As I’m writing this article, my 3½-month-old baby is stretching in her rocker and “talking” to herself. It amazes me how much she has grown in these past months—from a wrinkly, frowning newborn to a chubby, still frowning baby.
Clichéd as this may sound, I’ve grown too.
These past few months of motherhood have not been easy, to say the least. I thought I was all prepared for it, but as it turned out, nothing could prepare me for what child-rearing would bring. I was constantly overwhelmed and found myself muttering prayers under my breath whenever things got too crazy.
Although I am feeling less overwhelmed now, the prayers have not lessened. Looking back, there were five experiences which stood out for me as a new mom.
1. I did not feel the waves of maternal love.
Before the delivery, I saw countless posts on social media by blogger moms oozing with maternal pride and love. When it came to my turn, I was eagerly waiting to feel the same way too. But the moment my baby was born, I found myself busy wondering why she seemed to have a bruise on her forehead and figuring out whom she resembled more (and of course, after being in my body 10 months, she had to look like my husband). Even in the weeks after her birth, I kept waiting to feel the heart-bursting love for my baby . . . but I didn’t.
Motherhood brings a jumble of emotions. I’ve felt frustrated and even resentful many times in the past few months. Please don’t misunderstand me: Though I didn’t feel ecstatic about my baby’s arrival, there were definitely moments of joy too. However, it was difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion I felt at any given time, so that made it hard to identify with the feelings shared by the blogger moms.
2. I felt resentful towards my child.
I know babies cry, but my baby cries a lot—especially at night. In the early days, she would scream for at least five hours before falling asleep. I pored over books which diagnosed her as having colic, or just needing to expend energy before she sleeps. I tried all the methods recommended to put her to sleep, but all to no avail. This left me feeling physically and mentally exhausted, frustrated, and even resentful at times.
I have lost count of the number of times I have broken down and asked God why my baby behaves this way. However, He reminded (and continues to remind) me that my baby is completely dependent on me for what she needs—milk and comfort—so I should not deprive her of it just because of my own selfish desires.
3. I needed to have some “me-time”.
The first time I went out by myself after the birth of my baby was sheer bliss. It was a short trip to the city to pick up some things for her, but it was all that I needed to be refreshed. However, I must admit that I was plagued by “mom guilt” during my “me-time”. I felt guilty for leaving my baby behind to get back some of my sanity. I felt guilty for feeling that I was entitled to that time alone.
On hindsight, I realized that the “me-time” helped me to be a better mom to my baby. I just needed to get away from the routine and confines of my home for a while, but the benefits that it brought lasted for a long time.
4. I learned that post-natal depression is real.
I read about post-natal depression when I was still pregnant, and to be honest, I thought that it would never happen to me—until I realized that I was experiencing more than the usual “baby blues” after my baby was born.
I am not sure if it was because my baby was fussier than the average baby, but I realized that I had started to become fearful of night time. It got to a point where I would start to have irrational fears during the night, and become so anxious that I would not be able to fall asleep.
By God’s grace, the frequency of these feelings has since lessened. But it still happens from time to time. I am constantly reminded to commit my worries to the Lord, for He is my “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
5. I learned that it truly takes a village to raise a child.
I am thankful for the help and support that my husband and family gave me in the first few months after my baby’s arrival. Before the delivery, I naively thought that I could handle the baby on my own. But everything was foreign to me, and I found the learning curve extremely steep. It wasn’t long before I was welcoming any help that I could get.
Now that I’m back at work, my baby is being cared for primarily by my mom, with my aunts helping out from time to time. When my mom heard that I was expecting, she had made plans to quit her job just so that she would be available to care for my baby when I headed back to work. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the way my mother selflessly put her entire life on hold just to help me out.
As I reflect on these past months, I am encouraged by the hearts of my mother and my aunts who willingly sacrificed their time and comfort for us. Their actions remind me of the woman described in Proverbs 31:25-30: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
This Mother’s Day, I am thankful for my mom and my aunts who play a “mothering” role in my life. They have shown me what it means to be joyful in the midst of suffering and to be obedient stewards of their households.
On this day, it is my prayer that God will use and mold me in my new role as a mother, as I strive to live my life as a reflection of what the Bible describes in Proverbs 31.