I’ve got two kids, ages 5 and 3, so yes, I’m an expert on motherhood. Ok, I kid. But here’s what I’ve learned in the past few years. Just read my thoughts with an open mind.
1. Breastfeed your kids. Or don’t. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Or don’t. Do what feels right to you, and eventually, you’ll see that it was right for YOU. Every mother out there figures out how to get into her groove. It takes some trial and error, and lots of second-guessing yourself.
2. Ask for help! People LOVE to help! Don’t take away that opportunity from someone to feel good about extending a hand to you and doing something nice. Your tired, and hungry, and probably haven’t showered in a few days. So when your bestie comes by with a lasagna, take it!
3. Love your baby daddy! He might feel a little out of place right now. The third wheel who doesn’t know how this new family functions. Oh, he’ll be super-excited and enthusiastic (unless it’s a 2 am feeding, but we’ll let that slide), but he won’t have the same relationship with you or the baby. Let him hold the baby, a lot, change diapers, and take over some of the feedings. And let him do it his way. Let him and the baby bond- giving you some space and personal time which you will desperately need.
4. Take all advice with a grain of salt. As soon as you bring that baby home, everyone wants to tell you what to do and how to do it. Just accept the fact that they are doing this out of love for you and this new baby. Disregard anything you don’t agree with- but with grace and appreciation.
5. Trust your gut. You are going to know your child best. If something doesn’t feel right, make sure you get it checked out. If they tell you not to worry, and you are still worried, go to the doctor again.There’s no harm in trying everything you can. There can, however, be plenty of regret in not trying hard enough. Also, if you don’t feel right, go to the doctor. Post-partum depression is very real. Talk to your husband, talk to your friends, and definitely talk to your doctor. There’s no shame or weakness in it- you can only be a better mom when you take care of yourself.
6. Put on some lipstick for goodness sake! You might feel like a milk machine, or have bags under your eyes that can hold luggage for a transcontinental flight. But it’s ok. Put on some lipstick, get out of those sweats, and go out. Get some fresh air, go to the gym, take some time for yourself. This is your new life, and the sooner you embrace it and, the better for all of you.
7. Smile at the elderly. You probably noticed the extra nice treatment you got from strangers while you were pregnant. The wistful looks from the older ladies you’d see at the supermarket. They’ll tell you “enjoy them while they’re young” and they are right.
I’ll never forget the time I took my girls to the grocery store and met a very special older couple. On this particular day, my girls were a little extra cute and eliciting lots of positive feedback. I noticed this one woman lingering a little longer as she played with them. Her husband took her by the arm and gently settled her in their car while I plopped my girls in their carseats. Then the husband came over to me and said ‘Bless you and your children. My wife has Alzheimer’s and babies are the only thing that bring her back to herself. Thank you for spending some time with her.’ Sometimes we forget how much joy children bring to us and others.
8. Let yourself cry. It happens- you’re hormonal, your body’s going through crazy changes and on top of it, you’re sleep deprived. There’s a baby who wants only you, 24/7 and you’ve lost that sense of ‘self’ and have to figure out how to create a whole new you. How can you cope? Stash emergency chocolate throughout the house. Hide in the pantry eating cookies. Take extra long showers when your husband is around. Find a dark, quiet spot. Let the tears flow as they come, laugh to yourself at how crazy this whole motherhood thing is, and take a deep breath as you walk out of the closet ready to face the world.
10. Lastly, remember one thing: These kids are not ours. They are on loan from Allah. We all return to Him and we all are just trying to do the best for our kids and ourselves in the meantime. Have faith in Him, and yourself, and everything will be alright inshAllah.
Let me end with these verses from one of my favorite poets, Khalil Gibran.
“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls; For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
Let that arrow fly, and be that stable bow. You can do it. You’ll be great.
Saba Ali Arian
Saba Ali Arain is an amateur circus performer; juggling two wonderful little girls and a loving husband while whistling a happy tune. She lives with her family in Oakland, NJ.