I remember the day I turned 25, I told Carlos (who was still my boyfriend back then) that I wanted to have a baby. I said it out loud, too, to my family and friends when we were out celebrating my birthday, and we all laughed it off. At that moment, we were no where near ready to get married and especially have a baby, but weirdly enough, my body was telling me I needed one in my life. I cant really explain the feeling, but it was like a longing for something I never had, and don’t know anything about. And really, I knew nothing about having kids as I didn’t have any nephews or nieces, nor did any of my close friends have children yet. But it was there: I wanted to be a mom, without knowing what it’s like to be one. The feeling never went away. For years, I continually felt like something was missing and I secretly wished I would get pregnant so it can finally happen. But I didn’t, so I just kept it to myself. Carlos got me a dog (Lily) so I could “practice” being a mom. In a way, it worked because I focused most of my attention on her and took care of her like I would my own child.
Finally, two years after getting married, it felt like the right time to have a baby. Carlos and I tried and were successful after four months of trying. I had never been happier. My wish was finally coming true and I was going to be a mom. My life was complete, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
All throughout my pregnancy, I read as many baby books as I could, watched all kinds of videos about giving birth and even attended seminars and workshops about birthing and breastfeeding. I was nervous about the birth as I was scared of the pain so all my energies were focused on that big day. But you know what I didn’t prepare for? What happens after. I mean, of course, I had all the things you need for the baby–like the co-sleeper, clothes, diapers, burping cloths, bathing tub, etc. I had all that and more. What I mean is preparing to be a mother, physically, emotionally and mentally. I was not ready at all for what was to come, and I have to admit, motherhood took me completely by surprise.
All my expectations were completely wrong. And by wrong, I mean it was so far from the meter of reality. My wanting to be a mom at 25 was crazy, as I had no clue what it was like to be a mother. And now that I know, I am thankful I didn’t get pregnant during all those times when I wished I would. I was so not ready. Even now that I am ready, I still don’t feel like I am ready enough but I don’t think that feeling ever goes away when you’re a mom.
Mommy life is busy, messy, chaotic and wonderful. Your house will always be a mess (unless you have someone to clean for you 24/7), you will never have time to do anything (work, relax, sleep–you name it), and your social life will basically be through a chatroom on your phone while you’re breastfeeding or putting your baby to sleep. All that time you had before you had a baby will be gone. No more taking your sweet time reading books, watching television series or movies, window shopping, or going out with friends. Everything is now timed and hurried, and all based on your baby’s nap/feeding/sleep schedule. I always took my time in the past to do all the things I just mentioned, and I loved having so much time to spend. So yes, in a way, I was shocked that I could no longer do all those things at the pace that I wanted. Tristan, of course, comes first now. And I have to do things quickly, or else nothing will be done.
My realization: being a MOTHER means being some sort of person with super powers, because you will need to find a way to make things happen even if you are left with nothing (no time, no sleep, and no energy). Things like: how to cook for your family and keep the house clean while taking care of your baby, how to blog/work, answer work emails and keep track of appointments/schedules, how to be on time for anything (work, meet ups or leisure), how to be a wife while being a mom, how to find time for friends to keep you sane, how to look presentable in public (having the time to dress up/look stylish), how to find the time to get pampered (haircut/color, massage, mani/pedicure, etc), how to find the time to get fit/lose weight, and how to be a great mom when your energy and patience is at an all-time low. Being a mother is a full-time job, and there’s no taking a break from it (even when you’re at work/having your me-time/out with whoever/sleeping you are still thinking of your child). There’s no pause button you can press to take a breather, nor can you tell your baby to wait because you’re doing something. Yet, it is the most fulfilling thing in the world and you cant wait to be with your baby all the time. It is such a happy contradiction. All very confusing, and messy and like I said, wonderful.
As I go through this chaotic life of a mommy, let me share with you some things I learned in these past twelve months since I had Tristan. Here are the five mistakes I made as a mom.
- Doubting myself. I didn’t know how to do a lot of things when Tristan arrived. I didn’t know how to change his diaper, how to give him a bath, how to hold him properly, how to put him to sleep, and the list goes on. This made me scared to make a mistake, so I would try but not really take charge. My husband did most of the work, and I would help him (he has more experience with babies). I didn’t listen to my mommy instincts, which were on overdrive during Tristan’s first few months. I knew what to do, but I would freeze in fear most of the time. Thank god Tristan was so patient with me. He was the one who taught me how to be a mom, and though he could barely communicate, it was though he was spelling out what I needed to do. All I had to do was listen to his cues and follow his schedule. I had it in me, but I doubted myself. If only I were more exposed to babies, I would have had more confidence to take care of Tristan. Anyway, I was able to learn quickly. I just wish now I didn’t worry and doubt so much. Mostly, I have Carlos to thank because he showed (and continues to show) me how to be a nurturing parent. I am so grateful he is such a hands on parent.
- Not reading labels. I seriously thought most baby products are similar in terms of its ingredients and how they are made. I mean, how different is one soap from another? Well, as I learned, there is a huge difference. If you’re not careful you can use products on your baby that can potentially be harmful for him/her. Reading labels and familiarizing yourself with certain ingredients can protect your baby from all these harmful chemicals (seriously, why oh why do they even make them) and will ensure he uses the best. For instance, before I switched to Belo Baby products I didn’t know exactly what was in the soap/body wash and lotion I was using on Tristan. When I did my research I found out it contained harsh chemicals and fragrance that I would never use on my baby had I known it was there. (Belo Baby products are free from things like sulfides, which is a cheap chemical that isn’t at all gentle to baby’s skin. They are also free of all nasty chemicals and preservatives like SLS, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, dyes, sodium chloride, formaldehyde, MEA, DEA, TEA and most common allergens.) After that discovery, I always, ALWAYS read the labels of the products we use.
- Wanting to do everything. So in the beginning, I completely doubted my mommy skills. But as soon as I learned the ropes, I felt like I could do it all and more. I did, for a good 2-3 days, until I finally burned out. I wanted to be the best mother in the world, but honestly, there is no such thing. I needed help, and I had to admit that to myself. I learned to delegate and actually ask for help, whether it was from my husband, my parents, or yaya. We mommas have to learn how to do this! Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so you shouldn’t burn all your resources (time, energy… sanity) in one go.
- Panicking over the littlest things. Panicking usually happens when you don’t know what to do. And since I didn’t know what to do 70% of the time for the first few months, I basically panicked over every little bump that came our way. It might be hard not to panic if that is what you are used to, but believe me, if you can, you must! Your baby actually feeds off your mood, and when you panic, he/she feels it. There is no good that comes from it, so learn how to keep zen when you’re faced with a tough situation. When your baby is really sick/hurt though, don’t hesitate–go straight to the E.R. and give your pediatrician a heads up on the way to the hospital.
- Forgetting to take care of ME. I remember how crazy it was during the first three months after Tristan was born. I barely had time to shower or go to the toilet–I was so frazzled and sleepless. I would end up being mean to Carlos during the times when I was exhausted, which wasn’t fair for him too, because he was also looking after our baby. But, I know, moms are usually the last ones to get TLC. After taking care of the whole family, we are left with 0.5 percent of me-time. As difficult as it is to get away from it all, make time for yourself. It can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood to clear your head, or taking an extra long bath while making sure the door is locked (and kids occupied). This might seem selfish, especially when everything seem chaotic but spending alone time is actually good for your well-being (and sanity). After a few hours, the husband and kiddos will get back a fully-recharged, happy mommy which is always a good thing.
Photos by: Zeus Martinez of Life by Ohana