HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 14, 2017 – 12:00am
Author Jim Paredes’ daughter Ala Paredes Buencamino and her baby.
For this Mother’s Day, I decided to ask my daughter, Ala Paredes Buencamino, to write her feelings down about being a new mom. I thought first-time mothers out there would resonate with this since most Mother’s Day articles will probably be talking about older mothers and how they have successfully raised their children.
* * *
How are the first weeks of motherhood?” That’s what your friends who don’t have children ask. The correct answer is to paint a picture of a cuddle-filled existence that manages to be fulfilling even with very little sleep and having to change a hundred dirty diapers per day.
Here is a real answer: motherhood is fragile, physically and emotionally. While I found that I was prepared to endure birth without pain relief, I was unprepared for how long and slow postpartum recovery would be. I felt strong during my 10-hour labor, a mighty force of nature; but I felt flimsy and helpless when, two weeks later, my knees were still wobbling, I couldn’t sit up unassisted, I could barely walk, and I had this new, unfamiliar body covered in aches and pains. They say postpartum recovery takes six weeks; true, but only if you are Wonder Woman.
Early parenthood is full of doubts and perceived failures that have the power to shatter you and reduce you to a blubbering mess. One such “failure” was when my newborn lost too much weight in her first few days of life due to a delay in my milk supply. While I knew intellectually that this was not a “failure” on my part, it certainly felt like one, as though I couldn’t fulfill my basic duty of providing for my hungry baby. As I bottle-fed her with formula to get her weight back on track, I would collapse into emotional sobs. “She’s starving! My body has failed her!” I cried as my husband tried to console me.
Eventually, I learned to stiffen up and keep these imaginary failures in perspective. I was doing the best I could with what I had at that time. Being gentle and forgiving with yourself.
And while you learn to let many things roll off your back, you cry and feel a little resentful when you see your partner have free time to enjoy hobbies, something that is denied to you in the meantime. You feel sorry for yourself because you’re exhausted, unwashed, and barely have time to even put on a complete set of clothing, then immediately feel guilty about experiencing any amount of self-pity. Shouldn’t you be acting like a mature adult by now? You chose to have a kid so suck it up and deal with it, honey.
Still, you cry because so much is on you, you, YOU. You’re the mom. You carried this child in your womb for nine months, and you mean the world to this tiny, little person who can often only be comforted by your heartbeat, your smell, and the sound of your voice — nobody else’s! If you are breastfeeding, you are your baby’s irreplaceable, round-the-clock giver of life. All that responsibility on someone who feels so fragile.
Fragile because the transition into motherhood is an extreme chemical change in your identity, one that cannot ever be undone. For the first time in your life your heart truly feels its own depth and freedom as you’re overcome with a sublime love that feels almost too big to contain. You feel a heightened sense of time passing, watching your infant change faster than you can love each amazing version of her. You watch moments of heartbreaking beauty fly past you, never to be repeated. Oh, the joy you feel over that miraculous first smile, those heavenly hours you spend watching her as she sleeps, marveling at the wonder of her existence; and all you can do is pray that your memory will not fail and that those memories will keep your heart warm throughout the years.
So many big emotions rolled into one incomprehensible, beautiful mess. No wonder it’s easier to just stick to clichés when people ask you what motherhood is like. But here’s my answer in a nutshell: you have to be either crazy or naive to want to be a mom. I guess I’m both.