Not sure about you, but where I come from, the culture is for new mothers to "tank" it all. Tank being a slang word for taking the hardship upon oneself and not talking about the difficulties. Ask anyone how they are from my side of the world, and they almost always tell you they are fine even if they are dying inside.
But having gone through two newborns, I see infinitely more value in talking about these tough times and putting it out there helps us get through it together.
Solidarity is stronger than suffering in silence.
Here are some of my struggles post-pregnancy, if you would like to read -
1. Company Crisis
One day you are surrounded by the hustle and bustle of work, colleagues, superiors and the next moment you find yourself in total silence as you tiptoe around the house with a newborn. You are so afraid to wake the little being you find yourself conscious of your own breathing even. It can be stifling to be all alone, with a tiny human that is.
The irony is that with company it doesn't get any better. At his or her full month celebration, every one wants a photo with your child, they cajole, they rock and speak in high pitched voices while you crumble slowly inside as your baby gets more and more over-stimulated by the minute.
Yet after days of being alone you crave companionship and regular adult conversation.
I say go with what you are comfortable with. We learnt this the hard way with Humblet, but took our time with Singlet. Introducing him to small groups of guests, no more than four per time. Taking half hourly walks to the mall and then extending that to whole meal times. But never stretching him beyond his bedtime, that being 8pm. If he sleeps soundly in the carrier, well and good. If he squirms and squeals, I tell my company we have to take a walk. And I am so grateful for girlfriends who cut up my food while I stand and bounce a restless Singlet.
2. Wardrobe Malfunction
Just when I thought I was free of maternity clothing, I realize ninety-percent of my clothes are not nursing friendly. Worse still, all the pre-pregnancy clothing I couldn't wait to jump back into still cannot fit. As if these weren't bad enough, I have to look at all these stretch marks running across my belly like the complicated railway maps of Japan.
Thankfully, if you are willing to invest, there is a myriad of maternity nursing clothing out there which is functional and fashionable. We are on a pretty tight budget, so I'll stick to button downs, v-necks and wrap dresses to get me through this nursing season. This too shall past.
Every body is different, likewise, every pregnancy and post-pregnancy recovery is different. But know that it always takes time. For some they bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight within the month, others take a whole year or more.
Again, take your time. Your body just gave out a living being, that's pretty traumatic. Listen to its cues, eat when you are hungry, drink lots of fluids (especially if you are latching or pumping). Exercise for sure! But start small. Short walks, light stretching and let your body heal. I didn't feel ready to get out of the house until Singlet with about six weeks old, so I just went downstairs for a breather once in awhile or walked to the nearby park just for some fresh air.
3. Cry Baby
I'll say this once and I'll say it a thousand times more - all babies cry. They cry for food. They cry when they are cold, hot, gassy, dirty and at times for no other reason at all.
Don't ignore them completely, but also don't let their cries overwhelm you.
Have a newborn that seems to be crying non-stop regardless of cradling. latching or being placed in the carrier? It's normal. Seems strange mothers were not fitted with the supernatural powers of interpreting their baby's every cry, but I can assure you it's normal.
On your part, stay calm or act calm until you actually are. Why stay calm? Like in any crisis, objectivity helps. If you've changed, fed, burped and exhausted all the options, and your baby is still crying, know that it's normal. Babies cry. Sounds crazy, but true.
There was one night Singlet just could not stop crying. He would feed, then cry his lungs out, get so exhausted from crying he'd fall asleep. Then minutes later his eyes would pop open and he'd start crying all over again. This went on for fifteen hours. And the next morning, he just went right back to normal. Feed. Play. Sleep and repeat once in two hours. As if nothing happened at all and there I was worrying something terrible had happened to him.
4. Sleep. What's that again?
The first shocking discovery new mothers would make is - how little sleep the human body can survive on. Truly. Each time morning arrives, I am amazed I made it through the night. On good nights, three feeds four hourly. On bad nights, a feed every hour, plus long stretches of crying, carrying and latching to soothe crazy crying baby.
If and when possible get help. Some mums prefer to do all the nights on their own, well, good job to them. I would rather keep my sanity and outsource. If the baby only wants to latch and does not want to take the bottle, get someone to help put baby to sleep while you lie down. If the baby is adaptable and can take both bottle and latch, then take shifts so both parties get a block of sleep.
For those who have no choice, just know that many many hoards of mums are behind you. Sleep deprived mums, you are doing great! Count every morning a victory and every extra minute of sleep a reward. One day they will be sleeping through the night, and you will be sneaking in to check if they are still breathing. Press on till that day comes!
Thank you for reading up till this point. There's just so much more I want to say about diaper change, meltdowns, insomnia but I think the post is long enough already.
Suffice to say, let's stand together as mothers. You and I do not have to run this marathon alone. Let's talk about it openly and honestly so we can breathe a little easier when baby cries in public and we ask allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable and ask for help.
Grateful for all you fellow mums out there,