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After giving birth to my boy, Jed, in November, I feel like I can never go through the whole pregnancy process again.
Then I wonder how the older generation did it, like my paternal grandmother who gave birth to nine kids!
Even my own parents, with their humble beginnings, managed to bring up my two siblings and me. And that gives me hope as I worry about the finances of bringing up a child in Singapore today — I guess it boils down to the lifestyle you want for your family.
But as I look forward to celebrating my first Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’m suddenly struck by a newfound sense of identity.
I’m 30 this year and I’m a mum.
How has my life changed?
Going through life as a new mum with greater responsibilities, have my priorities changed?
Last month, I returned to work after four months of maternity leave, and thankfully, the back-to-work blues cleared just after a week back with my colleagues.
Yet I’m still trying to adjust and cope with the changes that have taken place in my life.
Challenges of a new mum
Motherhood hasn’t been the easiest thing.
I have always been efficient at time management but being a mother has left me with the feeling of never having enough time!
Feeding, bathing, changing, and otherwise taking care of my baby’s basic needs is enough to be kept occupied for the entire day.
It seems as if I barely have a minute for myself to relax or space out before something happens that needs my attention: Housework, baby care, and what parent can ignore the call of a crying baby for long?
Breastfeeding my baby means having to express milk every three hours or so. And any breastfeeding mum can tell you that not only is it time-consuming, but the repetitive process is exhausting — both physically and mentally.
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On physical tiredness, even not considering the overwhelming process of giving birth, postpartum challenges include having to deal with the many body changes. Don’t talk to me about stretch marks, loss of figure, hair loss, and the numerous aches and pains that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere!
Talking about mental exhaustion, I can’t help but wonder how I can be a better parent so that my baby meets all the growth and developmental milestones that babies at different months are supposed to hit.
I can’t help it. I’m turning into a kiasu parent. And it sometimes leaves me feeling depressed and helpless.
I sometimes feel as if I no longer recognise myself anymore.
I remember feeling very lost when I first started caring for Jed. The learning curve was steep — just when I thought I figured him out, the next day his crying pattern would change and it really affected me quite a bit.
But slowly, along the way as Jed grows month after month, I have grown more confident and tell myself that change is the only constant (but definitely no change in my love for him)! Giving myself time and space to have my quiet time really helped me come to many terms with myself.
Instead of dwelling in negativity and complaining about the changes in my life as a new mum, why not learn to embrace it as a new chapter of a new me?
It also dawned on me that being a parent was the path my husband and I chose and so I have to learn to embrace these new changes taking place.
Reflecting on this, I’ve realised that with a change of perspective, life has not been all that bad after all. And I’ve learned to cherish each change as they come.
When I returned to work, I remember the relief I felt after sending Jed for infant care the first time. Yet, it was a strange sensation, because before I knew it, I found myself missing my baby during lunch!
Realising that my son will always be never far from my thoughts has opened my eyes to what parenting really is about.
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Embracing how my life has changed has also helped me and my hubby truly cherish the little joys that come with being first-time parents.
Now that Jed is a little older and able to interact with us, I feel the excitement of being able to engage with him in more activities.
We are taking him out more and it never fails to make me smile when people praise him. Even a simple “Wah, your boy very guai ah, will lie down there by himself and play, no need for us to carry”, gives my hubby and me a secret burst of joy.
Here’s to crossing our fingers that Jed can stay this way!
Little moments that matter
I do count my blessings, recalling the many kind gestures extended to me and my baby.
When we go for walks in my neighbourhood, people (strangers even) would hold lift doors for me, take interest in talking to the baby, and even ask after our family.
An elderly couple living two units from us gave us a red packet and baby gift sets when they found out about Jed. It is especially heartwarming to hear from them that they were actually delighted (and not upset!) to hear a baby crying in the block after so many years of living there.
I have also received many words of concern, encouragement, and reminders to exercise self-care from strangers when they realised that I have just given birth.
But none of that beats seeing the smile on my son’s face whenever we play with him. Or how my husband would tell me that he is so happy at this point in our lives, even though it seems that we are so busy just keeping up with Jed’s needs!
Even though it seems like we’ve had to sacrifice our personal time and space as a couple, I am often encouraged by wise words from friends who have been through parenthood: Treasure each moment now, because “kids grow up really fast!” they say.
I’ve become a better version of myself
Having that grateful mentality helped to distract me from my complaints and gave me a hopeful outlook on life.
The challenges of a mum have shaped me to become a better version of myself.
With time being so tight, having to care for the baby and keeping up with the demands of a working mother and wife, I’m learning to better plan ahead so that time is well spent and prioritised wisely.
I have also learnt about the importance of waiting to do the right thing at the right time and this has helped me be less impulsive and be more mindful of others.
As a new parent, I’m starting to share my experiences with friends and people around me — I’ve started a private Instagram account to capture all of Jed’s adventures so we can look back on the journey together when he gets older!
To all who may be going through a hard time in life or simply cannot cope with the changes that may be overwhelming at times, remember that when we persist, we grow.
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We are the drivers of happiness in our lives so let’s choose to be happy. By changing our perspective and putting on a hopeful lens, we can live our life to the fullest, and leave no space for negativity.
As Mother’s Day comes, I want to thank my mum for being my example. I look up to her as a strong working mother — definitely stronger mentally and emotionally as compared to her cry-baby daughter!
I am grateful that she is so strong to bring me up and give me a life where I need not have to worry about my basic needs and grow to become who I am today.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mums out there!