Nobody told me how hard being a new mother would be. Actually they did. They all did. I just didn't believe them. After all, how hard could it be to take care of a little person? All they need is to eat, sleep and have their diapers changed - usually in that order. But did you know that in the beginning they eat every two hours? And did you know that sometimes putting them to sleep would take both a longer amount of time than they actually slept for, as well as a great deal of creativity (rocking? no. Bouncing? No. Singing? No. Rocking, bouncing and singing? Yes. *cue sigh of relief*) and leave you in need of a nap - but before your head actually hits the pillow for said nap, the little person is awake and ready to go again? I did not know this. I do now.
I think I looked a little wild-eyed, a little crazy in the beginning. Yes, I definitely did. Sadly Vaishali did not come with a users manual. Of course there are plenty of baby books (not to mention aunts, grandmothers, friends, neighbours, strangers) to give you advice, but what I needed was a manual tailor-made to fit Vaishali's personality. You know, something that went along the lines of:
This model of baby will wake up every day, without fail, at 5 a.m and require 2 hours of non-stop playing activity. Do not bother trying to change this habit. Or praying that it will change. It won't. Ever.
But now, my little girl is 6 months old, and the crazy, sleep-deprived days are getting better. I no longer check on her every five minutes, just to make sure she's breathing (I've stretched it to about 15 minutes, and yes, I'm proud of that achievement, thank you very much.)
Of course, each new stage comes with new challenges. The nature of my questions have changed. It's no longer "Is she getting enough milk", but "Is she ready for grains?" I no longer panic when she cries (which is hardly ever - which is of course something I used to panic about too. You know, "Shouldn't she cry more than this?" I'd fret. "I think she's just a happy baby," my husband or mother would comment, a tad dryly.) And sometimes, in my sleep-deprived, hormonal, overly-worried state I would feel bad for my little baby. Didn't she deserve a mother who actually knew what they were doing? Who knew what each different cry meant, who knew how to calm and soothe her and take care of her from the very moment she entered this world?
For a new mother, there's nothing better than talking to or hearing about other new mum's and their experiences. It's comforting to know that your neurotic state of mind is not unique, that you are not the only one who feels overwhelmed at times, or at a loss over what to do. I recently read a book, and in it a first-time mother, a few years after the birth of her son, stated, " You can never be one hundred percent prepared for motherhood, because it is motherhood itself that prepares you."
How completely, and utterly true.
I assumed that the role of mother was one I would take on naturally, gracefully. It wasn't. I may have carried Vaishali for 9 months, but I only really met her after she was born, and only got to know her in the weeks and months that followed. And it was difficult, not having any experience. But as the days passed, that experience came - I grew stronger and more sure of myself and my ability to take care of my child. And now, Vaishali and I know each other pretty well. Each day, as she discovers more and more about herself, the world she lives in, and the people who love her, we discover more about her. Between her father and I, we know how to make her smile. We know that lots of kisses from her papa will irritate her, unless its first thing in the morning and she's just woken up. We know that after she's had her pureed squash or sweet potatoes, she likes to babble with the spoon in her mouth. We know that she likes it when we firmly press her arms and legs - it calms her down. We know that we can get her to give us big, open-mouthed, spitty kisses by saying, "Kisses!!"
It has been a life-altering experience, becoming a mother. But I guess, that's what babies do! They take us on a journey that changes us from self-centered and selfish, to become more giving, more open and more loving individuals.