself approaching a lot of things with a more realistic attitude now and I think I am also learning to be a little less hard on myself.
Related to what I’ve said above, when I took on a task, I would expect results really soon. I used to believe that if I didn’t excel at something almost immediately, it meant that I wasn’t any good at it. And often I’d write myself off as not being able to undertake whatever the task at the time was. My son has taught me that you have to persist and persist to achieve what you want and just because you don’t get it right the first time, doesn’t necessarily mean you are bad at it. Initially, during the times he’d cry incessantly, I didn’t know why – was he hungry, did he have colic, was he too warm, too cold………what did he want? I had to keep trying different things till I got it right. But as the months went by, I was able to discern a ‘tummy ache cry’ from an ‘I’m too hot’ cry. I began to understand that unlike most babies, he didn’t like his feet being covered at night when he slept. So sleep suits were out and pyjamas were in. I realised that to do a good job or to become good at something you really want to do, you have to persevere until you get it right.
Having a baby leaves you with no time for depression. While post partum depression can sap you of the will to live if you have it bad, once you’re over it, you realise that you have to be optimistic and stay positive when you have a baby. Your mood and your attitude have an impact on his/her mood as well.
Further, you realise that set backs will pop up from time to time. Interruptions and obstacles will appear and if you let them get to you and wallow in self-pity, you won’t get very far. Living with a baby everyday teaches you this. My son started sleeping through the night at around 2 ½ – 3 months, so I was rather chuffed, thinking I had it good. But around the time he started on solids and began crawling, he suddenly started waking up 3 and 4 times in the night. He did this every single night for nearly 8 weeks. Initially I was really, really upset (not to mention tired and frustrated) and just couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. But my doctor explained that it was probably his way of dealing with all the changes his body and mind were going through. I slowly began to tell myself that ‘this too shall pass’.
Such experiences with my son have taught me that a set back is just that – a set back. It is not the end of the world and it is not the end of a dream.
You have to stay positive, keep your goal in mind and find your way around the obstacle instead of giving up half way. You must just continue on your path. Like Dory said in Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Throwing your hands up or feeling sorry for yourself neither helps you nor those around you.
I think when you have a baby, you just have to find ways to cope – you somehow HAVE TO find the answers when things aren’t going well. You do this not because it is an obligation, but because you really, really want to. This often brings out aspects of your character you didn’t know you had.
Now, by no means am I saying that I am the most confident person in the world, that I have the patience of a saint or that I have unlocked the secrets to achieving your goals amidst all obstacles. (And I am sure that my husband and closest friends will vouch for the fact that I have a long way to go!) But I do recognise that there are better ways to deal with life and trying to achieve your goals. And I find myself pausing, re-evaluating what I am doing and slowly, bit by bit, incorporating what I have learnt over the past year.
My first year with my son has taught me that there is a better way to be.