Last weekend we drove down to Kottayam to visit our new niece who hasn't been named yet. She is two weeks old now and sooooo tiny. Here she is with her doting uncle and adoring cousin...
She fits into the crook of one arm and her tiny fist fits on to the end of her uncle's little finger
It was great to have an infant sleeping in the crook of my arm once again. I think one appreciates a newborn better when it's someone else's baby! For one, I was not sore and hurting all over. And then, I just had to hand her over when she needed to be changed or fed!!
Jokes apart, I must admit that motherhood has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my life so far. A lot of women commented recently after watching the Blessy movie Kalimannu that they would love to conceive once again just for the sake of enjoying the pregnancy and infant care like Shwetha does in the movie. I have no such regrets because I thoroughly enjoyed both my pregnancies - even with all the discomforts and scares - it is a very special feeling to be able to nurture another being within and feel all their movements. I used to talk to both my babies, rubbing my tummy wherever I felt them move. Ahh, sweet memories.
There is nothing like motherhood to build character too. I hate getting injections. Even today when I go for a blood test, I look away and tense up when the needle comes near. But when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in my first pregnancy, I pricked my fingertips four times to check my blood sugar and gave myself three insulin shots EACH DAY for three months. Nothing but the concern for the well-being of my child could have made me do that!
Each pregnancy and each baby is unique. You learn things as you go along. Here are some things that I learned along my journey of pregnancy and motherhood...
- Knowledge is power: Read up on pregnancy and newborn care. Dr. Spock's classic book and What to Expect When You are Expecting are great. My only problem with the latter is that they also a outline all that can go wrong in each month of pregnancy in gory detail. So I just looked at the first part of each chapter at the beginning of that month.
- It is okay to be scared: Starting with fears of losing the baby during pregnancy, I graduated to checking my firstborn's breath with a trembling forefinger each time he slept quietly for more than half an hour at a stretch. I still remember those long periods when I used to stare at his sleeping form and wonder how in the world I was going to bring up this morsel of humanity as a sound and upright citizen of the world when I myself was so far from perfect. The answer is: Have faith and take one day at a time.You will be more confident with your second child!
- The best child-soothing method: The 5S method of Dr. Harvey Karp - swaddling, side, shushing, swinging and sucking. I think his DVD should be part of a new-parent kit everywhere. We were failing dismally at trying to soothe our firstborn when we heard of this DVD. It was like getting a magic wand. Some things that astonished us - newborns don't like absolute silence! They WANT to be closely confined in a receiving blanket! They should be cuddled and carried close till they are three months old!
- Adapt to the baby's schedule: I took on too much with our first baby. I did my chores in the daytime when he was sleeping and was kept awake at night when he didn't want to sleep. Result: by the end of one month, I was almost ready to be straitjacketed with lack of sleep. Lesson learned. Sleep during the day time when the baby sleeps. Do your chores when he is awake at night. That way you'll save yourself from insanity.
- You CAN take care of a newborn by yourself: I've seen that Indian women have been tutored to think that new mothers are incapable of looking after a baby by themselves. Wrong. I bathed, changed and took care of both my babies all along. Three months after the birth of the first one and one month after that of the second, I was back to handling everything at home on my own. It's great to have these duties taken off one's hands if there are people around, but it is by no means impossible to do it all by oneself.
- Each child is on a unique schedule: From the moment a baby is born, people start asking, "Has the baby turned over on his tummy yet?" "Has he started crawling/teething/walking?" There is no fixed age for all this. My firstborn teethed at 7 months, my younger one still had no teeth on his first birthday! My cousin's son didn't wait to crawl - he just started walking at 5 months! So please don't compare your baby's milestones to that of others and worry about it. Only the outer time limits set for each milestone should be used as a guide.
- All parenting styles are valid: Some parents go about with boiled water and sterilized cups for their babies and children. Others use tap water. Some allow their kids to eat street food, others don't. Some let their kids mingle with neighbor's kids, others don't. Some put their children in a crib in a separate nursery once they are home, others put two double beds together and get the whole family to sleep together till the kids go off to college or get married. You make your own rules for your family or follow the rules that you inherited. They are all valid!!!
Here are some pregnancy and child care myths that I busted :) :
- New mother has to rest on her back as much as possible for the first three months: Naah!
- New mother should not read because it will spoil her eyes: Naaaaaaah!!! But then I was already severely myopic! :)
- Holding babies for a long time even while sleeping will make them reluctant to be put down later: Naah! In fact, they need that cuddling for the first three months to complete their brain development according to Dr. Harvey Karp.
- New mother should have her stomach bound tightly to get tummy back in shape: It is better to do exercises that strengthen the abs and remember to straighten your back by holding in the tummy muscles.
Above all, enjoy your children's childhood along with them. Enjoy holding tight on to those tiny fingers and listening to their tall stories. Cuddle down with them whenever you can. Tickle them like anything, do any amount of clowning to hear that laughter. Watch them while they are sleeping and feel your heart ready to burst with love. Their childhood is a God-gifted chance for you to become a child again. Enjoy it while it lasts!!!