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July 18, 2017

Before becoming a mother, I used to think I knew a fair bit about babies....

I had seen my sister raise two, and was surrounded by friends who were doing the same. Therefore, I thought I had a sense of what I was in for when I was to become a mother. Oh, how I was wrong. Although my ‘experience’ enabled me to put a nappy on the right way and sing a handful of nursery rhymes, it certainly did NOT prepare me for the whirlwind that is Motherhood.

On hearing the phrase ‘you will understand when you are a mother’, I used to feel defensive. Why? Because I thought I already understood.

Now that I am three months into motherhood, I am able to finally appreciate just how little I knew about raising a child, and more importantly, how little I understood.

And so, I would hereby like to apologise to all of the mothers who had to resort to using ‘you will understand when you are a mother’ with me. I apologise for not understanding. I apologise for being naive. I apologise for presuming, assuming, and judging.

And with every milestone that lies ahead of me and my little girl, I will keep apologising.

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now.


Naps are the Holy Grail

I vividly remember trying to organise a birthday breakfast with my sister earlier this year, while pregnant (my pregnancy craving was eggs – so many eggs) and getting frustrated with her difficulty in committing to a time that suited my family. Why? Because her six month old had transitioned to sleeping in a cot, with set nap times. Therefore, my sister could only commit to times that would have resulted in me being dangerously ‘hangry’(hungry and angry with extra oestrogen sprinkled on top). I remember thinking, ‘what is the big deal? It’s just a nap. How is moving the timing of a nap for one day going to affect her daughter, really? And why cant she just sleep in her pram?’

Oh, how I was wrong. A nap is not ‘just a nap’.

A nap is like an eight ball, or magical fairy dust that sets the tone for the next twenty-four hours.

If your baby skips or struggles to complete a nap due to being overtired, over-stimulated or from sleeping in the car or pram, you could be in for a long night of tantrums (both mother and child) and sleep deprivation. 

And so, my big sister, I am sorry. I am sorry I questioned the Holy Grail that is your daughter’s naps.

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now


I can’t come to your dinner party; I have a date with my pillow

 

The first enemy I made when I became a mother was sleep. It was like the school bully, taunting me while I awkwardly rocked, jiggled and bounced my wide-awake baby every three hours. It teased me by just letting me fall under its spell before a little mouth would begin to cry. And then I would sit awake all night wondering if I could sellotape my eyelids to my glasses.

The thing about sleep when you are a mother is you never know if it's coming or going. I remember before being pregnant I would frequently give into going to bed late because I knew the following day I could sleep in, nap, or catch up the following night. However when there is a baby involved there are no naps, no sleep ins, and certainly no ‘catching up’.

And this is why a late night caused by anything else besides your baby is sleep suicide. You will wear that late night for the rest of the week. The month.

You are opening up the cookie jar and removing one very precious cookie that will never be replaced. Personally, if I have a choice between going out for dinner with friends or holding onto that cookie - I'll take the cookie thanks. Because I never know when the baker will be whipping up some more. 

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now 


 

Pumping breast milk is not like milking a cow

I once worked with a Mother of a new-born who had to express in her breaks so her husband could feed her son while she worked. I remember her timing her pumping and storing her milk carefully in our shared fridge. One day, she came back from the fridge filled with rage as someone had mistakenly knocked over her bag of freshly pumped milk, leaving her with none for her son’s next feed. She was devastated. I felt so sorry for her, but in that moment I could never understand just how frustrated she must have been. I thought she was upset because she would have to pump again, which would take time. I didn't realise she was upset at the prospect that she might not be able to pump any more milk - because her body may not produce any more for the next few hours.

I used to think of breastfeeding as boobs being like taps. Put a baby or a pump on them, and they'd start gloriously flowing. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. They aren't taps. More like that awkward claw machine at game arcades, that picks up soft toys in its delicate metal hands and drops them just as you are about to win the minion you have always wanted. Some days you will win the minion every time. Others, your baby will thrash its head around wondering why your 'tap pressure' is so low. 

And pumping. Oh my God pumping. I pump every morning so my husband can feed my baby an expressed bottle at night. Some days I could pump enough to feed a small village. Others not enough for a single feed. And once my boobs are empty - the kitchen is closed for a good hour. No matter how much I try with that awful robotic sounding pump, no more means no more. 

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now.


If you haven’t lived it – don’t advise it

One of the main things that has kept me sane and helped me through my new journey of motherhood has been the support of other mothers. Particularly those who have similar babies to mine - and know exactly what I'm going through, or need. I remember before having my daughter, I would often hear from friends or family members with babies and would try and help by offering advice. Now this advice was based off things I'd heard, read, or experienced through working in a day-care centre. It was not based off any actual experience of my own as a mother. I assumed that what worked for the babies in day-care or in the books I had read was what worked for all. 

Never have I been so mislead. And I'd like to take all of the advice I have ever offered before experiencing motherhood myself, and I'd like to hide it under a very large rock. And beside that rock I'd like to plant a tree and fertilise the soil with all of the assumptions I ever made about anyone else's parenting styles. If you have not lived it - you simply cannot fathom what it's like. Any assumptions, preconceived ideas or life saving advice that you think will fix a baby before you've lived with one yourself is as helpful as a dry napkin after eating BBQ ribs with your hands.

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now. 


 

Giving up breastfeeding is a big deal 

My final apology is to all of the mothers who have had to wage the battle of breastfeeding. Those who have had to list the pros and cons of giving it up for their babies sake, or those who have had no choice at all. Again this apology sprang from watching my sister go through her own battle. Her baby was highly intolerant to a long list of foods that she had to cut out of her own diet as she and was exclusively breastfeeding. And as if that wasn't hard enough, she was expressing for every feed, as her baby would only take a bottle. So there she was, pumping three hourly, and eating like a caveman. And so the big question loomed:

'Why don't you just give up breastfeeding?'

I'm ashamed to say I actually asked her this. And I'm more ashamed to say I had the same tone of voice as if I was asking 'why don't you just give up wearing white pants after Labour Day?'

And now I know why that question held so much weight for her, and why she did everything in her powers to avoid it. Because it's not that simple. Its not about pride, its not about societal pressure and it's not about being stubborn. I've thought long and hard about a metaphor I can use to describe just how heavy this dilemma can be for a woman - and I just can't. Because sometimes in life there are things that we simply do not have words for. And I've noticed more and more wordless moments since becoming a mother.  

Every Mother faces their own private struggles with breastfeeding. However, there is one thing that unites us all. Whether we do it successfully or can't do it all, the battle that comes with giving it up can be a complicated, painful and lonely one.

I’m sorry mammas. I get it now.


 So mammas - I'm sorry. I'm sorry for assuming, judging, and advising without understanding.

If there is one piece of advice I can give to all of the non mothers out there, it is that sometimes all us mammas need is a shoulder to lean on and someone to tell us we are doing a good job. 

It really is that simple.

 


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