my all female special hour of great ladies’ voices
my all female special hour of great ladies’ voices
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:
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:
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…
I’ve been wanting to post more about my experiences earlier on at 3, 6 and 9 months but see, my baby girl turned one already. Guess I was too busy discovering and learning all these things that I’m about to share with you. Of course, everybody starts with “I can’t believe it’s already been a year”. I remember the day before she came, the birth and every week and month. And luckily I wrote it all down in her book in case I’d forget any detail. Just like my mom did with me and I am still re-reading it. Weekly since pregnancy. My feelings, her first smile, her weight, every milestone, her feeding and sleeping schedule, when did she turn around, her first solid food, etc. Despite being tired and yearning for full nights sleep, despite some very challenging moments and lonely times, it has been the best year. Nellie has been bringing us so much laughter, joy and happiness and has filled our hearts with a new indescribable and unconditional love.
The first year in 10:
1. “TMI=Too much information” In my previous post* I had already shared breastfeeding mom’s munchies and sleep deprivation. My brain felt like the hard drive of a computer; like it is constantly on red saying “disk almost full”. So much new information to remember. I used to always forget something when leaving the house with the stroller (fresh water, fill diapers, bring other clothes etc). In the end just remember they really need your protection and a lot of love and affection.
2. “Forgiven, forgotten, forbidden” You still haven’t forgiven or forgotten those who came empty handed (food-wise not gift-wise) in those first few weeks nor those who asked you the ‘forbidden’ questions (i.e. “So what do you do all day?” etc)
3. “Flying with baby” When you are going on a plane with the baby: passengers look at you as if you’re going to hijack the plane. If your baby cries during the flight you get two kinds of looks: 1. pity – mostly by parents who’ve been through this many times and/or 2. anger – mostly by men. Can’t blame them, I used to do the same. Only after landing when she was quiet after all they ask her name or give me a smile.
4. “The suppository victory” Every new mom dreads her baby’s first illness. But once it happens, you just erase yourself completely and naturally, you only worry and care for your child. Remember how good it felt when your mom took care of you when you were sick. This is where you bless and praise breastfeeding once again. Another epic moment of baby’s first illness is the suppository. Failing the first suppository action feels worse than failing an exam or your driver’s license. I won’t go into details. But here again, overcoming it makes you gain a lot of Mommy-confidence.
5. “Matching outfits” Who needs style advice, Pinterest or fashion magazines for clothing inspirations? Just match your clothes to the baby’s outfit. Or to the colours of your stroller or Babybjorn.
6. “False needs” Society has come up with false needs and new moms are easy targets. I still get angry because of it. Charging way too much money for classes, workshops or accessories that are completely unnecessary at those ages. Or a mobile in stroller – nature is the most beautiful view; let your child look at the skies, the trees and the birds.
7. “The phone” like you once knew it enters another dimension. While you may have enjoyed phone conversations in the past, this is definitely something that stays in the past. You have no time, no hands and no patience for phone calls. You have better things to do. Oh and did you also curse out loud anyone calling you between 6 and 8 pm?
8. “Knowledge is power, ignorance is loss” Being a mom feels like playing chess: you always have to think and prepare for the next step or more. There are no two days the same, everyday is something new. And if you like routine and have trouble with change, here’s another challenge for you: you barely have time to adjust to the current schedule that you already have to adapt the next. But what helped me through all stages was to be and stay informed, to read and learn about what happens physically and emotionally. Unfortunately too many ignorant people will teach you lessons and too many myths are accepted as facts.
9. “Loneliness” It feels like there is a women-mommy code not to talk about the difficulties ahead during the first year until you bring it up retroactively. You’re lonely and alone when you need to talk: your friends without babies assume you have no more right to complain (I used to think like this too) and your friends with kids have no time. Luckily some friends stick around and some new bonds are being made. I don’t feel as lonely as I used to since Nellie is in my life.
10. “The others” The amount of justifying you have to do towards others. How many times have I had to explain “No, my baby doesn’t take a pacifier. She sucks her thumb and it is fine. She self soothes and uses it when she’s tired or hungry. And no it will not ruin her teeth.” AND we can see her face on photos. And so many more examples I force myself not to share. Not to focus on the negative and bad vibes. Just learn your lesson and move on knowing your truth.
During the first few months “colics” and “teething” are the code word for every cry. And we worry. And yes basically it can only be 4 things: tired, hungry/thirsty, pain, diaper. But I believe in Aletha Solter’s approach. Babies need to cry to let their feelings/nerves/frustrations/anxieties/fears out and we must show them that it is okay to feel strong emotions and that crying is the way to express them. Instead of grabbing for a toy for distraction. How about telling your baby “it is OKAY to cry, I am here for you” instead of rocking and jumping while saying “don’t cry don’t cry”. They need to feel it is okay to cry and that we are here to love, hug and protect them. With time you won’t be scared of tears and cries anymore; you will know how to interpret them and sooth calmly. Babies are the reflections of us, if we keep cool they will stay cool too.
Maybe it’s because I gave birth at a more mature age but this first year I spend it all with my baby. She has rearranged my list of priorities. Luckily I feel I’ve had more than enough time for myself, my work and other achievements and occupations; and I feel more available and devoted to spend most of my time with her “cause I don’t wanna miss a thing”. I’m also blessed to have a few precious people around me to help when work gets crazy (show business).This precious time is unique and we can never get it back. If i leave her for more than 2-3 hours i already miss her like crazy.
That first birthday party is not only a celebration of the baby’s 1st year. It’s also a major milestone for us mothers. We deserve a hug, a pat on a back and seeing our babies growing and glowing is the best reward. Like a graduation from Mommycollege. Being thrown into parenthood was like moving to a new country without knowing the language. You just learn it by practicing and speaking it. And you learn that your baby is there to help you and guide you, if you let her, if you connect to her. Maybe she taught me more than i taught her. To let go and trust her. They know best what they need.
Oh and don’t forget to dance a lot… and sing… and laugh…
*Previous post “Reflections on Motherhood part 1 – the first three months…” Read it here
Reflections on Motherhood part 1 – the first three months…
It’s been a long time since I have written a post. But I have a good excuse: I had a baby. Her name is Nellie, she’s now 3 months young; growing and glowing. You’d think I’d have more time to write now? WRONG. Therefore I decided it’s time to share some precious information regarding pregnancy, childbirth and the beginning of this new life and your new title ‘Mom’. Despite the fact that I was well surrounded by experienced friends and family, there are still many things I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t want to truly hear. So let’s start with breaking a few myths:
1. “Maternity Leave” congé de maternité, zwangerschapsverlof or חופשת לידה all have the word leave, congé, verlof in them: there is none of that for you these first few months. It’s the hardest work you’ve ever done. Physically and mentally. Period. And it’s my first child.
2. “You go to sleep when the baby sleeps.” No you don’t because during that time you have to: cook, clean, eat, shower, shit, arrange, run errands, see visitors, be social and any other activity you’re supposed to do. And the first few days after giving birth you are insomniac anyways.
3. “It is love at first sight.” No, it’s not. It takes time to learn and to love. Yes you are so excited and overwhelmed when you finally get to hold that baby in your arms. That baby you have been waiting for for so long. That baby you imagined, seen on the ultrasound and wondered how it will come out. That baby that kicked your belly for months. That baby you’ve been talking to in the street while passers-by were wondering if you were crazy. There have been loads of psychology books written about it, some call it ‘baby blues’ etc but fact is: there’s a transition between the imaginary baby and the real baby. It takes time to understand what has happened and it can feel empty despite what people are willing to admit. And don’t forget: you are tired from giving birth even if you had the easiest delivery ever. And yes, the hormones… And then everyday, you learn to love her more and more and more and cannot imagine what life was like before she came – and mine is only 3 months now… The attachment, love and care grow daily…
4. “It must be gas/colic” Everyone has an opinion and will tell you what to do, especially those who have children of course. I could write a whole post on this: in the name of what do people allow themselves to tell you things? I’m sure they don’t have bad intentions, but don’t they know how annoying it is. Do I tell others what I think of the way they dress or talk? NO so?? In the first few weeks it will stress you out the most because it may not work on your baby and you don’t know what those cues and cries mean. It’s only after 6 – 8 weeks that your mommy confidence is slowly but surely getting strong enough to be able to say out loud: “I know my baby and I know what is best for her”. So then those comments get even more annoying. I just try to stay nice. And for you and yourself: it is a process of trial and error. You have to try what works best for you two. And not freak out because you cannot trust your gut feeling from day one. It is by overcoming crises that you gain this confidence. And what worked yesterday may not work today.
5. “What? You haven’t read this book?” Same rule applies for books. Knowledge is power, it is great to be informed indeed and maximize your knowledge of facts. But again, a lot of these books will make you stress out and put you in a constant state of guilt when your baby doesn’t match the guidelines or doesn’t reacts in the same way as the book says. For instance how many hours a day a baby sleeps, whether or not she takes pacifiers, how much she should eat etc. Again, with time it will reconfirm itself: mothers know best
6. “Food, food, food” When you breastfeed* you are hungry, very very HUNGRY. Hungry at another level. I couldn’t eat much during my pregnancy because my stomach was upside down and I had a lot of heartburn so woohoo I didn’t gain weight (only 9kg in total) and woohoo I am catching up on food now. So you will obsess about food and preferably good healthy food in order to produce good milk. But as you have no time to go buy and cook it, you will appreciate the good people around you helping out with that: bringing food, cooking in your house and storing it. I’m not so good with the freezer, I usually open it years later when it’s too late while cleaning it out with my mom. You will hate anyone who comes to visit and doesn’t offer to bring something to eat – even if they bring baby gifts. And you will remember this months later too. *a footnote on breastfeeding: just like many other challenges that come with motherhood, breastfeeding will feel like the best feeling ever and worst feeling ever. Especially in the first few days, again, it is a skill to learn and yes your instincts will help but it’s not all natural from day one. Whomever says it is, may not be completely honest. Doctors, nurses and friends or family may have good intentions but can raise the pressure: for good milk you need good nutrition, lots of fluids and sleep –> SLEEP: n°2 already mentioned it: no you don’t sleep. Vicious cycle.
7. “So what do you do all day?” You will forever hate the person asking this. But I used to think the same I admit. All the cliches are true and you don’t understand things until they happen to you. To answer the question partly: just the breastfeeding can give you an idea: if you feed 8 à 10 times for about 30 minutes, and add to that burping, pumping etc. you have already filled at least 6 out of 24 hours. That’s half a day isn’t it? Got it?
8. “What now?” During pregnancy you are well surrounded by your doctor, your nurse, your apps and your midwife or doula. You even have classes that prepare you for giving birth, breastfeed etc. Where is the class that prepares you for what comes AFTER? All of a sudden, you go home from the hospital and are thrown to the lions. Long live Google to find out what happens to your body, to your baby etc in those first few weeks. But accept that the overwhelment lasts and can make you feel completely out of balance, even depressed.
9. “You have to put your baby on a schedule” Newborns don’t have a schedule, they don’t even know the difference between night and day, so chillax your brain, instead of trying to force all kind of tricks to get your baby in to a routine, take your time and let it happen naturally in the coming months. So the schedule thing is for later. Again, don’t fight it. (Easier said than done, I know that). Most women I know are strong independent women who are used to control their lives. A baby is the ultimate challenge there: you learn you cannot plan your day like you used to. And your daily happiness is based on matters like: did I manage to finish brushing my teeth, eating my breakfast, knitting one more line etc.
10. “Why is the baby crying?” Babies cry. They just do. There are the basic needs like ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m dirty’ like you read in most books. But there are also many other reasons babies cry. Keep in mind that just like in adulthood, tears are made to release tensions and let emotions out, babies do the same. We need to let them cry – still haven’t exactly figured out how to do that.
10 random tips I’d like to share:
1. Keep a book where you write everything down because with time you forget things. I am keeping a book for my baby that started with the predictor pregnancy test and in which I write daily or weekly. Nellie’s first bath, Nellie’s sleeping schedule, her size, her weight, her smiles, her toys etc. My thoughts, facts etc. Think about the amazing memories for later. My mom made one for me and I thank her for it every day.
2. Make space in your cameras, computers and iPads because you’re gonna fill it up with many photos.
3. The beginning of this new life is filled with ambivalences and contradictions: a. time goes by fast and slowly at the same time. b. you are bored and super busy at the same time. c. you’re the happiest and the saddest you’ve ever been, all this in one day – or even in one hour in the first few weeks. And once you passed the 3 months milestone, it gets better they say. And worse I add. Contradictions.
4. Remember: Nothing comes completely naturally, it takes time to settle in and just remind yourself you are doing as good as you can. Easier said than done, I know.
5. The first 6 weeks are not about happiness, they are about survival, you only care for primary needs: eat sleep shit – double check you buttoned your shirt, brushed your teeth and have no spit up on you those first few weeks when leaving the house
I also borrowed a few funny tips from this lady Adriel Booker, she made a list of 100 tips for pregnancy, birth and motherhood:
69. Your baby will sleep through the night sometimes… and when he does you will have insomnia.
78. There will be days where you cry as much as your baby. This is normal. There will also be days when you cry more than your baby. This is also normal.
85. Keep in mind that immunizations are harder for mama than for baby.
88. Always try to leave five minutes earlier than you need to. Then you will only be five minutes late to wherever you’re going (instead of ten) after you’ve changed the pooey diaper that inevitably happens when you’re walking out the door.
90. Doing a load of laundry, folding it, and putting it away all within the same day will make you feel like wondermom. (Go ahead and congratulate yourself and tweet about it when you accomplish this.)
So to end this personal piece: enjoy your pregnancy and get as much rest as you can. Being pregnant is the best excuse ever to be lazy. I enjoyed every stage despite sometimes being impatient, worried and anxious. But that’s my nature anyhow. Only in the last trimester did I really start thinking and preparing for birth (class, books, doula etc) and preparing the home (nursery, baby accessories etc). I couldn’t really think of what would be AFTER giving birth and maybe that’s for the best, I don’t know. We just passed the 3-month milestone and every day means more happiness and more challenges. Trial and error once again.
Oh and also, try to calculate not to be highly pregnant in August – especially if you live in Israel. And we had a war on top of it all this August! You will probably go through a roller coaster of emotions due to fatigue and hormones; spontaneous cries for all and nothing. Enjoy it and let it flow.
Feel free to contact me if you want to share your personal story. We all need to be encouraged and hugged. We all deserve some understanding and a shoulder to cry on. Our guys can be amazing, but can they really understand what we women are experiencing here? In the past when asked who I admire and who are my inspirations, I had no answers. Now I know: Mothers. I’m just one of those who need to talk about it and let it out. How come I never see them crying in public? It’s a pity many have to experience this alone and in solitude.
And to end, here is another nice article to read at night by another mommy blogger called Megan Minneman Morton “Mommy, Somebody Needs You”
photos by Yariv Fein