This piece was published a year ago on Scriblah, the now defunct blog I shared with some of the most amazing writers and co-workers I know. Thanks to Zen, one of my fellow Scriblahrs, we were able to retrieve some of our old posts. Many things have changed since I first wrote this, so I’ve made a few edits to the piece to include new thoughts and lessons motherhood has taught me.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t meant to be a mom.
Moms, as exemplified by my own mother, were selfless. They were great cooks; they were kind but strict; had all the right words for the right situation and knew just about everything.
I wasn’t any of those.
So when I learned that I was expecting, you can only imagine the shock, terror, and all the drums of Africa beating inside my chest.
How was I going to tell my parents? How was I going to raise this child? Am I going to be a good mother? Wait–how do you even carry and bathe a newborn?!
Now two years into motherhood and looking back at all the things I’ve done, I can’t help but be proud of myself.
Despite my lack of experience, maturity, and even maternal instincts, I was able to survive the first overwhelming year of motherhood and now still continue to kick motherhood in the ass! (My toddler would probably disagree; it’s he who kicks me in the ass most days now. haha)
And while I’m not done yet, probably never will be done, with motherhood, I’ve sure picked up a couple of lessons along my journey.
You don’t always need to have everything figured out.
When I was still pregnant, I worried about my lack of baby knowledge. So, I read. I bookmarked sites like What to Expect and Baby Center; devoured the books my co-worker lent me (which reminds me I have yet to return them. It’s been two years! Hi, Mia!) and just read everything with ‘babies’ in it. I thought I was ready.
When I finally held my baby, though, all the things I read and learned from the books disappeared.
Clueless was an understatement.
Every time he cried or pooped, I’d ask myself what in the world have I gotten myself into. But I knew lamenting about what I didn’t know wouldn’t get me anywhere, so I folded my mommy sleeves and got to work. And boy did I learn.
Motherhood has taught me that you don’t have to know how to be a mom, to be a mom.
You learn as you go.
You don’t need to do it alone.
I’m lucky to have a village. My family, my partner, and his family have always been there for us.
From my little lion’s day one up to now, they have always been supportive, ready to lend a hand whenever the newbie mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They helped (still do, in fact) us through all the diaper changing, the feeding, soothing, bathing, and so much more.
Although they weren’t very ecstatic when I first broke the news of my pregnancy, especially my mom, they showed me that one mistake can’t and shouldn’t damn you. Now they love our little lion as much as I do! (And I’m pretty sure the grandparents love the kid more than us, their children. haha)
The best nourishment for your child is in you.
When I was still pregnant, I didn’t give serious thought about breastfeeding. To be honest, I only wanted to breastfeed because I knew there was no way we could afford formula (and also because of the boobs, man! My 32A cup size could seriously need a boost.)
Because breastfeeding was the most natural thing in the world, I thought I’d have it easy. But again, I was wrong. The first two weeks were a struggle.
Sore nipples, engorged breasts, backaches, and sleepless nights (because no one else can feed and nourish my baby but I) made me want to quit. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t.
I joined breastfeeding clubs on Facebook; read a lot about the dos and don’ts; exchanged notes with friends who are also on the same journey; and hoped that everything would be better. It did. Now I have a healthy and happy (but usually grumpy) toddler! I continue to breastfeed him until now but not exclusively anymore. Although weaning has crossed my mind, I want it to be a slow, gradual transition.
Your child’s pain is yours too.
When my kid was four months old, a tiny stone was found in his right kidney so he had to undergo some tests. It included a blood test.
Anticipating that my baby would get fussy, the nurses laid him on the bed and wrapped him in a blanket. My kid sensed that something wasn’t quite right so he cried. He cried even louder when the nurses started to extract blood from him, and he looked at me as if pleading for help.
I couldn’t stand the sight, so I looked away. His pain was mine that time, and it hurt me knowing that no amount of soothing can calm him.
But I realized that that is just the tip of the iceberg. As he grows, he will experience other forms of pain, and I know there’s only so much I can do to protect him.
Every stubbed toe, skinned knee, rejection, heartbreak, and failure will hurt me as much as it would hurt him. While it would be great to have the power to stop any of these from happening, I know he would need them, too, to grow, to become a better person.
Motherhood shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you.
There are days when I’d rather stay home all day, forget about the rest of the world, and just be with my kid.
But then reality slaps me with bills to pay, a kiss from a beloved, loved ones to support, friends who’d want to see me after months of being missing-in-action, and the fact that I am not just a mom.
I am a partner, daughter, sister and friend, and I don’t cease to be any of these just because I became a mother.
Yes, it’s hard to juggle all these roles, especially when you have a puppy-eyed kid begging for your attention. But if I want to be the best mother to my son, I needed to be my best self. So I realized that I must not shut down other roles, take advantage of opportunities, explore possibilities, and not forget the person I was before he came. (And if you may have guessed, this blog was one of the outcomes of that awakening.)
Someday, I want my kid to look at me and see a woman who is more than just his mother. I want my kid to look up to me. It’s tough, and I haven’t come around to devising a master plan yet on how to achieve it, but we’ll get there.
In the meantime, I’ll have to indulge his interest in cars. And oh, make sure he enjoys his second birthday!