In the May 2022 issue of Methodist Message, Ashley Ho wondered, “Am I ready for motherhood?” She shares her thoughts after one year of motherhood.
It’s still early days in my parenthood journey, but I feel like God has filled the first year with so many teaching moments. Through my experiences and the wisdom of mummy friends, here are five lessons I’ve learnt. Fathers, I hope that this will help you understand what your wife, a new mother, is going through.
1. I knew the “fourth trimester” would be tough, but I never knew it would be that tough.
The fourth trimester—the first 12 weeks after giving birth—is a steep learning curve for any new mother because she is learning to care for an infant while her body is recovering. Throw in breastfeeding, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a stressed out, tired mother. My boss, Lynn, once shared, “Giving birth isn’t the most painful, breastfeeding is.” I experienced it first-hand myself—the immense pain from blocked milk ducts is not something I would wish on anyone.
Physical pain aside, the fourth trimester is very emotionally and mentally trying. Self-doubt creeps in, especially when you are waiting for your milk supply to kick in, worrying whether there will be enough milk for your little one. (My personal view is “Best is fed”, whether by formula or breastmilk.) I found myself at a loss many times, not knowing what to do when I could not decipher the baby’s cries. Then there are the comments and questions from well-meaning people. Imagine having to manage all of that while being sleep-deprived.
My advice to all parents is to go for a pre-natal course. Read up as much as you can before the baby arrives. I wish I had done so; perhaps I would have been less clueless.
2. Postnatal blues is real.
It’s a new situation, you’re frustrated and you cannot control your hormones. You might feel like you know nothing at all. Or worse, you feel like you’ve lost your identity to this human being that is constantly tethered to you. Go ahead, let the tears fall. After that, pick yourself up. Give yourself time. It is very important to have your spouse’s support (he might get the blues too, so support each other). Get all the support you can rally—from your church, mentors, family and friends. It’s true, raising a child really takes a whole village.
But most importantly, bring those feelings and tears to the foot of the cross. Listen to worship songs when you do have the chance. God knows and he is near.
3. This, too, shall pass.
Things may not get easier, but you learn and grow along the way. You learn to understand your baby better, you learn to cope better, your body adjusts to the lack of sleep. Before you realise it, your stretches of sleep get longer as the baby grows. Therefore, though it’s difficult, try to enjoy and cherish every moment; your baby will only be that small once.
I once wondered, how other mothers could be such supermoms. And then I realised, it is God that gave resilience to mothers. As you continue to seek God, ask him to give you the strength, the wisdom and the help you need to carry on and pull through each difficult situation.
4. Forget about what you see on social media. (It’s a bit difficult with my job!)
Do not compare yourself or your baby to that glamourous mother and smiling baby. You haven’t seen what happens behind the scenes. Almost every mummy friend I have spoken to has struggled and cried at some point.
When I saw how other mothers could bring their newborn babies out by themselves, or go on a vacation with their infants, while I stayed at home in pyjamas and messy hair, struggling throughout most of my maternity leave, I would ask myself, why couldn’t I be like them?
Today, I’m still in my pyjamas, and struggle from time to time. But I’m content. Not all new parents have helpers or family members who are available to help, and not everyone has easy babies to deal with! Remember God made every single one of us unique and different. As your baby grows, you grow with the baby. You will manage better, and be happier when you are content.
5. You will make mistakes. Lots of them.
Mum guilt is real. Don’t beat yourself up over things you cannot control. Be gracious to yourself. No matter how careful you are, or how much you want to give the best to your baby, accidents can and do happen.
When my baby was seven months old, I once left her on my bed, thinking I would only be stepping away for a short while. But she rolled off the bed unexpectedly (sorry, baby!). I had a huge scare and the guilt stayed for a long time. Thank God for his protection, as she didn’t have any repercussions, and I learnt my lesson to be extra careful. Many parents can attest to experiencing similar situations.
Despite all that will happen, you are the best parent your baby has. Because God chose you to be his steward for his child.
Looking back at this first year of motherhood, there have been many joyful and heart-melting moments too. I am grateful that my husband, Daryl, is a hands-on father, partnering me in this journey. Our loved ones have also given us much support. Most of all, I give thanks to God for his blessing, his protection and his gift of my daughter, Cathlyn, who turns one this May.
– Ashley Ho