This is certainly the easiest part of the motherhood journey. Being pregnant is a glorious, life changing experience, although some women would differ with the ‘glorious’ part. If ever I have to choose my gender during my reincarnation, I would choose female each time, just to experience special the journey of nurturing life inside of me.
Some people ask, how does it feel to be pregnant? It feels natural. Your body naturally adjusts as you go along, so you never realize just how big your tummy is, because it grows gradually. I had an app, which tracked the growth of the baby week by week, and I started to feel the kicks, I lived for them. I’d get to and from work in cramped matatus (how I fit through the doors and narrow spaces is another miracle ); and I’d just chill and watch my tummy make funny shapes (which scared my housemate!). Ah, I miss those times.
Also, pregnancy is easy because you don’t have to take care of the baby really, you only take care of yourself. The baby is never wet, never hungry, never cold.. he’s always fed, always warm, always with you.
Mother to newborn
The Swahili say, “kuzaa mwana si kazi, kazi ni kumlea” loosely translating to Giving birth is nothing, bringing up the child is the actual work. I agree completely.
Newborn babies are adorable, angelic, sweet-smelling, sleepy cherubs. But the few hours they are awake, they will cry maybe half the time. For a new mother, it was hard for me to know what to do. You are still recovering from the emotional and physical trauma of labour and childbirth, the baby is crying and you can’t remember the last time you slept or had a shower.
It’s at this point that many new mothers fall into post-natal depression. Suddenly, your sweet, sleeping baby is awake and no amount of changing, breastfeeding, cuddling, singing, swinging is calming him down. Do not be tempted to shake your baby! I am lucky I had support from my family, especially my mother. She was able to take care of him for a few hours so I could catch up on sleep. Let’s just say since he was born, I have had countable nights of 6-hour continuous sleep.
The first few works are tough, the baby is tiny and delicate. Needs to be fed, changed, cleaned, breastfed, rocked, held (sometimes even when sleeping). The baby will sleep during the day and keep you awake at night. However, a magic moment happens. From around 6 weeks, my baby changed his pattern and started sleeping during the night. He cried less. He started smiling! That genuine, tear-jerking toothless smile. It makes worthwhile every decision that ever brought you to that particular moment. It’s a smile that everything will be alright mummy, it’s a smile that defines true happiness.
Now my son is almost 5 months old, and he hardly ever cries. He smiles, a lot. He laughs out loud. He wants to sit. He reaches for my S4, so he can put it in his mouth. He grabs at the newspaper, but only to tear it into pieces that he can put in his mouth. He kicks a lot when he’s lying on his back, he kicks when he’s on your lap- he’s literally a bouncing baby boy.
When I come home in the evening, he will suddenly realize it’s me and reach out for me.. he isn’t stretching his hands out yet, but if I don’t hold me in the next 5 minutes he will begin to complain.
Visits to the clinic are routine, just to confirm he’s putting on weight, not losing it. Diaper changes are less often. 6-hour long stretches of sleep at night are possible.
Then you realize that yes, motherhood is not easy, but you can do it. You have what it takes. You have the strength of a woman.
It’s the hardest thing to tear yourself away from your sleeping son in the morning. He’s not awake when you kiss him bye but you know he will be reaching for you when he wakes up.
Co-workers, friends, ask me how it feels to be a mother. It’s the most natural feeling in the world. When you make sacrifices, you don’t even realize that you are doing it. When you put your baby first in every decision you make, it’s not something you force yourself to do. It doesn’t take effort to be a mother, I guess you just have to listen to your instinct.
So it is counter-intuitive to leave your very young baby in the hands of someone else for the better part of the day, but in the world we are living in, you have to make a living. I have to go out there and work my best to secure a good future (and present) for us. I have to provide a good education and good life for him; but I also have to maximize my potential and realize my academic and professional goals. It’s a hard thing to leave him every morning, but I wouldn’t do it any other way.
Perhaps if I ever have another child, I’ll plan way ahead, so I can work from home or have a flexible schedule for say, the first 3 years before the baby starts school and needs me less.
On Single Parenthood
There are many situations that lead to single motherhood, but all of them boil down to the fact the the father of the baby just isn’t there. It’s never the ideal situation, but this is not a perfect world, we make the most of what we have. Sure, it’s nice to have someone with whom to make decisions and share financial responsibilities with, whether to take the 2-dose Rotavirus vaccine or the 3-dose one; whether to buy size M or L Rompers, whether we just forget formula and give cow milk, and future decisions like which school should the baby be enrolled in. But while the law can force a man to pay child support, it can never force him to be a dad. And I will play the role of both parents to my best.
Is Single Motherhood a Trend?
The Sunday Nation a week back talked about Single Motherhood, and while I am contributing to the statistics; I do wonder why there is such stigma associated with “single motherhood”. The stigma (and accusing finger) should be pointed at the errant fathers that abandon responsibility.
I do know a few single fathers too.. somebody care to do a study?
Anyway, this isn’t a forum for discussion on the trends of parenthood in this country; this is a post about a celebration of motherhood. That life changing experience that gives meaning to life for most women. And I’m loving it.