Thursday, January 09, 2014

Early weeks of motherhood

In the first few weeks after I delivered bub, I felt as though a truck had run over me but somehow left me with a very cute baby. I was dazed, sleepless, in pain, exhausted and with just about enough sense to recognise the joy of finally bringing bub into the world. Life was a blur of feeding and nappy changing with a background score of a lot of crying.

People often ask me what motherhood feels like but that’s in fact a very difficult question to answer. It’s a great joy of course but it’s also a whole lot of other things - anxiety, frustration, fun, responsibility, sacrifice, patience, fortitude, endless learning and much more - that makes motherhood something greater than the sum of all those things. So for me, motherhood is crystalised in those moments where many of these emotions just come together into something sublime and divine that words can’t fully capture.

It was probably Day 3 in bub’s life, at some late hour after the sun had gone down and bub was wailing with all the power his little lungs could muster. He was absolutely tiny - a little bundle of stick limbs, all of 3 kilos hidden in oversized clothes. The only thing that seemed to console him was staying skin to skin with mummy. That night, before pulling him close, I held him on my lap for a few seconds to look into his face, into his beautiful eyes and tell him to calm down. Bub has always had very alert eyes and a clear gaze from the time he was born and he suddenly stopped crying and looked back at me with an expression of desperate neediness and bewilderment at the bright lights of the world he had just entered. His big eyes were saying “HELP”.

It was a moment that words can’t quite capture. My heart broke at the fragility of the life in my arms but soared with joy at the fact that being in mummy’s embrace was going to make everything better for him. I was anxious and frustrated about his crying, but trying to be patient with this helpless little thing, sacrificing much needed rest to soothe him.

The joy of motherhood is crystalised in such moments. The early weeks are just plain hard and it’s very difficult to marvel at the life-changing experience you’ve just had. But a lot of mums had told me to consciously enjoy this miracle through all the pain and sleep deprivation and I’m so glad to have received that advice.

Bub is now nearly 17 weeks old and motherhood is so, so much more fun, now that he is cooing and gurgling back at my silly faces and baby talk.

I don’t want the difficulty of those early weeks back but they were such a special part of the bond that mum and bub establish, where every last drop of your energy goes into comforting and loving the new life you’ve just created.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The pleasures of being out and about with bub

“How old is he?” asked the old lady next to me on the bus. She was expecting a grandchild any day and was excited by the sight of bub who was in his buggy fast asleep in his thick woolly bunny outfit. Since I’ve had bub, I’ve had conversations on public transport with all kinds of women - young, middle-aged, old, Asian, black and white and after four years of living here, its helped me discover a warmer, friendlier London.

Unlike earlier when I used to get on the tube or the bus and bury my head in a book, I now have time to notice people around me. I’m also much more garrulous, passing up few opportunities to have a chat with an adult given how much time I spend babbling to bub. A child is an instant, shared experience across generations of women - everyone either has had one of their own or knows someone who does and there’s always a little anecdote to share.

But its not just conversations. I’m often able to navigate the tube network with ease because of the kindness of strangers.

The first time I went into central London on my own to attend my office Christmas party, I spent the previous day planning each leg of the journey with the buggy. It was as carefully planned as an expedition to the North Pole. I had budgeted lots of time to get into town, given all the stairs I would have to encounter at different stations. But I made it to central London long before my scheduled time because even without my asking, people just came up to me and offered to help me carry the baby buggy. One young man actually waited for me near the stairs although he was far ahead of me and we grumbled amicably about how major stations in London don’t have ramps. On the rare occasion that I did have to ask someone, he actually apologised to me for not having offered first himself!

Navigating public transport is no longer traumatic like it was in bub’s early weeks, where he would start crying at the top of his voice and start sucking noisily on his fist in-between long, red-faced wailing. Now that he mostly just stays asleep, being on public transport in non-peak hours is almost fun because of the possibility of the friendly chats I can have with a range of people.

London is full of helpful strangers, now that I finally have the time to give them a chance to help me. It’s just one of the many, many, many things bub has helped me discover in his 3 months in the world.