2 years ago just for fun, my husband and I happened to go to a restaurant which had a fortune teller. The ever skeptic husband of mine, said he wanted to go to her just so he can hear all of the wrong things she says. Well. 90 per cent of what she said turned out to be accurate sounding and we both left the table in awe. But one thing she said, when I became a mother I would be less neurotic and more down to earth. Also- we would have only girls.
Well turns out my husband had some satisfaction because our first child is a boy. But she was right about one thing, I definitely calmed down.
The moment I found out I was pregnant, a light switch went off. Was it because she said what she said? Or was it for real? Either way I made up my mind that I would not let anything stress me out or my miracle. The most beautiful thing happened that I wanted so badly. That day, as the colors of the world became more brilliant in hue, I became a force field for drama and chose not to get absorbed in any thing remotely stressful to come my way. Usually a very clean and picky eater, I ate healthy still but I gave in to what my little peanut wanted. He wanted lobster ravioli? Cake for breakfast? A diet of chocolate in my third trimester? Sure. No soft drinks though.
At the same time I tried to hold on to parts of myself and not get lost. I exercised, played with my dog, went on dates with my husband and studied and even went to work while not even being paid down to the week I delivered.
Many people said that I would miss pregnancy. My friends who had babies and even other women lamented the end of pregnancy, said it would be the best time of my life. I was lucky enough to have what I called a dream pregnancy. Everything was textbook.
The truth? I don’t miss it. I hated being pregnant. There I said it.
Did I like being out of breath? Can’t see my bottom half of my body? Reflux? Not being able to have sushi? Being tired and having swollen feet? No. Did I like being in labor for 36 hours? Pushing for 3 and having to need stitches? Urinary retention and having to be catheterized again? Postpartum retention wasn't pleasant either.
3 days of cluster feeding followed, at one point 3 in the morning my husband ended up holding baby up next to me on the bed so I could breastfeed because I fell asleep having not slept for 3 days. I gushed blood when I went to use the bathroom - embarrassed because I made a mess on the floor and trying to clean it up because I didn’t want the nurses to see it. Let’s not talk about that first time having to use the restroom after giving birth. It’s worse than giving birth. At least I had an epidural during labor!
No one prepared me for pregnancy or postpartum. Everyone made it sound magical. It was not magical.
No one said what excruciating pain it would be for weeks after. That I would need high doses of Motrin to function while also on no sleep and bouts of malaise. About my blood sugar dropping if I didn’t eat on time. That my body would look not like myself. That there were times I would just sit on the bed and burst into tears because I hated myself for hating this time. Because I loved my boy and I never blamed him for any of it.
I’d do it all over again to have him.
So it’s not complaining, it’s fact. These are things which had to happen so I could meet my little peanut. I don’t regret it and actually I feel like a total bad ass after having done it. I’ve seen what my body can do, I’m in awe of it.
This is natural. This is child birth. This is what women do every single day.
Some have it worse- c sections, way worse stitches, episiotomies, child loss, sick babies, some long to experience it. Some don’t have a partner to help. I know how blessed I am.
Its not easy as a woman. You want to maintain your femininity, your intimacy, and take care of a human. And if you're also a professional, continue to work on your career and your passions.
So, you breastfeed, sleep less, cook the meals, do the laundry, put the baby to sleep then wait to shower, shave your legs, blow dry your hair, internally distress about your new body shape then have to try to push it aside, wear a nice nightgown, spray perfume, take a deep breath then climb into bed and become a wife again.
And let’s not even talk about getting back on the intimacy train. The biggest thing to consider is the psychological wall to climb over, in addition to the pain.
I’m grateful I have the most patient, gentle and sweetest husband in the whole world which makes me feel no pressure in any instance from taking care of the baby to when it comes down to us as a couple and we deal with it as a team. He was made to be a dad. He encourages me to be my best self, as a mother and a professional. He celebrates my tiny victories. He makes this easier.
There are moments I would never take back in a million years- the day after delivery where it was a rainy day, all 3 of us bundled on the hospital bed listening to our favorite playlist, to now with the four of us - Eggsy our puppy always near us.
Now that the awful 4th trimester is over I can finally enjoy being a mom. What are the things I love about my new role? As baby is growing, the pain subsided and the breastfeeding became easy. This is actually my favorite part, I love that bonding with him. I love the smiles we get as he’s waking up and sees me or his daddy, I love seeing his little personality develop and all of his quirks and steady development. We read together, dance together, our sleeping has normalized. Now that we are -developing a little routine, I’m eager to feel like myself again or at least my new self.
I still don’t like seeing my postpartum body or the fact that my pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit me like they used to. I want to be proud of the way I look and for once I’m not scared of a work out. My body has been stretched to its limit and back. It can take on 40mins at the gym. If anything I feel like now I have no excuse. I respect my body and now I want to feed it with only good things because it deserves it. It also deserves some chocolate when it wants.
I want to develop better habits for myself, for the sake of my son. If that makes sense. He makes us want to be better. We want him to grow up knowing who his parents truly are. The hard workers who always persist and dream big. The ones who take pride in taking care of their bodies and minds. The ones who make time for not only him but for each other. So he can learn through observing us. To eventually become his own person, not defined by what we place on him and we are not defined by him.
My life has been turned upside down. My normal is not what it used to be and it never will be. I have a new normal. It consists of a life where I strive to ensure my son is as happy and healthy as he can be and grows into a good person. A productive member of society.
But does that mean I also stop being a productive member of society? I already put his needs first, should I forgo my physical and mental health, my professional life? My career? I spent 10 years working on my career. I’m not yet where I want to be.
So yes, despite comments like “I don’t know how you leave him” and “I feel like you try to spend the least time possible with him” I still wake up, feed him, dote on him, have our morning dance, I pump, put out milk for him, get him to sleep, make time to get ready and I am off to a conference or work while he’s watched by the nanny, I leave midway to pump again in the car, come back in, discuss real world issues and how to tackle them or teach my students and then I head home. The next day I might do the same but take an hour to go to the gym. I write while he sleeps. I cook for my family. I feed him again. I do the laundry. I bathe him. I play with my puppy. I spend time doting over my husband when he comes home and the four of us spend time together. We’d rather be nowhere else. We share the responsibilities. And I’ll do it all again tomorrow.
Do I worry that he will resent me for it? I do. Do I worry that I will miss a big milestone? Perhaps while teaching a medical student something that might save someone’s life one day I might miss the first time he crawls or another first?
I won’t lie, the first few days of getting back to work were indeed difficult. He was 2.5 months. But instead of being exhausted from caring for a baby all day and a puppy and just wanting time to myself- now all I do is long to go home to hold him and when I get there I spend all time with him being his mummy.
There are a lot of self doubts and guilt and question marks. I’m figuring it out day by day. But there’s one thing I’m sure of, that this boy knows how much he is loved. And by continuing my self care, I remember someone who also needs nurturing- me.