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

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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.

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