Reflections on motherhood part 2
Hi… I’m a mom of two now… And I’d like to share some thoughts with you.
First a few words on pregnancy, but I’ll be short cause what comes after is much better. Obviously, every pregnancy experience is different. For me pregnancy is just no fun, it means 9 months of no appetite; indigestion, fatigue and nausea. Both my pregnancies were exactly the same season – so good news for outfits and familiar timing, for dresses and open shoes from about 30 weeks. Bad news for another sweaty August towards the end, not knowing if you are peeing or sweating or if your water just broke. And you see these proud mothers and their strollers and envy them. Everybody kept saying how good I looked during this pregnancy so OK thanks I only gained 8 kilos but that’s mainly cause I was suffering. Yes, second pregnancy goes by faster but how uncomfortable is it when you want to have your toddler on you, lift her or play on the floor. And please all these websites: who cares if my baby is now the size of an avocado or a lettuce! I also found it weird how some people are super pregnancy friendly and some just don’t realise there’s more to it than a big belly and that you are not able to be 100% fit like others. So please, why aren’t there more reserved parking spots for pregnant women and strollers? Women in government are you reading this? Oh and another good thing is you can blame the farts on your toddler 🙂
A few thoughts on giving birth: just like babies have a deal with Murphy, I tend to believe labor has a deal with Karma. As much as pregnancy is tough on me, giving birth is something my body is very good at (and proof that I have a high pain tolerance); or maybe I am just very lucky – or it’s the compensation of those 9 months. Both times the babies came at week 38, naturally and super fast. Including an easy and fast recovery. Both times we went home within 24 hours and my body was back at its old weight and look. Remember; breastfeeding is very helpful here (faster shrinking of uterus and such). Breastfeeding gives me appetite and cravings and does NOT make me lose weight – fell in that trap the first time. I am also a big fan of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital and system, the staff and their natural birth room; not so much for the useless accessories or nice curtains but for the time and space for intimacy and privacy before, during and after birth. When Nellie came to meet her baby sister barely an hour after birth, we have experienced the most beautiful moment of our lives. She had brought a gift we had wrapped together and was so sweet meeting her for the first time. The next day when we came home, we had a big balloon and gift for Nellie from Noa. Another amazing moment of true happiness, and the beginning of many more…
The first few days post-partum are very different the second time. There’s less chaos and you are not in shock from becoming a parent for the first time. You kind of know what’s next. The challenge is now to divide your attention between both and it takes time to get used to this new situation. There were three of us and now we are four! Major adaptation, new equilibrium. You thought you were a multitasker with one? Here’s a new challenge! (Guess moms of 3,4 and more kids are laughing out loud now). Do you also feel like your brain is drunk? I’ve heard that’s normal. It’s scary to notice you are not as sharp as you used to right!? Anyways, now it’s all about juggling and making sure you are organised and assisted in the right ways. I’ve learnt that the hard part is not the kids; it’s the logistics around it. Some people are more depending on paid help and some are very hands-on-independent-allrounder moms, it is your job to figure out which kind of mom you become. I tend to believe that the anxiety of failing or the fear of not knowing what to do, can lead to a lack of mommy-confidence when assisted by ‘professionals’. Or let’s put it this way: every time I’ve had to overcome a challenge I thought “I’ll never be able to do this alone” but I of course did. And I came through feeling stronger and more confident. Didn’t you have moments thinking: where is my medal, trophy, street name and then just hugely enjoyed some chocolate or wine as a reward?
The first few weeks with second baby are all about primary needs: eating and sleeping. I was lucky enough to have a mother around who can cook – even though my parents live abroad. I was so excited as I got my appetite back, went out every night for amazing dinners including good wine and with the baby quietly sleeping in her pram. And yes I sometimes dared to order two dishes and I survived the waiter’s judgmental look. Yes the baby blues may occur and you may wish there was a bar around the corner to go in for a glass of white wine and to cry it all out. As much as I am happy with the way society and the medical system guides us through pregnancy and birth, I wonder why there is no moral support system after birth. As a mother you feed and nurse babies, you give yourself fully, body and mind but you also need to be embraced and supported. It gets lonely. You need to take the time to listen to yourself and take a break from it all. So who do you call? Ghostbusters? Dads are great but can they understand you in those hormonal rollercoasters? Your friends? Those without kids: they can try but they can’t truly understand you. Those with kids are probably at other stages in life and only a few remember what you are going through and even less can or have time to provide support. So here again you feel lonely. I am someone who needs to talk, to share and I’ve learnt how and with whom I can do that. Comes with a bunch of disappointments too. Remember that not everybody is able to open up as honestly and some will just lie about sleeping through the night and baby schedules, which creates even more social pressure. My first few weeks of sleep can be resumed in one word: breastsleeping. In general, what worked for me was – just like with my first – to go out as much as possible from day one. The big heat was calming down and we took her with us to the pool, the beach, the park and most of our other habits. What also works out well for me is to be able to still have enough quality and quantity time with my toddler; I pick her up after daycare and we do a daily activity together – just the two of us – enjoying the journey and not only the destination.
A word about the working mom. Yes, some people will take advantage of your absence or weakness during pregnancy, birth and maternity leave. Why isn’t there more universal solidarity between women? We are all the same, we will go through things that men will never ever know, then how come women are so cruel to each other then? But what comes around goes around. Luckily, I know my priorities now and I know what truly matters. That is one of the perks of not being a very young mom. I call this the NO-FO-MO-asset: No Fear Of Missing Out. I feel accomplished: had more than enough time for personal, social and professional achievements. I have worked with my all time favourite artists and toured the world with mister Leonard Cohen. So for now, I am content and devoted to any precious moment with my kids – yes that includes the tough ones. And whoever doesn’t understand or tries to interfere can get lost.
The 5 main differences I noticed between first and second child:
- You don’t panic at every cry and calmly finish what you were doing (including eating your plate, showering or being on the toilet). Calm parents = calm baby, cool parents cool baby.You have much more mommy confidence to start with and that is an asset for the mood and mind. You trust your baby to know its needs without interfering which means you let go of control a lot – also great for mood and mind. And congratulations, you achieved the level of “expert” in multiple departments: strollers, carriers, breastfeeding and pumping, clothing and other practicalities that make life easier…
- You know there is no routine at first so you don’t lose any time on speculating on it. You don’t obsess at analysing and planning her diaper, sleep and feeding schedule in order to feel you are a good mom. No need to overanalyse and study each phase by the book because by the time you think you got it, baby is already at the next; there is no now.
- More than ever you enjoy the small things and moments you get for yourself including going to the bathroom alone! That feeling in the shower and when you get out and it’s quiet? No one screamed or cried while you were in there? Woo-hoo!
- Many things you said NEVER to for the first are now being ignored: watching tv, letting baby with babysit or other family members, in the car without the security isofix car seat, breastfeeding* in car… *Let’s see how long I’ll keep breastfeeding (First baby was breastfed till 19 months) You don’t change yours nor baby’s clothes on every spit up, people even give compliments on your hair while you know there’s spit up in it.
- You still get very angry when someone says “don’t cry” to the baby, that never changes, let the baby cry it’s her only way of communicating ALL of the emotions she has!
Then you hit some milestones, 3 months, 6 months and so on. As a temporary conclusion I’d like to share the following wisdom I learnt:
- One of the secrets of happy motherhood for me is what i called NO-FO-MO earlier: it’s not an age thing, but you have to feel you are ready to be devoted to this. Whether on a social, personal or professional level, you have to feel that this is ‘the here and now’ you want to live in, that your baby is the center of the world right now, and you’re not thinking of what you are missing in the outside world – traveling, partying or being anywhere else, because then you won’t stand the crying at night.
- My second advice may sound easy but isn’t and it’s called CONNECT & DISCONNECT: connect to the baby and disconnect from the world, you, your schedule, your logics, your plans… and your phone. There are days you may feel you have lost yourself completely and your labels have been reduced to ‘mom only’, but these days happen and pass too. You sometimes ask yourself what you have done all day huh?
- For breastfeeding moms another thing that works for me is PUMPING from the early days-weeks: breastfeeding is amazing. Besides giving the baby all she needs nutritionally, it also creates a great bond of intimacy and it’s easy everywhere you never have to worry about bringing anything. But breastfeeding is very time consuming and some struggle with this dependence. Therefore pumping can buy you freedom. I just did it right from the start and am very proud of the stock I have in my freezer now.
- I learnt it takes (another big cliche) a strong relationship with your partner to make it work and the secret is called PARTNERSHIP: it’s all about communication and taking time to listen to each other (which not always works as we all fail at times). When you are both busy with the kids, days can easily go by with barely exchanging a few technical details about the kids. And you can easily fall into isolation. So whatever it takes, make sure you make time to communicate. Doesn’t have to be a forced date night where you both fall asleep at the table though.
- GUILT AND AMBIVALENCE Can’t hide or lie about this one: moms know these feelings. Guilt of sharing attention, guilt of our own needs… Ambivalence of the nostalgia to our old lives, our freedom, our old habits. But I wouldn’t trade what you have now for even a second.
- And again, the hardest thing is to adjust your needs to the baby. Sounds cliche and with my first I couldn’t. Now I managed to be able to LET GO of logics* and the schedule I’m used to, the home tasks to be done, the pseudo-urge to do things right now. It’s a big challenge to overcome that the laundry or dishes can wait for now. It’s hard to fall asleep cause there’s nothing more to long for now the baby is here. And to feel you circle is full. For daytime naps, what helped me was breathing exercises (I don’t like the word meditation), going to my acupuncturist and listening to music. Even though those kids tunes were humming on repeat in my head (“Mummy finger mummy finger where are you”….) And at night after the babies are asleep, i see my window of me-time shrink and deal with the dilemma of crashing in bed versus me time. *With logics I mean the tendency of planning and negotiating with yourself (if she ate now she will probably be hungry then, if she sleeps now she will waker up then): no need cause babies have their own logics and will surprise you so why bother guessing. Don’t forget to enjoy every little moment cause time flies…
- THE OTHERS (again): advice of others is the worst. Most people really mean well but we get easily frustrated and pressures if things are not the same for our babies. Now can only I hope I don’t sound like all those mothers I hated when giving their advice as if they have all figured it out.
- Get over the OCD: They say one kid is one and two is twenty. No it’s not. This only applies on the laundry. Tidy people like me may get in major conflict with an OCD tendency and it’s hard fight: if you fall in the trap of slavery to the cleaning and tidying the house at your pace you may get stressed when it interferes with kids needs. But if you don’t do it, you get stressed and it doesn’t leave your brain. so again here, find balance. as this cool mom said as long as she can pave a way between the toys without stepping on any lego to make it to bed and bathroom she s ok with it.
- YOU CAN DO IT – it’s in these times you realise you are a superpower and you can overcome anything that once scared you. People will nag, even unintentionally and you’re wondering how you’re gonna handle. And then hop, you just did! What a satisfaction when you finished your day and juggled all things.
Becoming a mom made me the happiest I’ve ever been.
As much as I would love to share photos of my gorgeous two daughters Nellie & Noa that are 2 years apart, I have to respect their daddy’s will to not share anything online. Respecting him and respecting their privacy…
Thank you for your sharing. I am worried that I lack creative ideas. It is your article that makes me full of hope. Thank you. But, I have a question, can you help me?