If it wasn’t for my lyrics for title oath, I would call this post ‘Having a baby – what they don’t tell you’. Because, now that it is 4 years since I had mine, I think I can share some of the not-so-cute and not-so-joyful aspects of motherhood.
It begins as soon as the test shows positive, and quite often because of your mental state. Oh My God did I eat anything harmful or drink in the last month? Should I walk or bend or go bowling with team at all? Then come the regular tests. God forbid you are identified with any of the pregnancy related issues (I had my TSH levels off the charts, which meant an underactive thyroid gland), begins the quest for reading and researching to answer one question – have I already harmed my baby?
Then ofcourse there are the well-wishers who are hell bent upon ensuring that you ‘eat for 2’ literally. And as is fate, in case you are blessed with morning sickness – the sight of food is sometimes enough to trigger puking. I spent a good two months carrying around disposable bags so I was always prepared. The only good thing was (the ‘good’ part can be contended by my own self 6 months after Zo was born) once I recovered one fine morning, I got back at all the food I loved with a vengeance.
Flash-forward to when you are all set to get the little kicky, squealing thing out for good, because the birth part, you get to read. Yes, so once the baby is out, you have finally entered the parenting zone. Your heart is full of the anticipation of joy that you should feel when you first see your baby. My first reaction when they brought Zo to me, wrapped in the green hospital blanket was one of awe, elevated by the dazzling lights in the OT, and all I could manage was to lift one finger and touch her cheek – before, and I am not kidding, feeling a bout of nausea prompted by the exhaustion, and throwing up in a bin they thankfully got to me on time. You think, ‘finally!’ when the truth is, it is just the beginning.
Nothing, I repeat, nothing prepares for what comes next. Part of it is physical, part hormonal, and none of it is pretty. You are in pain, you’re dead tired, and the nurse gets you the baby to feed, and you have no darn clue in the world how that works. Because, you assumed these things just happen. You assumed there would be milk enough to provide for your baby’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. You assumed that babies only want breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you assumed that while you rocked the baby, feeding her, she would fall into a deep sleep and then you would too, looking like the glowing new mother they show in Johnson and Johnson ads.
Bullshit. Turns out, this feeding business is a bitch, and if you had decided, like me, that you would not allow top feed until the baby was 3 months old, expect hell. Babies are apparently not born with the automatic ability to latch and have milk. Babies apparently think screaming can fix everything. Babies will choose to fall asleep while feeding and then be so hungry that they wake up every 15 minutes. Babies will lose weight dramatically and put you in guilt so deep, it does nothing to help. And you will end up feeling as helpless as the baby in your arms.
The environment sucks too, and frankly, people who think it is ok to make comments like ‘Ofcourse the baby will cry; there’s no milk in you!’ deserve a slap on the face. In my case, it was a nurse, and The Dude got wild at her. Everyone’s favorite sentence is – ‘Oh she’s crying, she must hungry’, irrespective of when she was fed last. Milk production and the ways of improving it, are the most important things for every woman around you, including your mother, your mother-in-law, the kaam waali bai, the neighbor aunty, the neighbor aunty’s mother-in-law, and everyone. So you are fed ghee, and Dinka laddoos and jeera water along with the lactation enhancer the doctor prescribed.
I am not sure if all that worked, but you do end up at a weight pretty much in line with what you were when the baby was inside of you at 40 weeks. You smell of milk and pee and poop and vomit and you look like hell and the pain’s still not gone and your feet like loafs of bread and the baby’s is still not the ideal weight and she’s not sleeping and you are so full of guilt for everything; especially for the fact that you have thought, not once, not twice but several times, if you were cut out for this at all. Because isn’t motherhood all about cooing babies smelling of baby powder, and happy moms gushing over them? No, it isn’t.
But it also is, sort of. I guess as time passes and you get a hang of what is probably going to be the biggest responsibility you have ever taken up for the rest of your lives, things get better. The hormones settle down, the post partum depression subsides (yes, it is a real thing), and you feel better. You sort of succeed in feeding her too. You form a routine, understand the baby’s, plan the nights and the night feeds, time your rest, and it doesn’t seem as haphazard anymore.
And ofcourse, you bond. The baby gurgles, she holds your finger, and looks for you in the crowd. She plays with everyone, but needs you after a while. She wants you to make her sleep. She has a smile reserved for you. She calms down the minute you pick her up. She strokes your cheek, tries to touch your ear. She loves you, as you love her.
And that magically makes all of the pains totally worth it.