personalKarla LimComment

On becoming a mom

personalKarla LimComment
On becoming a mom

I think nothing can ever prepare you for becoming a mom until it happens. You really don’t know how you will respond to it, plus hormones and all. I thought I prepared myself as much as I could, physically and mentally. Yet, the whole experience shook my world. It put me in a place of extreme vulnerability, a feeling that I was not familiar with and couldn’t cope as well as I used to.

As an entrepreneur, I prided myself in my independence, go-getter attitude, and hardworking work ethic. In fact, my life verse for the longest time was Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men,” with the emphasis on work at it all your heart. I poured my heart out in anything I did, including the pregnancy and the labour. I spent time talking to mom friends before baby was born, read tons of books, to prepare myself, at least mentally and physically for this new life. I thought, just like with anything I’ve had to deal with in my life, I would train myself, pray hard, and power through it with sheer willpower. I would’ve never thought that becoming a mom would shake the core of my being. The birth didn’t go “as planned” as you may have read, but I was able to let go of that very quickly. It didn’t bother me at all. But it was the aftermath that swept me off my feet. I was set on moving forward and embracing this new role. Not.

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The moment Chase was placed into my arms, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. The first thought (and a thought I would struggle continually with) was, “Oh my goodness. What have I done?” The reality knowing that this baby is now in our responsibility for the next foreseeable future, frightened me and shook my confidence.

I wish I could tell you that when Chase was born, that it was an immediate overwhelming, unconditional love. You would think so, right? I mean, we prayed for this baby for so long, and we know how much this baby is a blessing and a miracle. After all, we had gone through so much with C’s health, and the anticipation for this little one was a much welcome thought. When you scroll through posts on Facebook or Instagram of friends with their baby announcements, or mom updates about their babies, they all seem so happy and grateful, that they just love being a mom! Yet for me, it was definitely more like a gradual love. Don’t get me wrong - I definitely love and treasure our little one. But I struggled with the reality of motherhood first, and that hampered me from treasuring our baby from the get-go.

(P.S. After talking to lots of my mom friends, I quickly learned how social media paints such a picture-perfect image of motherhood, and rarely talks about its realities, which creates unrealistic social pressures. I realized very quickly that every mom, at some point, didn’t love being mom, all the time. No wonder self-care, and creating time for yourself is so important! Can’t run on empty, all the time.)

The newborn stage can be really challenging because the whole world is so new to them, their brains are still so immature at this point, they cry a lot, sometimes, not knowing what they really want. They need to feed and to be cared for 24/7, which makes sleep and care for ourselves hard. They’re just so needy at this point, and definitely doesn’t feel as rewarding. As a mom, your body is still recovering from birth physically (it’s major surgery!), then there’s huge hormone jumps, which don’t really help. You know that what you really need is rest, but you still have to take care of a baby. The baby is also still learning about everything - like feeding for example, and so are you, especially as a first-time mom. I quickly learned that there will be things you used to hold dear that you need to let go of. No wonder it’s so overwhelming. Some people describe this transition as a traumatic life event, and there’s truth in that. I described the experience to my sister as, it’s as if you’ve just had hip replacement surgery (the birth), and you’re expected to run a marathon the next day (become a mom mentally) - and take care of a baby as well (become a mom physically). You quickly go from zero to 100% mom the very moment the baby is born, so it’s really quite a shift physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. One day you’re driving around without a care in the world, designing pretty invitations, getting so much sleep, and the next day, you’re changing diapers, feeding, and calming a crying baby for until who knows when. Restful sleep seems like a far-fetched idea. Then, once you overcome one challenge, there’s always a new one to deal with.

I struggled with being selfless for baby every now and then, thinking, “What about me?”

Especially in the newborn phase, or the first three months at least, it’s really more about survival and going with whatever baby needs/wants, and being “on demand” than conforming to a schedule. Those changes were especially (and still are) difficult for me, as a Type A individual who was used to having so much control and structure in my life. I lived and breathed by setting my own schedule, and now, a little human being was making itself known that he’s now priority, and that he sets his own schedule. (I realized schedules are some ways parents cope to have some control back to their lives.) Especially in the mornings, waking up to his cry was a sad reminder that my life was no longer the same. I felt selfish that it was so difficult for me to let go of myself and be utterly loving and selfless for my son (while others seem to be able to do it without complaining) and to be okay to lose a couple hours of sleep. I craved my life-without-baby and yearned for it to be back. I felt sadness and regret about this whole mom transition, and guilt that I felt that way - it truly seemed ungrateful, knowing that this is supposed to be a blessing. When I expressed it to some of my mom friends, one mentioned that I may be grieving. I was grieving my previous life and how life wasn’t the same anymore. The hormones and the fatigue don’t help either, so I struggled with mood swings and anxiety about baby. I also learned the hard way that the more I sought to have control over his life, the more disappointment came to me. Every now and then I would have expectations or yearn to “intervene” and help baby get to a schedule, and things would be different and I would end up creating more frustration, instead of enjoying baby the way he is, especially at this stage. This was how reading too many books backfired on me. I realized that yes, while there may be some truth in them, he’s still a baby, too, and what he really needs is a mom that loves him, and wants to be with him, than a mom that wants to control him. Gratefully, it does get easier as baby adjusts to the world, and you adjust to your new normal, and baby starts to respond, which makes it a little sweeter.

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(yes baby, the snuggle, or the struggle is real… LOL)

Parenthood is truly humbling.

Through this experience, I have truly learned the beauty of being grateful for every little thing - thanksgiving is very much related to joy. We are also so blessed to have help and to be around Chase’s grandparents, and now fully understand why it really takes a village. There’s no reason why we should struggle through this on our own, especially whenever Clement isn’t feeling good or has to be at the hospital. Also, watching our parents and friends pour out their love to Chase minus all the exhaustion - and it’s so refreshing to see. It refreshes my soul, too, every single time. It also has enriched my relationship with my parents and my in-laws, as I reflected on what they had to go through as parents. I also started to go to a Christian counsellor who has been helping me process these thoughts and feelings, so that I can come to a place of healing. I realized that there are some gaps I wasn’t able to fully resolve in the past that are affecting how I am processing the present.

Also, this whole experience has definitely increased our trust and dependence on God, and has broadened our understanding of God’s love for us. In those long nights, I envision myself God holding with me holding baby. I realize how much I’m just like a baby in God’s hands, and I’m in awe of His patience and unconditional love for me. I have to trust Him for my every need. Then, I realize that Chase is also trusting me and Clement to fill his every need. In my fearful and anxious thoughts, I would worry about not knowing or not having the strength to care for my baby. But God’s Word is just so alive, constantly reminding me that the God of the universe is on my side, and that I am not alone, He is always with me and will never leave me nor forsake me. The verses I wrote and memorized eons ago have come back to me with such richness and meaning.

I learned that God fills me up with the love so I can love and provide for my son. He gives me the strength to go through one more second, one more day. He gives me wisdom to know what baby needs, when and how to deal with it. He gives me peace so I can sleep at night, knowing that we’re all in His hands. He gives me patience and understanding, to think of how much baby needs us to fill his every need right now, rather than focus on how difficult it has been. He gives me hope, when I feel hopeless, especially when Clement isn’t feeling the greatest.

In this entire transition, I really couldn't have imagined doing this without our marriage being rooted deeply and strong. When one of us is exhausted or at wit’s end, the other encourages and helps, and vice versa. And in the fleeting moments of peace - just a hug or two telling each other that we're going to be okay, has become my most sought after moments. We’ve agreed that no matter how tough it gets, only one of us is allowed to be upset at one time.

Now that Chase is a little over 11 weeks old, he’s definitely more fun and no longer just a needy blob, lol, which makes our days a little bit more manageable. We’re excited to share to him our world, and showing him new things every day, and we tell him about the many places we want to bring him. We pray with him, every day, and tell him how much we love him, every day, and how grateful we are that he is part of our family and we get to call him our own.