10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Mother

The last year, 13 months to be exact, have been such a whirlwind! Finding time to balance being a new mommy, losing the weight, not losing my mind, starting 2 businesses, growing 2 businesses, finding time for self, all while safeguarding the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of a baby is mind-numbing when I take the time to reflect over it all. Needless to say, I’ve had my ups and downs this last year and I’m grateful to have found the time to rank, in no particular order, the top 10 things I’ve learned as a new mother:

1. No one knows your baby better than you. Therefore, when you don’t know what to do; trust your instincts. While those days seems like a distant memory, I remember the constant crying and becoming so frustrated that I really didn’t know what to do. Since I am a perfectionist who is uberly protective of her baby, I didn’t look to anyone else to assist me, so I opted to implement the techniques regarding how to calm a screaming baby that I read and watched DVDs about. Sometimes they worked, other times they didn’t. When they didn’t, my maternal instinct would kick in and I would know exactly what to do, and it would always work. It always gave me great satisfaction to know I met each and every need my baby had, every moment of every day.

2. It’s okay to let your baby cry if you need to leave the room for a moment to regain your sanity. I must admit that while all of the literature said this, I was skeptical–until I tried it for myself. I will never forget the day I was completely at my wits end, my baby girl was crying incessantly, and nothing I did worked quick enough to my satisfaction on this particular day. I thought the only solution was to jump out of a 2nd story window because that pain would have been lesser than the glaring screams of a 2 month old who couldn’t be consoled. Then it hit me: make sure she’s safely lying down, with nothing near her that could be a potential choke hazard, and leave the room. With just me and a crying baby in the house; I went to the bathroom, closed the door, and cried. Inhaled. Exhaled. Cried some more. Eventually, I felt a million times better. This monumental moment didn’t last more than 5 minutes (because instinctively I worried and didn’t want to leave my baby alone for too long), but it was 5 of the most refreshing minutes of my life. I felt re-energized and walked into the “room of perpetual crying” ready to console my baby, patience restored. That “break” gave me the confidence I needed to be assured that my baby wouldn’t break if she cried alone for a little while.

3. One day your baby won’t cry as much. While my funds were more limited than they had been in years, there is no money that could replace the experience of staying at home with my baby. As a result, I was able to see her develop from one stage to the next. During what’s know as “the period of purple crying,” I longed for the days for that to cease, however I now appreciate going through each and every moment with her, on my own because I believe it taught me some things I otherwise wouldn’t have learned if someone else was caring for her throughout the day. I now know for myself that the crying was just a phase and pretty soon she would be interacting with me on a daily basis sans crying (barring feeding or changing time). I also learned that a baby doesn’t need a pacifier. The counselor in me was against pacifiers from the start, as I believe the root issue(s) should be resolved instead of pacified, but there was one day I gave in and stuck this rubbery trinket in her mouth, only for her to spit it out. I tried again, she responded the same. This was an “ah ha” moment for me as I realized an infant’s needs are finite—they need to eat, have on a clean diaper, and  to be loved. If the former two are taken care of, overdosing on the third is all that’s left. After that day, I refused to force her to take pacification and I take pride in knowing that eventually her mommy was able to love her through her tears.  I now breathe a sign of relief and pat myself on the back for making it through, and can emphatically say, “one day your baby won’t cry as much!”

4. Take pictures of everything and save them in more than one place. As the days and months fly by, make time to reminisce over the memories. My child is now 13 months old and has over 5,000 pictures and there’s nothing more satisfying than scrolling through, seeing her growth, noticing how she has changed, and remembering those moments that now seem like forever ago. It’s a breath-taking experience so snap away! Also, video tape and journal milestones. Trust me, you will forget some things. Having photographic, video-graphic, and written evidence helps when they are older and there are additional items added to your to-do list :).

5. No matter what, be the best mother you can be. This advice was given to me in one of the congratulatory cards I received. The timing of receipt was perfect, in that I read the card on a “rough day” when I was questioning myself and how I would be able to handle everything-was I doing everything within my power not to damage my child and to make sure she grew up to be a functional citizen equipped to compete within the global market (yes, this is how I really think-I’m rearing a business owner, after all :)). This line spoke to me because so many mothers compare themselves and compete with each other, further separating a group of people who should really come together and work, as there is much to be learned from one each other. This lesson taught me that I can only operate within my limitations and I can only be who I am and that’s okay because that’s exactly why I was created :). The way I parent may not be the way you parent and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me better, nor does it make you better. It makes us different. It makes us human. No matter what, be the best mother YOU can be.

6. It’s okay to ask for help. It takes a village. This task was a difficult one for me because I am a control freak who wants everything to go her way. For countless reasons, I obviously needed help at various points in time and am eternally grateful to my village. Sharing experiences and words of advice and encouragement was exactly what I needed. As a result, my child has an extensive network of aunts, uncles, and cousins who can all grow, learn, and love together. Our communities need to become communities again and stop alienating ourselves from one another, as we weren’t created to be alone and accepting help from a person may be the healing they need to make it through a storm in their life (read that again if you didn’t catch it). It’s not about you, but how you operate and communicate with others. We need each other in all we do.

7. Remember the goals you had before you became a mother and continue to work towards them. It’s very easy to get caught up in taking care of everything and everyone and forget self. I don’t believe anyone was created to accomplish only one thing in life, therefore motherhood is one accomplishment on a list of great things you can achieve. While keeping your goals or creating new goals will benefit you personally, it will also benefit your child to see you in a variety of roles so they can gain the confidence they need to tackle the world. One day they will grow up and leave (and from what I’m told, this day comes faster than we’d like), and it will help you better transition if you do more than be “so and so’s mom” or “so and so’s wife.” Even if it’s a hobby you enjoy like knitting, knit to your heart’s content. When your child is 18 and you send him or her off to college, you will then have a ton of knitted goodies you can them market and sell (yes, I want to turn the world into entrepreneurs ;)). On a more personal note, because my pregnancy wasn’t planned, as MY plan was to start my business in 2012, I was more determined as ever not to “get lost” in my role as mother. I knew my life’s purpose long before I became pregnant and because it is a divine purpose; I knew it must be fulfilled. There were times when I didn’t know how I would get everything done, but it took concerted effort, eliminating excuses, balance, and follow through on a consistent basis.

8. Your friends who aren’t mothers don’t really understand. However well-intentioned there is no way this experience can be substituted or merely viewed through the lens of adorable Facebook and Instagram pictures and videos. You have to fight in this war and earn the battle wounds to truly know what being a mother is all about. I admit, I thought babysitting family members or talking to my friends who were already mothers gave me the intel I needed, but it only scratched the surface. For the aforementioned reasons alone, it is imperative to form a network of mothers on whom you can rely when times become stressful because when you do not have all of the words to describe it, they “know” because they’ve been there and will know exactly what to say to best comfort you.

9. Trust God. When I’m having a difficult day, this is all I have to remember and I can trust God because of my history with Him. I know for myself He won’t leave or forsake me, giving me who or what I need at the right timing (how many times have I mentioned timing in this post?). When I don’t understand God’s will, I totally trust His plan.

10. God chose you for a reason~you can do this. As cliched as it sounds, we really aren’t given more than we can handle. When it feels like you are stretched to the brink, consider it a growth spurt. That experience is strengthening you for what’s to come and as long as you don’t give up; you will reap your reward!

Hopefully my lessons will provide enough insight to encourage another new mother on her journey. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing more as my motherhood adventure travels into a place known as Toddlerville :).

*Disclaimer: these are MY lessons and in no way am I saying that if you did something differently or not at all, then you are a bad mother, as this isn’t a comparative piece. These are MY lessons learned while on MY journey. When in doubt, reread #5 and have a great day! 

Shanika

 

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Simplicity

Wow….I haven’t blogged since August!!! This is mainly because I have dived head first into motherhood and quite frankly the blog took a back seat to my precious baby girl (understandably so). I have learned countless lessons throughout the last few months and I am excited to share them as appropriate.

One of the biggest lessons is to keep things simple. This is hard for me because I am Ms. Fabulous~LOL! When I initially started this blog, I had so many ideas and I could see the end game of where the blog would grow, and as a result; blogging became a burden. I couldn’t keep up with the demands of motherhood, person-hood  and the blogosphere. Therefore, I decided to take a step back and enjoy the journey, starting with me revamping the blog by taking away some of the pages I initially created. I am certain they will come back in time, but right now I need to focus on enhancing my writing, staying present in the moment, and allow growth to naturally unfold.

I am a big dreamer and an avid analyzer. This results in me creating a plan and an outcome in my mind. I also am able to see the different possibilities and I create a plan for the possibilities of outcomes that haven’t even happen. As you can imagine, my thought processes can become very complex, as I like to be prepared for each and every curve that may occur. One of my mottoes is “my back up plan has a back up plan.” One definite about motherhood is as soon as you have a plan in place, your baby changes, and you must adapt accordingly. Hence, a successful mother is one who is flexible, but most importantly; she has to be present or else she’ll awake one day and will wonder what happened and when did her baby become an adult.

That being said, while I know the blog will be successful and I know how it fits into my overall plan, I am stepping back and focusing on writing: plain and simple.

Not an easy feat for someone like me, but a necessary learning experience for someone like me.

I look forward to staying the course in keeping the blog current and I thank you in advance for following and engaging!

 

~Shanika

simplicity

 

The Audacity of Motherhood

I’m 33 years old and I’ve become a mother for the first time on July 10, 2012.

I delivered my baby girl after a 39 week and 1 day pregnancy.

For the majority of those 39 weeks I like many other expectant mothers, was subjected to countless amounts of unsolicited advice. However well-intentioned, it became rather annoying, often leaving me with a feeling of being robbed of my experience/my journey into motherhood. I get that mothers want to share their lessons learned, but boundaries need to be set, as each pregnancy is as different as the women carrying these babies. The eagerness to give advice often takes away from the joy of learning about and experiencing the abundant, mysterious wonders in carrying a child. Further, uninvited advice can come across as condescending.  

Even now that my daughter is a whopping 15 days old (lol), the advice does not stop (not that I thought it would) and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sick of it all by now. I’m the type of person who will ask a question and solicit opinions if there is something I want to know, therefore someone telling me what to do without provocation is beyond absurd to me. “If you want to preach a sermon, go to church” has become my new motto.

If I want to go shopping prior to my 6 week check up, I will.

If I want to spend $1000 dollars on an outfit my daughter will only wear once, I will.

If I want my child’s first language to be Cantonese, it will.

If tomorrow I want to drive myself to get some ice cream, I will.

If I want to stop breast feeding my child, I will.

If I want to home school, I will.

If I don’t want you to hold my child, you won’t.

If I don’t want my child to play with your child, she won’t.

If I don’t want my child to play with dolls, she won’t.

If I don’t want my child to watch cartoons, she won’t.

If I want my child to listen to gangsta rap, she will.

If I decide my child is better off starting a business instead of going to college, she will.

If I allow my child to watch a reality television show, that is my prerogative.

If I want to be a yellow flower in a sea of red flowers, I will.

No matter what outlandish scenario I can think of, the point is that each person who becomes a parent has tough decisions to make as it relates to the rearing of their offspring and I happen to believe most parents do the best they can for their children. While their choices may differ from yours, that doesn’t make them wrong or their decision of lesser quality than yours. Outside of her father, whose opinion I value tremendously, I really don’t want to hear what anyone has to say about the choices I make as a mother for my child. This may sound crass, however if you think about it; who put YOU in charge of telling mothers what to do? Who died and made you queen mother, hunty?!?! Lol! I’m certain that if a roundtable discussion was had, the group could think of some ways in which you could be a better mother, so think about that before you offer your two cents on another woman’s situation.

Ultimately, I’ve decided I will have the audacity to make whatever decisions I deem necessary for me and my family and I won’t allow the input of others to cloud my better judgement or make me feel as if I have to be like other mothers out of fear of being labeled a “bad mother.”

If there is an area in which I need help, I will ask. Otherwise, don’t tell me anything. This is my journey and I ask that you respect that.

Planned

After announcing to my friends and family that I was pregnant, a few people asked me if I had planned it. This seemed to be one of the most absurd questions I’ve ever encountered, given I am not a married woman and given that I have always been vocal about wanting to be married prior to becoming a mom. It baffled me to the point to where I questioned who I have been in my life, as my question quite naturally was, “what about me says I would intentionally become a single mother?” In my mind, perhaps it would make more sense if I were much older, but given the fact that I haven’t succumbed to societal pressures to be married by a certain age; that should have been a clear indication that I don’t care what people say about what I “should” be doing in my life. 

 

Let’s be clear, I have been proposed to more than once in my life, 3 times to be exact, and twice by the same person (the first time I said “no” and the second time I said “hell no” because he obviously didn’t hear me the first time he asked. we broke up shortly thereafter). This is a fact I don’t think I have shared with anyone, because when asked, I knew they weren’t my husband, so there really was no need to involve my friends or family in something that would never be because that would undoubtedly lead to annoying questions and unnecessary pressure stemming from their projections. 

 

In theory, if I was concerned about what people thought about my marital status, I had 3 opportunities in my 20’s to do something about it. Thankfully, I was secure enough in myself to not give in, just to have the pleasure of saying I could change my last name, have the big wedding and reception, only to pacify the public, while denying my true desires, wants, and needs. Had I gotten married at those times, my priorities would have changed and I probably would not have gone back to school for my Masters degree until much later, if at all.

Many also know that I spent a bulk of my 20’s taking care of family members, which meant I often traveled to my hometown several times throughout each month, before I eventually resigned from my position and moved there when the travelling became too physically and emotionally draining. Had I been married, I’m certain that scenario would have played out differently, as I wouldn’t have been able to up and leave my husband and who knows; I could have also had kids by that point, which would have made traveling to Florence much more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with my dad before he passed away. I learned so much in those last months and many questions from my childhood finally received answers. That experience was the type of self healing that can only occur when you are able to put self first. I also got to fulfill some promises I made to my grandmother before she passed away.

Again, if I had a husband or children, there is no way I could have accomplished what I was able to do for them. Only a single person with no major responsibilities outside of the typical bills could get done what I got done. The conversations I was able to have with my grandparents before my grandmother left shed light on so many things and also gave me answers I needed in moving forward. Even when things went berserk after my grandmother passed away, I had peace because I knew. I have peace, because I know. 

 

My 20’s were spent concentrating on myself, my education, my career, and my family of origin. Keeping that focus allowed me to not have any regrets. I never thought time was running out on the marriage and kids front, because 30 isn’t old in my opinion. I still had more I wanted to accomplish in my career. I eventually went back to school to increase the knowledge I believed I needed to enhance that career, and in my mind 2012 was my year to make the career moves I was unable to make because I spent so much time making sure I wasn’t more than a quick drive away from home. This was my time to open that business, so to get knocked up in 2011 was far from any plan I had for my life. At the time, I was in a great relationship with a man unlike any other I’ve dated and I was content with seeing where that would grow. However, missing my period wasn’t planned. 

 

Every fear I’ve ever had was actualized in the moment when the results of that pregnancy test came back. My mom reared us without a husband, so I knew first hand the difficult road I had ahead of me. Disappointment in myself also set in, as I couldn’t logically think of how in the world I could have gotten pregnant after never having so much as a pregnancy scare in my 32 years of life. I had prided myself on being able to live the dream of graduating from high school, going to college and graduating, going back to college and graduating, and finding myself working in a career with young girls who saw me as an example they should follow.

That gave me joy and much pride, as I was able to show them that you did not have to give in to pressure and it is okay to wait to have sex (there were several years of celibacy during this time period). All of my years of work, all of those group sessions, all of those individual conversations seemed to drip down my face with each tear that flowed. I thought I had let down everyone, including myself and God. Being the book smart person I am, I knew I could continue to work with young ladies and have my testimony serve as a “look at what can happen to you” story, however, I did not want to be the stereotypical single mother who now works as a mentor showing young ladies there is a better way than the path she took. I preferred being the “this is how you can live your life and still be content and happy” mentor where my life and my choices were the choices to make. Why would someone like me choose to eat so many words shared over the years?

 

After disappointment came denial. There was no freaking way I was pregnant. No way whatsoever. I ignored it and carried on with my life as if I never received the results of both home pregnancy tests. I convinced myself that the sickness I was feeling was from that stupid job that I hated. They made me sick daily. And since I never vomited like most pregnant women do, then that means I wasn’t pregnant in my mind. The queasiness I felt with certain smells were because I was weening myself off of fatty foods and apparently I was doing great on my diet because the smell of this garbage turned my stomach. Yay fruits and veggies! 

 

After denial, rationalization. In my “book smart” mind, I knew statistically most first pregnancies ended in miscarriage, so I chose to wait out the month of December. I received no medical care because I just knew I would miscarry. Everyday, several times a day, I went to the restroom and looked for blood in the toilet. Abortion was never an option, but in my mind if I had a miscarriage, that would have been God’s natural way of warning me “this too could happen to you” and I would have learned my lesson. Nearing the end of December, the blood never came, and I knew I had to tell my mom. At this point only the dad and one other friend knew that I “thought” I was pregnant. But somehow, I knew I had to tell my mom. Well, I did and she didn’t believe me which pissed me off, so again I went back into denial. After the first of the year, my relationship is more rocky and while I’m no genius in math; I knew the last time I had my period was in October which meant by this point, I was a couple months pregnant. I made the decision to get over myself and make a doctor’s appointment. 

 

I got a big surprise when at the doctor’s office they told me I was pregnant. *Insert sarcasm* What was shocking to me was that I was already out of my first trimester. Those fools told me I was 14 weeks pregnant! I looked at the nurse and said, “I’m in my second trimester.” In a “duh” kind of tone she said, “Yes.” She then slapped that cold gel on my belly and for the first time I heard my baby’s heartbeat. I didn’t say a word, but tears flowed endlessly down my cheeks. I don’t know if they were happy tears or sad tears, but it felt real in that moment. My denial and rationalization turned to guilt. I began to hope I hadn’t done anything to hurt my baby. I couldn’t stop crying because in that very moment I wanted nothing but happiness for this child. I finally accepted the fact that I was indeed pregnant. 

 

I began to tell others. Many of the reactions were disbelief and I understood why. I went through it myself. But I still couldn’t and can’t fathom why anyone who truly knows me would think I would plan something like this. I know we live in a day and time where self-proclaimed “independent women” willingly becoming single mothers and profess to want to do it on their own, but I am a clinically-trained therapist who understands the psycho-social reasons behind why it’s best that children have 2 parents. As a woman who has accepted Christ as her savior years ago, I know what God thinks of pre-martial sex, marriage as a covenant, and parenting as a ministry. As a child from a single-parent household, I know life as a single parent won’t be all cheese omelets and walks on the beach. 

 

This journey has also taught me not to beat myself up too much because as much as we plan out our lives, sometimes a bigger plan comes in and trumps it all. A part of me accepting I was pregnant was because I realized many women were trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully. I also realized that women were getting pregnant but not able to carry full term. I began noticing articles where women were blessed with children only to abuse them in some of the most unimaginable ways. Seeing and experiencing these things led to me asking God to forgive me for ever wishing ill of my pregnancy, as there obviously was a reason He kept me and this baby. He chose me to be a mother at this point in my life for some reasons that have already unfolded and others I’m sure will continue to unfold. And while I know God is not pleased with my actions, I thank Him for his grace and mercy. I thank Him for forgiveness. I thank Him for keeping His promises to me despite my shortcomings to Him. From disappointment to denial to rationalization to incredibly humbled is where I now stand.

 

 

As I sit here today at 31 weeks and 2 days pregnant with a little girl I have yet to meet and am already completely and totally in love with; I have reached the point where I again say I am not concerned with what others think. I will continue to work towards my goals, perhaps more diligently now than ever now that I have another reason not to fail. I will continue to let people know God is good even when we are not. I will let my child know she is not a mistake and she is here for a reason. Every life God creates has a purpose~each and every one. I will teach her to be who God created her to be and not fall prey to what others think she should be or do in her life. She will be taught to make plans for her life, but to ultimately submit to the plan of the One who gave her life, as ultimately that’s the only plan that will manifest anyway. 

 

The Circle of Life

Written 02-23-12

Tomorrow is the day I’m hoping to find out if I am having a boy or girl. I’ve made it clear a want a girl, however my son would receive just as much love. Truthfully, I’m afraid of having a boy as my biggest fear is having to, as a single mother, rear a Black man. That task seems to be one I can’t tackle the way I would want to, with my Black husband by my side. At any rate, regardless of the sex; I hope to have a very healthy and loving child.

The biggest reason I want a girl is because I want to name her after my paternal grandmother. I secretly hope to have a piece of her back here with me because I miss her soooo much. I also want that unique mother-daughter bond. I want to teach her to be a better woman than I am. I envision a bright, beautiful face with a large, curly afro. I can’t wait to teach her to love her black skin and kinky hair.

I really want to alleviate from her life all insecurities I had as a young girl. I want to tell her all of the things I wanted to hear. I don’t ever want her to feel as if I don’t understand her or what she’s feeling or going through. Essentially I want to heal my childhood wounds by loving her the way I wish I was loved.

Black families don’t always verbally express love, it’s often implied. Sometimes we need to hear it.

This isn’t about not knowing I was loved. This is about giving love the best way in which the person receives it, however in order to do that; one must take the time to get to know the individual on a level that transcends the day-to-day routine. Each child is unique and it is the parent’s responsibility to lay the foundation for such uniqueness to flourish.

This can be a difficult task if there is more than one child in the household, or if you’re a single mother doing it all by yourself, or with little help. Even in two parent households, this task is a challenging feat with all of the roles each parent has. However, we owe this to our children so that when they are parents they will know how to best express love.

To My Unborn Child

Written 02-22-12

You aren’t here yet and sometimes I still can’t believe I’m going to be a mother. Your mother. There are times I wonder if I am ready. I also wonder if I will be a good mother to you. The last thing I ever want to do is fail you.

I receive and accept that God is bringing you into my life for a reason and I believe wholeheartedly He will give me what I need to bring out His purpose in you. Therefore, I wanted to let you know that I promise to always give the BEST of me to you.

I promise to strive to be the type of mother who can recognize that while you are my child, you ultimately belong to God and I must always submit to His will for your life, even if it differs from what I want for you.

I pray that you grow up to be a healthy, happy and caring person who knows God personally and intimately, realizing your life isn’t about you and remembering that you are a child who is unconditionally loved by your mother, but most importantly God.

You are NOT a mistake and you WILL do great things.

All my love,

Mommy