The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.'
Indeed, motherhood teaches us a lot. From the basics like changing nappies and burping baby after feeds to the complex like loving unconditionally, and making numerous sacrifices. And a whole galaxy of stuff in between.
And it's a never-ending process; a constant work-in-progress. If we've mastered one thing, another challenge will soon pop up. As baby becomes toddler then pre-schooler, we'll have a new set of issues to deal with.
However, if I had to pin-point the single-most important – and relatively constant – lesson I've learnt as a mother so far, it would be this: EVERYTHING IS A PHASE and will soon pass.
Like every new mum, I too was a bit of a freak in the early days. Everything stressed me out. My milk wasn't coming through – will formula be bad for my newborn? He didn't poop for two days – is he constipated? He's got a red spot above his right eyebrow – what on earth could that be? Could it be dangerous? Sure enough, my milk came through in time, Little Man did a huge poop on day three and the red spot vanished on its own.
Then as I mastered the initial stages, I began to fret about other stuff. He's always so hungry – what if I make him obese by feeding him so much milk? He's not sleeping anywhere except on my shoulder – am I doomed for the next five years? He used to sleep for five hours at a stretch; now he's waking up every 45 minutes – have I ruined his sleep habits for life?
But even as I worried and stressed (and frantically googled for answers and explanations), Little Man outgrew my dilemma. That phase had passed. If only I'd have known then that it was only a phase…
… Until, I was back on google a week later typing in silly questions like: Why won't my baby nap? Why doesn't my baby like bananas? Why is my baby so cranky all of a sudden? (In retrospect, it's funny how there are actually so many answers to questions like these!!!). Lying awake night after night mentally counting all the so-called 'problems' my baby had, and wondering where I had gone so damn wrong!
However, in time, I learnt to remind myself that what seemed like a huge problem at that point, would probably be gone and forgotten in a week's time. That it was simply a phase that Little Man was going through. He's feeding more because he's in a growth spurt, perhaps? Cranky because he's sprouting a new tooth. Not sleeping because, well, he's a toddler and toddlers are generally averse to sleep. Or he was in a possible sleep regression.
That's not to say I became (or am) a complete care-free mum; however the realisation that 'This isn't the end' and 'It's not going to be like this forever' helped ease my mind. I began to let things pass and just go with the flow. I realised that where babies and toddlers are concerned, change is indeed the only constant.
So now when Little Man pushes away food that he devoured just last week, I don't fret that my child is a fussy eater. I know he'll be back to eating it in a week or two.
When he asks for milk in the middle of the night, I don't worry about him never being able to sleep through the night. He slept through the week before and he will sleep through again the week after. This week he's hungry and he wants milk. Period. (Edit: Little Man is now well past the bottle and feeding-at-night stage, and thankfully sleeps through the night too).
When he protests to go to nursery, I know it's just him wanting to be home with mummy. Nothing more. If the protests are met with tears, I know he's going through a separation anxiety phase, and after a few extra cuddles he'll be fine. I know because he's clingier than usual, wants to be carried often and wants me around all the time. (Although if there's a sudden change in behaviour with respect to your toddler not wanting to go to nursery/ school, it's best to find out why rather than simply assuming he's being a pain or just fussing. He could be getting bullied/ shouted at/ feeling insecure).
So if I had to share a piece of advice for expectant mums or new mums, it would be to not fret the small stuff (though you undoubtedly will in the first few weeks when everything seems a haze and every cry results in 'WTF do I do now?'). Realise that your baby is growing and learning and experimenting, and with that comes changes and phases. This too shall pass. Enjoy the journey.
TIP: Download the Wonder Weeks app or visit their website to get a better understanding of why your baby is suddenly behaving differently. Wonder Weeks explains the mental and physical developmental ‘leaps’ babies go through in the first year of their life.
Do you fret the small stuff? Worry about things your baby/toddler does or doesn't do? What stresses you out as a mum (however silly it might be) and how do you deal with the situation? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
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