Looking back, I think that I had a peek into how 'true' Motherhood would be like just about when 'delivery' started for me. Dumpling was an overdue baby and at 41 weeks, she didn't show any signs of wanting to head out of the cozy nest. Hence an induction was called for and despite the best prep work done (I attended and practised Hypnobirthing religiously for months and had my birth plan written out months before) I had to go for an emergency C-section. After going through a drug-free 18-19 hours of labour and having contractions like every 2 mins(?), I was so exhausted and all I wanted was just to have the baby out.
Unlike my other friends who shared with me their glorious AHA MOTHERHOOD moment where it was love at first sight and they shed streams of joyful tears, I was shivering from the aftermath of epidural, felt numb and was just bone weary from being up 22 hours straight trying to deliver my baby.
When I got home, I soon realised that Dumpling is not quite the textbook baby I envisioned her to be and despite me trying to "Gina Ford" her, we were both left frustrated - me from a lack of sleep, sore boobs and bleeding nipples and her, from a lack of understanding from the mum and may I add that she must have been very unhappy having been yanked out earlier than she'd like!
I then develop hot flushes, had breastfeeding difficulties AND chronic insomnia. The inability to understand and bond with my child, the hormones, the lack of sleep and the inability for the mind to shut and rest led to a bout of Post Natal Depression.
Many have asked me what is it like and how it feels. Before being on medication, I was clocking less than 3 hours of sleep daily because Dumpling's naps were only 20-25mins long. I barely had time to eat and shower before I had to tend to her / nurse her all over again. I was zombified as I was on a high alert all the time. Ever had too many shots of caffeine in one day? Well, that's me - bone weary but my mind as going at a 220km per hour and I could not rest because I did not know when is the next minute Dumpling would wake and demanded to be fed / tended to again.
It was both lonely and scary. Have you ever looked out into the still of the night where everything looks like it has come to a standstill? Everything out there looks peaceful and everyone is resting. Even the leaves are no longer rustling as they are getting a much needed rest. All BUT you. Your brain is just whirling with thoughts and worries and you battle with the irony that you want very much to rest but your brain decides that you are unable to shut off. Finally, when your eyes feel like lead and body battled and just when you think you are finally able to doze off, you jerk awake, thinking that your baby is up / is crying and fussing.
I still remember moments like these where I felt so alone and so helpless. It was also during moments like these that I realised that I came to resent the fact that such a small being can bring me literally to my knees and to the brink of insanity. I recall many such nights of carrying my child and crying and talking to God. I recall asking God "Is this motherhood? Will I ever be able to fall asleep on my own, without drugs, ever again? Will I ever feel close to my child? Will I EVER be normal? Will I ever enjoy motherhood?" I could not see any bright spot, let alone a light, during those days.
After I was on medication, it was a different kind of experience. I felt like I was sucked into this vacuum where I was always on the outside looking in. Calm but void of any emotions. I was also strangely detached to that little being that I carried in my body for 9 months. Where I used to fuss over every hiccup, smile at every kick she made and squeal in girlish delight when I see her while doing a regular ultrasound scan; I felt none of that at all. Mummy guilt ranks high on my list during those dark bleak days.
My internal battle continued and I ranted at God at every opportunity "Where is the bond? What is this love everyone is talking about? What is the joy in this permanent journey of motherhood? Am I fit to be a mother? Why am I different from the rest of my friends who were doing so fantastically well? Where did I go wrong and why did I fail?"
It hurts to look back even after all these years and know that I resented my child at a point in life where I was not fit to be her mum. I had help from my mother-in-law, mum and helper. But it was also a double-edged sword and a bittersweet experience. I felt angry and resented that they could handle and read my child better than I did. More than that, I resented the fact that my baby responded to them and not me. Her mother. The mother who until a few weeks ago bonded so well with her while she was still inside as we even played "tap and kick" games.
Laughably, I got out of Post Natal Depression out of sheer stubbornness. I did not like the person that I was - negative, insecure and unsure. I know that I could do it. I desperately wanted to get well so that I can enjoy my child. That little girl that I have asked God for. I wanted to have that bond and I wanted to stop crying. I wanted to be one of the faces she looks forward to seeing and squealing to. I wanted to be her mum. I wanted to be a fun mum. I wanted to be a HAPPY mum. Bit by bit, I got better. I headed out more, spoke more and I got to understand my child better. I found joy slowly in her little antics and found myself laughing more. I started missing her when I was out and I started looking forward to seeing her at the end of each evening after work. I loved (and still does this!) smelling her toes and stealing kisses even when she is asleep. I spent time reading and doing craft work with her after work to continue to build the bond too.
Four odd years on, things have changed drastically for us. We are like 'Kee Chang and Sugar' (rice dumpling) and I have never enjoyed myself more. Motherhood is no walk in the park for me. The mummy guilt factor does hit me once in a while when I look back at the dark beginnings (well and also when I morphed into MummyGila and yell at Dumpling till I swear the ceilings rocked).
Dumpling and I celebrating my birthday in 2012
I roll my eyes (many times over) when I read articles on how easy some mummies say it is for them and how they took to motherhood like a duck to water. That their kids slept right through from one month and that they dropped back to their old size 2 months after delivery.
Good for you I'd say. But for this upcoming Mother's Day, I want to celebrate. And I will celebrate because I am proud of how hard I have worked at to get better and to establish the bond with my daughter and even through communication methods like Baby Signing. I will celebrate because I have earned my stripes and as a homeschooling mum too!
My mum always reminds me that it does not matter how rocky my path was but that I made the journey count. I only hope that I have my mum's wise genes and that I will be there for Dumpling too.
Linking up with:
Celebrating Motherhood for this Mother's Day with:
I first wrote about my experience in my brother's blog about 2 - 3 months after birth. I am happy to share that since then, I have made a full recovery and while I still rant at God once in a while, it certainly is not about Dumpling. I do, however, own up to still smelling her toes and stealing kisses when she sleeps. :)