Let’s take a moment here and think about this much trending quote: Happy Mother = Happy Baby. I can’t really vouch for how true that may or may not be but I can for sure vouch for how true the exact opposite of it is. In my case, the bitter reality was that I had left the hospital as a terrified new mum with an equally terrified and uneasy baby, although things could have gone wrong in so many different directions. Truly grateful for those “much worse” scenarios not playing out, yet the truth was that as a new mum, I was physically restrained and mentally traumatised, which I could see was already projecting on my new baby. I distinctly remember my mum‘s words of wisdom back then when she said, “What does a baby at that age need after all? JUST milk, sleep and comfort, THAT’S IT!” She also advised me on how I should cherish these simpler times with my baby, as they were never going to come back. “Make the most out of these times” is what I often heard. These words were meant to comfort me. But I, on the other hand, didn’t see those times, in that light at all, primarily because they were anything but “simpler times” for me. Maybe some day, I might see it that way. But for now, lets get into these simple needs of a newborn, one at a time. I would say let the myths begin and “lets make the most out of it”.
First, milk. I have read a whole lot on how a mother’s milk is the best food for babies and I don’t deny that one bit. What I do refute however, is that its not as easy as it sounds or is made to look. Around the world today, people are going all militant about encouraging or even compelling mothers to nurse their children for as long as they can. A loud shout out to those who have aced the breastfeeding routine and I have nothing but respect for those who, in-spite of its challenging and demanding nature, have committed to successfully doing it, for as long as they can. I’m sure, its the rewarding feeling that makes it all worthwhile. Scientifically, breastmilk has proven to be the best source of nutrition and which mom wouldn’t want that for her baby. Now, I for one, being the “by the book” mum that I was, would have loved to follow the science but instead I chose to listen to and follow my aching heart. And with that pain in my heart, I CONFESS that I miserably struggled with and honestly hated the whole breast feeding routine. And so did my baby! We were no where close to bonding over breastfeeding, in fact we were growing apart because of the complications that came with it. Well it just so happens that as she grew up, I learnt that she simply didn’t have an appetite or preference for milk but I didn’t know that back then. Then again, with both parents who strongly dislike milk by itself, I shouldn’t have been surprised that she turned out that way. Anyways, bottom line being that both, she and me, didn’t enjoy the nursing routine. She used to be highly uncomfortable (physically) and restless (emotionally) in-spite of me trying out most, if not all of the breastfeeding positions in the book. As a result, she was not satisfied with the feed as well. She was quite a handful to feed actually and it still stresses me out, to the core … just the very thought of it all. And the whole lot of reading material about its do’s and don’ts, only added on to my already peaking levels of anxiety. It was unbelievably frustrating trying to figure out this myth being challenged. Aren’t babies supposed to love milk… more so, mother’s milk? It’s not like they have a feast of a choice at that point, where milk can be substituted for. This failure to nurse was playing badly on my mind, more so because once again, I had NOT EXPECTED this to happen to me. I was NOT PREPARED, yet again. Probably my state of mind affected the quality of the milk, given that the quantity was just about right at that very beginning. But in my baby’s defence, how was she supposed to comfortably soothe herself and satisfy her hunger when her mother felt absolutely no comfort or satisfaction in nursing her?! In retrospection, maybe she took on to that opportunity to show solidarity with her mother. Distressed Mum = Distressed Baby. But lets not be quick to turn the blame or the shame onto her mother and her animosity towards breastfeeding. I knew it was and will always be about the baby first but how was I supposed to serve from an empty vessel. Yes, I was the empty vessel and had not quite had the time to replenish my mind, body and soul after the unexpectedly traumatic and life-threatening birthing episode. In addition to that, with a tube and a urine bag to keep an eye on, I was further left worried about how much my baby had managed to drink off off me and whether or not that matched with the “textbook” numbers. In that state of mind (and body), I just couldn’t keep up with the already demanding and exhausting feeding schedule of a newborn. This led to another dilemma of whether to feed the baby on demand or stick to the 2 hourly schedule. Either ways, my nursing failures left me feeling even more unhappy and upset than I already was – each and every time. I felt like an overworked, under rewarded and much exploited cow in this endless chore. So, based on my heartbreaking experience with breastfeeding, I would for once like to go ALL OUT to advocate the fact that MUM KNOWS BEST – it’s her mind, her body, her baby, her choice. Although back then I did, but today, neither do I think any less of myself as a mother nor do I feel any shame in saying that I didn’t see any point in continuing my disheartening and hopeless attempts at breastfeeding. Both, me and my baby were not really benefitting from it. It was simply making matters worse but… #NOREGRETS #NOSHAME.
Second, Sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common complaint and an evident symptom in new parents. So naturally we, as new parents, were sleep deprived and given our baby’s erratic and minimal milk consumption, she ended up being a sleep lover’s nightmare, to no fault of her own (other than her unexplainable and unwavering dislike for milk). It was also a nightmare trying to figure out whether the demand was affecting the supply or the supply was affecting the demand, when it came to the whole breastfeeding challenge. And the ridiculous amount of mixed opinions on that too, weren’t really helping me, with my dilemma. But I’m digressing now and I’m coming back to the simple need of sleep. YES, I absolutely love my beauty sleep and lack of it can disrupt my functioning in its entirety – physically and mentally. And NO, I’m absolutely NOT someone who feels refreshed and rejuvenated from a “power nap”. I need the whole 8 hour package of quiet, uninterrupted sleep. As you can imagine, I had too many issues piling on…and soon in no time, this wild combination of postpartum trauma, emotional numbness, failure to breastfeed, lack of sleep and a hard to console baby, obviously started to affect my ability to produce sufficient breastmilk. #DOMINOEFFECT. On my doctor’s advise, very early on itself, I had to start expressing and pumping milk out, to find out what was the exact source of the problem. Was the malfunctioning in the production or the consumption? (Turned out it was BOTH). To better address this concern, in addition to the usual monitoring of the baby’s “output” in the form of her pees and poops, I had to maintain an additional “input” log of how much and how often she was fed, only to compare those numbers with that in the “textbooks”. BY THE BOOK, remember? Yes, I guess, somewhere I had still not given up on my unrealistic and rapidly unattainable dream of being a SUPER MOM, however sleep deprived I was. #DAZEDAMBITIONS.
Now, lets get to comfort. As hard as it might be to believe, there exists NO BOOK on “How to comfort a hungry and a sleep-deprived infant.” It was only natural that given all of the above, my baby was cranky at most times and was at peace only when held onto. And So.We.Did. As a family, we took turns and held on, as much as we could, for as long as we could. #PASSTHEBATON. “Let’s try on the baby sling or a baby carrier”, my husband and I said, full of hope. After all, babies look so adorably snug in them and the parents get their hands free to go about doing other things, baby-related and otherwise (but mostly baby related). #BABYCOMESFIRST. Guess what! Yet another myth challenged. It so happened that my baby instantly displayed an alarming level of physical agitation and howled her lungs out, when we tried to strap her into a baby carrier. Now please take note that “I” would have gladly held onto her manually but I had a bag to hold onto, remember? HALF MOM! Then there’s this dilemma of whether or not to keep holding onto the baby and for how long because she might get too used to it. YUUPPP, the ultimate goal was to raise a fully independent infant, even though most adults these days aren’t entirely independent yet. To add on, she strongly rejected the idea of being swaddled too. Try feeding and holding onto a squirmy, un-swaddled baby all day and all night long. Those articles about swaddling babies for security and warmth, just flew right out the window of my mental library. Turned out, my baby didn’t like to be physically restrained in a swaddle …or a sling… or a carrier… or a car seat… or even her stroller. She strongly believed in the freedom of her body. Ironically, she was also advocating for the whole “my mind, my body, my choice” movement, again in solidarity with her mother. #STRANGEWAYSTOBOND# My baby was ALL ABOUT FREEDOM… and HOW. She missed no opportunity to raise red flags each time we even got anywhere close to violating her need for freedom. Freedom of mind, body and soul. No kind of distractions and no amount of deceptions worked on this hyper alert baby. There was no turning back when she decided on something. #NOMEANSNO. Unlike the conventional, visual portrayal of newborns, my unconventional baby found her comfort in being without mitts, socks or a head covering of any sort. I will never forget how she had developed rashes all over her body (head to toe) and the doctor had chided us for over dressing up the baby. COLD DOCTOR, HOT BABY! As if all these myths being challenged weren’t enough, mine was a squirmy baby which some people around me liked to call “full of energy” but I, as her mother, somewhere knew that this kind of restlessness and uneasiness was my baby’s cry for help, at least at that point in time. It was like she was mad at the world for being born as a dependant and restricted soul, loud crying being her sole mode of protest back then. At any point then, she would have just loved to stand up for herself and storm out on us, saying “I’m outta here!”. Back then, I thought that it was all in my head but now, as she’s exploring her new found independence and mobility as a toddler, I can actually see “the storming out” scenario playing out right before my eyes, each time when she says “I DON’T WANT!”. Oh the strong conviction in her voice and body language, just like back then when she was an infant. She still happens to be restless and squirmy, but the difference being that now, she’s super active and full of energy in its true sense. Now, we are the ones who cry for help as she successfully manages to keep us constantly on our toes. I’m very much used to it by now but back then, my so-called “textbook baby”, strongly determined to challenge all the textbooks and myths, was all very new and mind boggling to me. I was having this “Is this normal?” Syndrome wherein I kept asking myself why my baby was not aligning with “the usual”. Babies don’t come with a manual, true enough! But mine clearly had her own unique manual and it felt as if she was absolutely furious because I was failing to follow it. My “By the book” approach was taking a serious hit!. The 3S’s of Science, Safety and Security seemed to be nowhere on my baby’s list of priorities back then. She seemed to have been born with a strong personality and an even stronger mind of her own. Weren’t children supposed to be born as “blank slates”? Weren’t we as parents supposed to be the sculptors who were to mould their clay-like personality? NOPE, not ours though! THINK DIFFERENT – was and continues to be my baby’s caption after all (given that her dad is an ardent fan of Apple products). #JUSTLIKEMAMAPAPA# I only hope that we can keep up with her “Out of the box” thinking and continue to go beyond the challenging myths. Who knows, someday, she just might happen to make us proud of her “Simple Living and High Thinking” personality, win a “Nobel for being a Rebel” or something. I won’t be surprised if she becomes a strong voice in the baby-community and inspires them all to “Be the change, they want to see.” #GOBOSSBABY. But for now, lets wait for the PART 2 of this Outpour wherein I continued to be STUMPED by some more challenging myths and my baby continued her inborn QUEST to challenge those further more… one myth at a time! Lets make the most out of this, in its next part…