I can never forget the feelings on the day my first born made an appearance.
Fear – Will my baby be swapped?
Anxiety – Hope the baby is okay.
Joy – At long last I’ll get to hold the baby, look at the baby and cuddle the baby.
Sadness – The baby’s father would not be there.
So there I was clutching a medal in my hand to make sure the baby was labelled as mine and my pains were getting closer. Baby Madam had turned my world upside down, the doctor only that morning had told me, “You are doing good another three weeks to go.”
My mother was in full panic mode, the room booking was for a full three weeks later and the father a full 1000 kilometres away. Turned out there was no room in the hospital, so while I was taken to the labour room arrangements were made to fit an extra bed in a larger room.
It’s strange how one goes into full blown protective mother role; here the pains were coming on and all I was worried about was the baby.
In no time the entire family was there as this was the very first great grandchild and grandchild. The next few hours mercifully are a blur and miraculously two years later I was back again for baby number two.
Lesson one learned about parenting – despite the best laid plans the child has a plan of her own so just flow with it. Also, babies don’t look the same. Once you have seen your baby you will never mistake another for yours.
Lesson two – It’s good to have your mother by your side. She has seen you at your worst and even though you have a baby by your side, which is more precious than you, she will look after you. The endless hours spent by my mother holding the baby to let me sleep a bit more and the bowls of semolina porridge I was forced to finish so that the little one could have a plentiful supply of milk is deeply etched in my memory.
The ability to sleep when the baby slept was what helped me survive the early days of feeding, burping and nappy changes. Talking about nappies this was pre ‘disposable diaper’ days and the only thing I made for the baby were these huge 36-inch square diapers. They were two ways to tie the diapers depending on the sex apparently the boys needed extra padding in front and the girls need padding behind. Believe me, swaddling cloth does help the baby sleep better and it’s so much easier to hold the baby.
Visitors will come to coo over the baby and bless the little one. However, one has to be firm about visiting time and handling the baby. Ask for help, shared experiences, what works for one may work for you.
Bathing a baby can be a lovely experience. Nowadays there are lovely tubs and so many YouTube videos about bathing a baby. Massaging a baby and stretching those little limbs, talking to a baby and singing to it makes for good bonding. In the early days the baby is literally attached to its mother almost always, but sharing chores as parents is so important. The father has to help with the putting to sleep, bathing, washing and feeding. Remember, one needs help in the new role as a father too.
Sometimes things can get overwhelming and one can feel so helpless. I remember bawling my head off once saying I am a bad mother, my baby keeps crying and there is nothing I can do! It felt so good to get my insecurities out in the open. Between my desperate husband and my sympathetic neighbour, the issue was resolved; a simple home remedy for colic – I had to chew a teaspoonful of carom seeds then blow gently into my child’s mouth…and it worked.
The last and most important tip which will have to be followed for life is – Don’t compare your child to any other, be it regarding: feeding, bathing, crying, burping, potty training, etc. Your child is special and unique in every way. Nurture that and help the child develop interests. Mothers of today please do not give your cell phone to the little one. Play peek-a- boo, sing songs like Old Macdonald, look at butterflies, follow shadows, feed the birds, let your child enjoy this world and all its wonders.
(Writer is a volunteer in local schools and a trustee with Sethu)