I was on a night shift, minding my own business, doing my (endless) paperwork on the nurse’s reception desk. A nurse came over and plopped one of the patient, five day old baby, in my arms. “Baby’s crying, mum’s crying and shattered and I need to do some medicine and milk – can you look after baby for awhile?” Of course I am not one who will deny having cuddles from a newborn, so I obliged.
It reminded me on how it was during the newborn days. I never really spoke it out loud, especially to my friends who are mums-to-be. I figured they’ll learn and find out by themselves. Anyway, they might have an angel for a baby: sleeping through the night, waking up only for feeds, crying in a demure way. Ugh, I hate you already mum-to-be. Just kidding… ok maybe I do envy you a little bit.
But I think … I’ll talk about it now, because it was only after talking to a friend during those new days of parenthood, that I felt better. To mums to be/new mums:
“Dear new mums,
I don’t know how to say this but here it goes.
It is hard.
It may be hard.
Ok, it will be hard.
As I said, you may have a baby who would have the zen of Yoda and you will sail through just ok. If you don’t, it’s ok.
You may have moments of intense frustration and even anger. Now child no 1 of mine was a screamer. His face would go red and he would scream with his every might. His cries was so sharp and grating, as if it was clawing into my brain. It vibrated around the house, I felt sorry for the neighbours (actually I wasn’t, people should share these experience with me). We lived in a flat three storeys up and I remember my dad going to the ground floor to drop off the rubbish. He said he could hear his screams all the way down and outside.
And then he would do these twilight shifts with me. He would cry from midnight to 4-5 am… cry and cry and cry. I would breastfeed him to not much comfort. I would rock him and sing to him. I would pace around the living room with him, trying to not wake the whole household. Even though M helped a lot, once he started working from paternity leave, I felt bad for him to stay awake much in the night. He’s sleep deprived and tired as it is and still has to go to oncalls. And I didn’t want to bother my parents much. So there I would be, night lamp on in the living room, pacing and rocking and feeding and crying. Oh yes, there was a lot of crying … from both of us. I remember having tears down my face, praying and thinking of the Quranic verse: “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.” (50:16) Please don’t leave me, I pleaded, scared that I might do something I would regret.
Over the first few days and weeks, there were moments of frustration. Intense moment of frustration. I am ashamed to say it but I will admit so future mums will know that they are not alone. I felt so angry and so frustrated, I was thinking I just want to throw this baby out the window. Then I felt bad and guilty of my un-mother like feelings. I admitted this to my SHO yesterday and she grabbed my hand. “I’ve never told anyone but I felt the same way too. I googled “throwing baby out window” because I didnt know if it was normal. I felt so bad and thought social services might take away my baby.”
So new mums, you are not alone. You may experience this, you may not. If you do, listen to me and do this:
Put baby down on a safe place.
Close the door if you have to.
Wash your face, grab a drink.
Cry if you want.
Don’t worry if it takes a few minutes to gather yourself.
I figured if baby’s crying, it shows that his/her breathing is ok. And anyway, it’s ok for baby to cry rather than be shaken. Yes, that is the fear when you are in that moment. I have seen cases of shaken babies and the severe consequences that came with it (one had bleed in the brain and now disabled for life, one passed away). If you feel that intense feeling of anger, step away. Just put baby down and step away. Give baby to someone else if there is another person in the house.
And you know what, it’s ok. It’s ok to have these feelings. Please be kind to yourself and ask for help. It is not a weakness. You are not a bad mother. Post natal blues are common and postnatal depression is real.
Things will get easier. The first smile. The first laugh. The times when they start playing with you. There will be less tamagotchi and more of a human baby. In the meantime, take care of yourself. Ok, just take care of yourself almost as much as you have of baby.