First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

Just a few days ago, Melo and I were watching Tala play and practice standing, and I can’t help but notice that we have a kid now. “May bata na tayo”, I said. Tala looks and acts more like a toddler than a baby. We looked back to the things we went through in taking care of our first born; from her spitting that peaked when she was 4 months old, to her eczema, and worst the Impetigo Bullosa she had when she was turning 6 months old. It felt like these happened some two years ago.

So far, I am satisfied with how she is developing and growing. I know that we are lucky because we have the privilege to be with her all the time and take care of her ourselves. I also know that Tala is not a difficult baby if I compare our experience of raising her with the stories of other parents. I reflect on the things we do as her primary caregivers. I can’t claim that what we’re doing is the absolute right way of parenting, but I think these three things can be my guide in this journey as a mother.

MAKE BABIES FEEL YOU ARE THERE FOR THEM, ALWAYS

First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

I have read articles saying it is okay to let your babies cry for a few minutes so they learn how to self-soothe. Just thinking about it, honestly, I know that I can’t do it. I guess it’s because I am highly empathic as a person, what more with my own child. The way I see it is there’s no harm comforting your baby and instantly responding to their cries. As soon as she cries, I carry her, embrace her, and comfort her. I mentioned it before in my other posts that I am doing responsive parenting. I do on-demand feeding, so there was a time when Tala as a newborn breastfed almost every hour. I was practically carrying her the whole day, even while she sleeps. It took a lot of patience and shoulder and back pain. I think it’s exactly what she needed to be able to adjust smoothly to her new environment, one that is completely different from the nine months she was inside my tummy. I think it was all worth it because (1) I am able to make her feel that she is safe, (2) I am teaching her to put trust on other people, starting with us her parents, and (3) it helps build her confidence as she adjusted and learned to explore her surroundings. Eventually and all by herself, she breastfed less and she got more open to being put down during sleep, playing by herself, and being with another caregiver that’s not Melo and myself. I think the time and effort that I invested on building a bond with her as early as when she was still a newborn is paying off.

GIVE YOUR BABIES THE ENVIRONMENT FOR LEARNING

First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

It is natural for parents, probably more for those at their first time, to be extra cautious, nervous, protective of their babies. The idea of germs, bacteria, sickness is really scary. However, I know from common knowledge passed on from one parent to another that exposure to dirt (just the right amount of it) actually helps in strengthening an individual’s immune system. It is no different with learning skills. One needs to make mistakes, get a couple of bruises and scratches before she learns how to do things by herself. As often as possible, we let Tala crawl and play on the floor. We, of course, keep an eye on her and remove things that can possibly harm her. Now, she crawls fast, practice standing without holding onto something, and she can even climb the stairs at 9 months! All with supervision. Nothing to worry about. We’re not reckless parents. One time, Tala bumped her head so as expected, she cried. I said to Melo, this is just the first few times she’s going to get herself hurt. One day there will be scratches, wounds, and blood. And it’s all part of growing up. Point is we have to give her the space to try things out, make mistakes even get hurt, so she’d be able to gain the skills she will need to stand on her own.

LET BABIES LEARN AT THEIR OWN PACE

We know each baby is different. Although tips and advices give us the idea that babies should be trained how to sleep by themselves or to decide when it’s time to wean them from breastfeeding. I know there are practical reasons for these. In my case though since we had the time and flexibility to do things our way and there was no rush, I learned that babies can adjust and learn by themselves if you just give them time. As I said, Tala used to breastfeed every hour and she wouldn’t allow being put down for sleep, but eventually she did otherwise. It took patience and a lot of trial and error. Until now, in fact, we still adjust things based on what we think will work for her. Tala eats solid food now so she breastfeeds less. We are also able to leave her sleeping by herself in the room. At times, she just shouts to call for attention when she’s already awake, instead of crying. She knows someone will come to her if she calls out or sort of knock on the door. We are actually amazed by the skills she’s showing the past weeks. It seems that she’s advanced for her age but actually when I read articles about babies her age, the skills she’s showing are really expected at this stage. What’s important is that we are able to give her the support she needs, and let her do things at her own pace.

These three sum up what I think I can do as a mother for every stage Tala will be in her growth and development. Aside from being observant and intuitive right from the beginning, I know these are also influenced by the way we were raised by our parents. I think everything will be fine and I look forward to seeing how things will turn out.

Breastfeeding is best for my baby and me

I decided I’d breastfeed long before I got pregnant. I think it’s primarily because of effective advertising. The people behind it succeeded in making sure people will remember the message like a song: “Breast milk is best for babies up to 2 years.” Additionally, I’ve seen campaigns emphasizing how our babies are not cows so they should be feeding on breast milk.

I’m writing about breastfeeding because I saw on Twitter that August is National Breastfeeding Month, and August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. I want to share my experience without simply echoing what’s already common knowledge for everyone.

ABOUT MY MILK PRODUCTION

I’m very thankful I have a good amount of breast milk. I’m not sure if it’s just my body or I guess the Natalac capsules I’m taking is doing a great job. I’ve been prescribed by my mother-in law who’s also an OB-GYN to take the said food supplement since I was six months pregnant, and I still do until now. If you’re still in your pregnancy stage or currently breastfeeding your little one, I suggest to ask your doctor about Natalac if you want to try it.

When you have a good amount of breast milk, it’s important to empty your breasts. A nurse warned me about this, but I didn’t expect to actually experience it. On the fourth night after giving birth, I woke up in the middle of the night because of chills. It was scary and I did panic. Apparently, it’s because I have so much milk. Tala wasn’t with me yet, hasn’t learned to latch correctly, and I haven’t pumped. Oversupply, if not dealt with immediately, can lead to a condition called mastitis.  

HOW I LEARNED TO BREASTFEED

We most definitely didn’t want Tala to be confined in the hospital after she was born but at least one of its advantages was that I was able to get a 7-day crash course from the nurses on the basics and necessary things to do in taking care of my baby. Tala was not allowed to room in with me. I got discharged ahead of her, so I just visited her at the nursery to feed her. The nurses and resident doctor guided me on how to do it. They also gave me tips on how to pump and store milk. Most women will get these information from their moms, mom friends, or the Internet. It was convenient and helpful that I got instruction from health professionals. I even think hospitals should actually have breastfeeding education programs for first time moms before they get discharged. Perhaps some hospitals are already doing it. That would be great!

MY BREASTFEEDING LIFESTYLE

Not only is breastfeeding cost efficient, it’s travel friendly. I remember when my younger brothers were still babies, we would bring bottles and portioned formula milk. I think it’s pretty bulky to pack and bring. Tala goes wherever Melo and I go, and we’re kind of always on-the-go. It’s convenient to not have to do the extra step of sterilizing bottles, packing up, making sure there’s enough portioned milk. I just strike anywhere! I’m not even the type to get shy. I believe breastfeeding is natural and to normalize it, moms should have the freedom to do it without being embarrassed.

I can’t talk much about pumping milk because I only did it when Tala was still in the hospital and when I mixed it with her solid food on her 6th month. I first tried hand express after I gave birth, because we haven’t bought a pump yet. What we got is a Looney Tunes Manual Pump, the type that was recommended by the nurse at the hospital. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom and we’re practically together 24/7, Tala just feeds directly.

WHAT I WEAR AS A BREASTFEEDING MOM

What I spend on are breastpads which I buy from Lazada. Baby Moby Disposable Breastpads is extra absorbent. It costs me Php 6.50 per piece. In terms of clothing, I’ve used maternity bras and slim breastfeeding tank top with built-in maternity bra. However, right now I’ve switched to wearing tubes instead. It’s much cooler to wear and easier to use for breastfeeding. Wearing tube was actually a suggestion of a mom friend, but I only tried it just recently. I found tubes costing Php 60 per piece. I used breastfeeding cover before but it became more of a hassle for me. It’s an extra object to pack and I have to wear it before I can feed an already crying and impatient baby. Plus, Tala pushes the cover away so I may get exposed. I tried the suggestion of my sister-in-law to just wear two layers of clothing, which is really more efficient for me. There are a lot of breastfeeding clothes brands which have really stylish and nice designs. I bought a few myself and received some as gifts. But I never got a hang of it. I end up just lifting the shirt because it’s faster. 

With all the talk about breastfeeding, I know moms can’t help but feel pressured if they don’t have enough milk. I don’t think it’s right to make moms feel guilty if they can’t breastfeed, if they choose not to, or if they choose to mix feed. Our generation grew up on formula milk and I think we turned out fine. Breastfeeding campaigns are there to inform and encourage moms to do it. At the end of the day, what’s important is what will be good for your baby’s health and what works for you. Nonetheless, I really, really hope all moms are able to breastfeed and will choose to do so. Happy national breastfeeding month!

Why I’m happy I got married around my 30s

When I was still in my teens, I said my goal was to be married in my mid-twenties. My girl friends said the same thing. Reaching 25 seemed like a long way to go from back then. Now I am 30 years old. I got married and gave birth last year 2018. I’m glad it happened later. Not only did my mama say the timing was just right, I’m also sure it would have been a lot more challenging for my younger self to adjust to. I can only imagine. It doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park for me now. I just know that I’m better equipped for this life thanks to a few more years of staying single. 

I’M NOW AN ADULT

I never forgot the idea that the human brain becomes fully developed by age 25. I remember conversations in the past about keeping good attitudes and changing bad ones before you hit that age, otherwise it becomes who you are when you get old. The saying ‘can’t teach old dogs new tricks’ made sense. Getting married around my 30s is great because at least I think I’ve already established who I am as an individual. I’m past the phase of trying to figure out my personality, my beliefs, how I speak, and how I act. I already have a strong foundation. My husband can be sure of what type of person he married and he’s going to live with for the rest of his life. 

I CAN BE A BETTER WIFE

I learned from my mistakes and from others’. I keep in mind the not-to-dos, what-to-dos, what-to-says, how-to-says. Since I’m now older, I got better at not thinking only about myself or what others think of me. I’m done with having relationships based on impressions and I understand deeper relationships that are based on friendship, trust, and respect. 

FROM WHAT IFS TO WHAT’S NEXT

I have 10 years of professional experience. Since I’m a job hopper, I was able to make the most of it. I was able to travel as much as I wanted to as many places I can go to both for leisure and work. I spent nights going out and drinking with friends as often as I could, until shortly before I got married I started to feel like I’m getting old for it. It’s all good memories and no regrets. Now the question I ask is what to do next in my new life with my own family. 

I CAN BE A GOOD MOTHER

I can never claim to be perfect. But I’m confident that at this age I am more capable of raising a child. I’ve grown smarter and wiser thanks to my experiences, so that I can make good decisions concerning my baby and give her proper guidance. I’m making it my goal to raise my children to be good citizens who have the right values and can contribute to the betterment of our society. 

I’m happy time was able to prepare me to becoming a wife and mother, and whatever life is going to throw at me next. It’s a continuous learning experience. Now at 30, for me, it’s just a good time to start.

Adjusting to becoming a mom, can it get easier?

“It feels like my life is now just all about the baby and my partner.”

“I also have a career that I put on hold.”

“It’s hard not being able to earn my own money.”

“Why is my husband not taking care of our baby even during his time off at work?”

“I’m tired too.”

“I’m just sad. I miss my old life.”

These were some of the sentiments my fellow first time moms said during our chats yesterday. These statements are so relatable, at one point in time you and I may have felt and said the same thing. It feels unfair, but there’s also a feeling of guilt because it’s as if when a mother starts thinking about herself then she loves her child less.

There’s the challenge of finding the perfect balance between trying to fulfill your personal needs and wants and giving everything for your child. It’s a question of what things will be prioritized over the other. Everyday you keep thinking of how to make it work.

I’m still figuring it out myself, but allow me to share with you three things I have been doing to help ease the motherhood discomfort.

OWN IT! I AM NOW A MOM.

During my pregnancy and right after giving birth, it felt like a part of me faded away. Not wanting to let go of who I was added difficulty to the adjustment to motherhood. I missed being with my single friends and colleagues. I missed going out and having fun any day, up till we felt like it. It’s like there’s this illusion that soon I can still go back to exactly how things were before my baby came. But having a baby means the priorities have changed. The lifestyle will change. I am now responsible for another living person who needs to depend on me for many years starting the moment she was conceived. The way I felt changed, the moment I have accepted my new self. It’s like graduating in life. It doesn’t mean doing entirely the opposite of everything before the baby came. It just meant meeting for lunch with friends instead of dinner, or waiting for the baby to sleep before drinking a bottle or two of beer. It’s still me, but a newer version, a better one.

HAVE REAL AND HONEST CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS.

Doing this is actually still more for yourself than for them. The more you talk about what you are experiencing with complete honesty, the easier it is becoming part of your new normal. We are so quick to answer, “I’m fine.” It’s  a super short sentence that doesn’t actually speak truth. Motherhood is not a walk in the park, and it’s okay to discuss with other people how difficult it is. Which parts of it are challenging? What I’ve noticed when talking to other moms, is that we’ve got situations that may be a problem for one and just easy peasy for the other. Discussing it with each other is the way we’re able to give and get support, because then we can share ideas and let other moms know that they’re not alone and there are things that can be done. It’s the same with husbands. Be patient in starting honest conversations. Acknowledge that they share the experience too, but from a different point of view. While we probably tease each other of who’s the kid’s favorite parent, it doesn’t really have to be a competition. Our husbands are our best and top pick for teammate. Let them know that.

MOMMY, TAKE BABY STEPS. DON’T GIVE UP, YOU’LL LEARN TO “WALK” SOON.

I really make an effort to not overthink things. I am used to setting personal targets and doing regular self-evaluation. I don’t think it’s working well for my transition to motherhood because it makes me set expectations that I’m not able to fulfill. I just end up getting disappointed. Instead of counting what I am not able to do, I try to focus on what I am able to do. And then I try again tomorrow. This is exactly the reason why I decided to start blogging because this is my way of trying to do something with my new self, and understanding who I will be as a mom.

All of these are related to what is called matrescence, meaning the process of becoming a mother. We’re actually encouraged to learn more about it, talk about it, and understand that it’s a normal life stage for a woman who’s transitioning to motherhood. More articles are easily accessible online when you Google matrescence. I first encountered the term through this Ted Talk video, then decided to do some research about it. It’s actually enlightening and it helps to know.