Before my son came along, I, like most mums, had it all worked out in my head how I’d approach motherhood and all its episodes. I’d read all the books, Googled and Baby Sensed myself into a coma, prepared checklists and schedules and plans for virtually every eventuality. And I was certain, stubbornly and blindly so, about the long list of things I would never, ever do as a mum.
Because, you know, having had babies around me and having watched the struggles of other mums instantly made me an expert, of course. Two years into this motherhood gig, I look back and snort at the sheer naiveté of my pre-mom self, sitting there stroking her big belly and dreaming of raising a future prodigy who eats all his veggies and never throws tantrums.
Judgy mums, avert your eyes now. It’s confession time.
1. What I thought: I will never give birth in any way other than naturally.
What actually happened: In the months leading up to my due date, we attended antenatal classes, where I consciously ignored the C-section bits. I focused instead on the natural labour techniques, preparing my birth plan, selecting my labour ward playlist and ensuring husband was aware of what would be required of him during my oh-so-spiritual birthing experience. Long story short: a few days shy of 40 weeks, our gynae pricked my bubble. Apparently a C-section would be the safest option for my 4-foot-nothing, size-3-shoe self to bring forth this unborn kid who was making no attempts to move downward. This was followed by two days of sobbing on my part, but I reluctantly gave in. In the end, it didn’t really matter how my boy came into this world. I hated the impersonal, clinical birth, but I did recover lightning fast. And as with any start to motherhood, whether it’s by birth or adoption or surrogacy, the beginning of the journey has been a total non-factor compared to the journey itself.
What actually happened: Pre-Mom Me would rant: “Just because a baby is attached to them, does not make it OK to flash boobs in public!”. And then I learnt that my newborn nursed around the clock, with no respect for any schedule I tried to impose on him. Trying to breastfeed exclusively meant having a never-ending supply of pumped milk on standby, but there were many times I had to whip them jugs out in haste to silence a screaming infant. Thank heavens for nifty nursing gadgets, covers and shawls that made it all a bit easier. I now have the Noddy badge for nursing anywhere and everywhere without a care. Stuck in bumper to bumper traffic with baby and it’s feeding time? Pulled over and got that ish done in the emergency lane. Baby hungry while I’m in a coffee shop, unfortunately sitting under a TV that had everybody glued to the cricket scores? Feeding done with what felt like the whole place watching me. Pumping in the boardroom at work? Yep. Done daily. And so on and so forth.
What actually happened: There is simply no time and certainly no money for me to keep up much of that pre-mom pampering. Babies and kids are expensive little things, aren’t they? They are all-consuming, demanding every last drop of your time and energy. When I can find a hairstylist and beautician who can do home visits after 9pm (for free) and doesn’t mind working her magic on an exhausted, sleeping corpse of a mum, then maybe we can talk. Until then, learn to deal with the crazy mama look, ok?
What actually happened: For well over a year I kept up the Annabelle Karmel-ing and initial pureeing and blended mish-mash of fresh food. It was awesome. I hate the kitchen and am a useless cook. But seeing my son’s satisfaction as he lapped up all my home-made “meals” (term used loosely because it was really just mixed up gunk), made me ever so proud. But two years in…kiddo is showing a distinct preference for dad’s cooking, and things like two-minute noodles have started to slip in from mum, along with other quick and nasties. I am not proud of it. But soon our boy will be able to eat every one of dad’s yummy daily meals. And mum will be let off the hook. #winning
What actually happened: Hearing grown women call their significant others Dad. Eeeew. But somehow it happens. Probably because you spend a lot of the time in those first few months trying to loan a voice to a human being who doesn’t yet have the vocab or brain power to express themselves. I constantly hear myself saying: “Look Dad, I’m dancing for you,” while my son is trying to get his father’s attention, or “Dad, where are my shoes?” or “Dad, will you do the bath today?” and I want to throw up in my own mouth. What’s worse is my husband often calls me Mum. Not Babe or Honey or Sex Goddess (haha) or any of the other pre-kid stuff. Sometimes just Mum. Double eeeew.
What actually happened: Save. Me. Now. From this hell of kung fu kicking and suffocation under the mass of toddler lying across my face. I know this is my fault. I know I have made excuses along the way that have delayed any real progress in this area. But somehow we went from an almost one year old sleeping through the night in his own cot, to a toddler zombie walking over to our bed because we’d switched from a cot to a big boy bed too soon, to a two year old who prefers to be sandwiched between mum and dad every night. But it’s just so lovely to fall asleep with this kiddo. To watch his eyes start blinking slower and slower until eventually they shut. To see his chubby cheeks puff in and out. To witness the way he holds his worn out pillow (his favourite lovey) ever so tightly in his sleep. Ah mannnn.
What actually happened: I know this is my fault. I know I have made excuses along the way that have delayed any real progress in this area. (Wait, this sounds familiar!) My original anti-dummy stance was something I felt strongly about and I was thrilled that sproglet did not seem to dig one after his first few days as a real human. But six months into the parenting journey, somewhere in the throes of teething, with a constantly whining, moaning child driving our sleep-deprived selves further into insanity, I popped a pacifier in. And the silence was instant, along with our relief. He soothed better. He slept better. It was awesome. But we (read: I) should have started weaning him off it well before he turned a year old. Because here we are, inching up to the 2.5 year mark with a kid who wails for his “dum-dum, dummy, dummmeeeee” melodramatically at home. At school he is fine, a big boy who goes all day without it. But once he’s at home with his spineless jellyfish of a mum, he morphs into Maggie from the Simpsons.
8. What I thought: I will not engage in baby talk.
What actually happened: I know this is my fault…. Oh, forget it! I shamelessly did this. “Nukupuku pudding pie.” “Does Mum’s lovebugalug want some num num?” “ What about your bottie? Does mum’s baba want his bottie?” This, along with the dummy, could be the reason I don’t quite have the prodigy I imagined who’d be having adult conversation by the age of two. Bite me.
9. What I thought: I will not allow him any screen time before the age of 2.
What actually happened: No telly was allowed and our caregiver was given strict instructions to adhere to the same. I figured we would spend our time instead playing games, exploring the outside world and learning through play. However in a home where Dad is an avid gamer (OK, maybe avid is a serious understatement. He is an obsessive gamer) and mum is a social media whore, this was perhaps a bit over ambitious. Gran eventually introduced my boy to kiddie’s telly at some point on a babysitting day close to his first birthday, and to see his excitement at the characters on screen did kinda make my heart do triple flick flacks. Today “Bunny” (Barney), “Tommees” (Thomas the Tank Engine), Bob (the Builder), Jakers and co have become firm friends. We do not exceed an hour in total a day, and certainly never in one uninterrupted sitting. As for our gadgets, this kid is a budding narcissist who loves to watch videos of himself on my phone repeatedly. I do worry about the effects on his little brain, but that is because I OD’d on all kinds of dire pre-mom warnings that stick with me to this very day. Truth be told, there are those moments where you really, really need to get something done quickly, and the purple dino and co can be complete saviours.
10. What I thought: I will not neglect the Hubster.
*An extract of this post first appeared in the debut issue of HungUp, a new South African online magazine. See it here