Dear non-baby parents, I will hold my baby as much as I freaking want to.

I will hold my baby as much as I feel like and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it.

Dear grandma, friends, and random strangers,

Why do you offer your misguided advice to me about not holding my baby girl? I’ve heard it it all at this point:

  • Try putting her down more – Umm yeah, no shit. Guess what? Tried that. Didn’t work.
  • Do you always hold her? – Define always. When she cries, yes. When she needs me, yes.
  • She’s going to get too used to being held – Last time I checked, babies are babies. Tiny helpless humans who can’t do things on their own. I can’t exactly reason with her and explain why everything will be fine if mommy doesn’t pick her up when she gets scared or lonely.
  • You’re doing to spoil her – Spoil her into what? Thinking she’s loved, and cared for? I’ll take the risk.

Snarky thoughts aside, the truth is that my baby girl will quickly grow. She was just born it feels like, and she’s already now a four month old with a personality and the sweetest chubby legs. Moments are fleeting.

Soon, I won’t be able to hold her with one arm anymore. Soon after that, she won’t fit into my lap. Soon, I will be back at work and she will be in school. These rainy days of cuddles and quietness will be gone. And then one day, she won’t want me to hold or cuddle her anymore. I know this for a fact. I remember my sweet mother saying things like “Come cuddle with me. You’re still my baby” and me rolling my eyes with preteen attitude and awkwardness. How I wish I could take up my mother on her offer now.

I gave birth to this child to love, protect, and cherish it. Not to hide behind a closed door as it screams for half an hour,  its little face red with exhaustion and desperation. She sleeps perfectly at night but doesn’t like to nap much during the day. She will only fall asleep nursing. It works great for her. It’s exhausting for me, but I’m okay with that. Because like I said, she will grow faster than I can ever imagine.

Yes, it’s hard caring for a baby. I would know – I’m a motherless mama without a lot of help other than my husband and occasionally mother in law and dad. Yes, I have days when I want to curl up into a ball and cry. And I have. And that’s ok. But it’s not my child’s fault that her mama is tired.

I know I will be judged for saying this, but I am so against the crying it out method. There is nothing more traumatic for a mother than hearing her child scream. I don’t care why she’s screaming, all I care about is that I’m there to comfort and assure her that she is loved and safe.

Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I need a break. Don’t all moms? But I will hold my baby girl when she needs. I will let her nap on me if that’s the only way she will sleep. I will cuddle her all day when she’s sick. Why? Because I’m her mom and that’s what moms do.

Advertisements

Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay.

I have been re-reading Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters lately and this excerpt is still my favourite and affects me most powerfully:

“I am fooling only myself when I say that my mother exists now only in the photographs on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.”

These words capture so beautifully the notion that our mothers are and always will be part of us. They influence our lives in a profound way even when they are no longer physically with us. Losing a mother is not a singular event, which you can get over and move on from. No matter what people tell you, there is no expiration date to grief. It’s ok to be just as broken and devastated five years later as the day she died. 

It’s been three and a half years since my mama left this world. Without a doubt, she still influences all aspects of my life. From the small, mundane, and every day, such as styling my hair a certain way or choosing a greeting card for someone, to the big and monumental, such as parenting my daughter or making a career decision. She’s with me – her opinions, her thoughts, her unwavering and unconditional support

Although I know it’s impossible, I wish I could stop missing her so badly. I wish I could take comfort and acceptance in the fact that she’s always with me. I wish I could stop yearning for her physical presence and let go of the need to be mothered. But I can’t. No matter how old I get, I will always need my mama.

Life events, milestones, and the transformation of grief

No matter what you’ve read, what advice you’ve been given, or what your expectations are for your future after the loss of a loved one, one thing becomes very clear as time goes on. Grief doesn’t end. It changes its shape and direction, but it has no end. Every major event in your life and every milestone will cause your grief to re-emerge in a new form and you will feel like you are starting your journey from the very beginning. You will feel like you are right back in that very moment when you experienced the loss of your loved one.

Motherhood is the second and most intense milestone in which I experienced the transformation of my grief. The first was when I got married and those first few months of being a newlywed.  In the months that followed, filled with writing thank you cards and basking in that “new family” feeling, all I felt like doing was picking out sheets, dishes, and other meaningless objects, which only a mom could have the patience and excitement to go shopping with you for.

Motherhood has caused my grief to come back with a vengeance, which is something I have posted a lot about in the past. My experience has really verified for me the notion that my grief will never leave me. It will always be with me, re-emerging in different shapes and forms. It will always have a grip around me, whether it be a tight, suffocating embrace or a soft and gentle wrap around my shoulders.

After my mother’s death, I tried reading a few self-help books that explore grief and mourning. I was looking for a solution of sorts, a “how-to” for feeling better and being happy again. Looking back, I now realize my approach was the wrong one. My “situation” isn’t one that can be corrected. I don’t even know if acceptance is what I am after – will I ever accept my mother’s death fully and whole-heartedly? Will I ever think of her with peace in my soul and a smile on my lips? Will I ever remember a moment in our time together without that ever-present little pain in my tummy?

Grief is unfair for so many reasons. It’s especially cruel because it re-creates itself in a brand new version just when you have begun to make peace with its previous presence in your life. I made peace with the version of my grief in which I was a twenty-something newly wed, just beginning my career and adult life. I had accepted that my husband would never have his mother-in-law to joke about. I had accepted that my mother would not witness us buying our first home or celebrating our career goals. I had accepted that I would never go shopping again with her or watch American Idol together.

Then, I became pregnant. And my grief returned, with a new intensity I wasn’t prepared for. There were now so many “what will never be” tears alongside the “what I miss and once was” tears. My daughter is almost four months old and I think about my mother and her absence every single day. I have thoughts big and small – from wondering what my mother did about diaper rashes, to wondering if she was scared and nervous about raising a girl and passing on the wisdom that a mother gives to a daughter. In a strange way, I feel like my mother has just died. I am back in August of 2012. I have accepted so much along my path of grief over the past three years, but all of a sudden, I am bewildered and shocked all over again that my mother is actually gone. That she’s not physically on this Earth anymore.

When I have one of those dark days when I can’t stop thinking sad thoughts, I remind myself that nothing I feel or do will ever change the situation. This rationalization of my feelings really helps me get clarity and a grip on reality. She’s gone and nothing can bring her back. I think of what my mother wanted for me and it’s not tears, regrets, or sadness. If she’s watching over me now, which I strongly feel she is, she would want nothing but happiness for me. Happiness is the goal to strive for.

Miss you most when I’m happy

  
Current mood. Missing my mama so very much these days. I am still basking in that new mom bliss and so in love with my precious baby girl. I’m filled with positivity, hopes, and dreams for the future. I’m happier than I have been in a long, long time. 

And yet, the sadness is still here. I say still because I somehow thought things would change. I remember some rough days during my pregnancy, feeling lost, alone (and very hormonal). Once the baby’s here, I told myself, it won’t hurt like this. I won’t miss her so intensely. As it turned out, having a child had very little to do with missing your mother. One is happy and one is sad, but one does not cancel out the other. Some things have changed, but others have not. Grief is fluid and shapeless, without a pattern or direction. You don’t know where it is going, only that it will always persist in some shape or form.

All of a sudden, this body disappoints you instead of amazes you.

Being a new mama, I’ve started paying more attention to the the way pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood are portrayed in the media. I find it really unfortunate the way that the media builds up pregnant celebrities with headlines like “baby joy,” “eating for two,” “pregnancy glow,” but then is so quick to tear them down after they give birth with language like “crash diet,” “getting her body back,” and “shedding those pregnancy pounds”.

I find it even more unfortunate that some women really believe in this notion of having a baby and then suddenly and magically erasing pregnancy from your body. The mixed messages being aimed at new mothers are ofter confusing, damaging, and hurtful. The shift from “you’re pregnant/have just given birth – eat whatever you want, rest, indulge” to “you’ve had the baby – you should be exercising and shedding that weight” is too drastic for any new mother to be able to tolerate. It goes something like this:

1 month pregnant – “indulge your cravings, eat whatever you can tolerate”

3 months pregnant – “go ahead, you’re eating for two now, have some more”

6 months pregnant – “make sure you’re making healthy choices – your baby needs healthy nutrients”

9 months pregnant – “you’re gaining too much weight, don’t eat too much junk. Watch the sugar. It’s going to be really hard to lose that weight. It’s not good for your baby.”

Then it happens. You have your baby after a long and hard labour. You go home with your brand new little bundle of love. You do your best to meet your little one’s needs around the clock while you yourself are feeling physically broken. Your emotions are running wild and your body is healing. You get emails and notifications from various websites and apps telling you to stay in bed, bond with your baby, and only worry about nursing and resting. You look at yourself in the mirror after getting out of the shower and are shocked at your postpartum naked body. Everything is different, but you don’t even care. You feel proud at what this body has done and you feel grateful that it has not let you down.

A few weeks go by, visitors come and go. They adore your little one and commend you on what you’ve done. They bring you treats and tell you that a breastfeeding mum needs to eat well and often. You’re on a high – life is amazing and you’re in love like you’re never been before.

A few more weeks go by and you’re at the 6 week postpartum mark. Now the emails and notifications change. You start to get bombarded with information about post-baby fitness, diets, nutrition. You start to see photos of celebrities with babies the same age as yours look nothing like you do. Motherhood and life with baby is still so new to you, but suddenly so much more is expected of you. You should be back to the way you were before pregnancy. Friends and family start asking how much of the baby weight you’ve lost. You look at yourself again in the mirror after your shower and all of a sudden, your body disgusts you. All of a sudden, this body disappoints you instead of amazes you.

A certain celebrity who shall remain nameless (she is on a particular show about a particular family who has a thing for a particular letter of the alphabet) recently gave birth. I read somewhere that she is now in hiding until she drops all the baby weight. This same celebrity loves taking photos of every bit of her life and sharing on social media. Her two-month postpartum body however is something she’s too ashamed of to show. This sends such a sad message – that a woman’s body is to be praised and admired for its sexuality, but shamed and hidden away for its ability to do the greatest thing of all – give life.