After three months of managing to keep THE SPAWN alive, I would have to say that there is nothing in this world that would ever prepare one to be a parent. I thought my husband and I were ready when we decided that I would finally try to get pregnant. We felt that we were at the point of our lives where we are both financially and emotionally capable to support and raise another life. But having that mental readiness doesn’t make the reality of it easier.
The physical exhaustion of having to attend to the baby’s needs 24/7 is something that needs to be talked about more often, in my opinion. The world always makes it sound like being a mother is a magical experience and that any difficulties you encounter is overcome by that special love for your child. Can I just say that it’s also possible to love your child and want to throw them wailing in a nearby ditch? Because that’s exactly how I felt trying to survive the first few weeks.
For one thing, breastfeeding is hard. There is nothing magical with the fact that I have to wake up every two hours around the clock to breastfeed my son and then have the energy to function for other things. I have become a machine that simply existed because my son needs to eat and ironically, the process doesn’t even come with a manual. Breasts do not automatically gush out milk. I even wondered if I was producing enough milk since my baby sucked almost non-stop until my nipples are cracked and bloodied. People kept telling me to eat this or drink that so that I could produce more milk but I have never come close to becoming a milk geyser spewing liquid gold at the cue of my baby’s cries. All I know is that whatever milk I managed to produce had kept my son alive to this day.
And because I have committed myself to breastfeed, I inadvertently said goodbye to decent sleep as well. I was a fool to think that I would get sleep when I give birth. The third trimester of my pregnancy had been especially trying since lengthy sleep had also been elusive what with having to pee every hour and not being able to lie on your back without suffocating from the weight of the baby. I cannot even tell you when I last had an 8-hour uninterrupted sleep. I remember how much I resented having my dad enter my room to remind me to eat whatever meal it was already. Time and food have become irrelevant when all I want is to close my eyes and never wake up.
There was also no “ME” time anymore. Even the most basic of needs such as taking a dump had to be rushed because you don’t want to leave your baby unattended. My husband tries his best to pitch in and give me “ME” time but when the baby needs to breastfeed, “ME” time is only around 2-3 hours long. Then, I have to eventually rush back home to a bawling baby and let him suckle for thirty minutes or more while I stare off into space.
The only reason I even attempted to take care of myself was because my child needed me to survive. And no, this isn’t borne out of maternal love. At that time, I did it more out of a sense of duty. I was responsible for this life that I brought to the world and I have to pay for that decision. But even then, I felt inadequate. I have had years of experience being a teacher but you do not go to school training to be a mother. I remember looking down at the sleeping face of my son one night and wondering, “What the hell am I doing with my life?”
When my maternity leave ended and I went back to work, my co-workers who were also mothers were commenting that I must have found it difficult to leave my son behind and I thought that their statements were absurd. By being away from my son a few hours a day, I get to be a better mother the moment I come home.