We are cautioned not to have regrets because what is done is done and there is nothing you can do to change the past. But sometimes when we have regrets we take care not to let those same mistakes occur and that is definitely a positive thing. When I reflect on my journey into motherhood, I can’t help but wish that I had done certain things differently. Despite this post being quite personal, I wanted to share these regrets with you in hopes that it might be beneficial to those of you going through similar situations. Here are five things I wish that I had done as a new mom.
1. Say “No”
Growing up in a Sri-Lankan household, saying “no” is very much equated with disrespect. Even if you don’t want to do something, you do it out of the fear of disapproval from your parents and elders. As a result this is something I really struggled with as a mom-to-be and new mom. One thing I deeply regret is not having had the courage to request family to hold off on visits until we were ready.
Every birth is different so I do not speak for everyone, however my two-day induction and birth with Akshaya was excruciating. I suffered a complication right after, was unable to breastfeed, and Akshaya’s body temperature was low due to the stressful birth. Despite the situation, as soon as news spread that our baby was born, visitors started showing up unannounced within a couple hours of me having given birth. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understood that our families were super excited to meet the newest addition to the family and see who she looks like and whatnot, but due to the circumstances it was very overwhelming for me. The last thing I wanted to do was force on a smile and play host to large crowds of people when I could barely breathe and hold back tears from the amount of pain I was in.
Perhaps my biggest regret was the fact that I kept quiet when guests blatantly dismissed the nurse’s instructions to leave Akshaya swaddled in her cot (rather than pass her around due to her low body temperature) and not to take flash photography of her due to her being premature. I wish that I had had the courage to speak up for my baby’s well-being but after one polite request I just gave up in fear of hurting feelings and being judged as a mom who didn’t want to share her baby. From the discussions that I have had with some of you, I gather that the majority of new mothers feel that is best to hold off visiting (unless you are immediate family) until both mother and child are comfortably settled into a routine at home. I don’t think that is too much to ask because those that love you will understand and respect your wishes without question.
2. Take pictures with my baby
When I look at baby pictures of my kids, one thing that stands out is the obvious lack of pictures of me and my kids. I don’t even have one picture of me holding any three of my children right after they were born and yet I have pictures of my kids with every single person that came to visit them. I have pictures of my kids with people that aren’t even a part of the kids’ lives and with people that we don’t necessarily even like or over the years stopped talking to. During the first 12 months of Akshaya’s life, most of the pictures I took of her was with my husband or one of my parents holding her. If I could go back, I would of asked my husband or parents to take as many pictures of me and my baby as I did of them and my baby. My advice to all expectant mothers is to have a picture taken of you and your newborn on their birth day no matter how bad you think you look because you will cherish that picture like no other(especially on their birthday every year when you look back at how much they have grown).
Everyone advises you to rest after giving birth and nap when baby naps but this was an almost impossible feat for me. Akshaya was born almost five weeks premature, just four days after we moved into our new apartment and on the first day of my exam week. When my waters spontaneously ruptured right before I was scheduled to leave home to write my first exam, I went into panic-mode. As soon as my mom was able to rush home from work, we went over to my place to unpack, wash, and set up all of the baby’s crib bedding before leaving for the hospital. Instead of remaining calm, I suffered so much anxiety because my plans of writing exams, setting up our apartment, getting our furniture, organizing Akshaya’s things, Christmas and New Years all flew out the door.
As soon as we left the hospital I applied for Akshaya’s health card, birth certificate, and SIN card. Next, I emailed all my professors informing them of my absence during exam week. When my baby napped, I frantically cleaned and worked to get our new place set up. I made preparations for Akshaya’s first Christmas and her Hindu Naming/31st Day Ceremony and limped around shopping for Christmas gifts for family and relatives, rather than taking it easy. My breaks consisted of me reviewing my exam notes for my rescheduled exams. In hindsight, I wish that I put all of these things on hold or at least delegated the tasks to my husband and parents so that I could of enjoyed the moments that I could never get back. I should have spent time resting (rather than crying) and bonding with my newborn because nothing really matters more than your newborn, and your physical and mental well-being.
4. Ask for help/support
My parents hoped that I would stay with them until Akshaya’s 31st Ceremony so that they could help me with the baby while I recovered from my complications. However both my parents worked two jobs at the time, my siblings had exams, and I felt me being there with a newborn was too much for everybody. I also felt bad for my husband who was sleeping alone at our new apartment so just after five days of staying with my parents, I returned to my new home. My husband had no idea what pregnancy, giving birth, and being a new mom took out of a woman and so didn’t offer any help or much support. To give you an idea about how clueless my husband was, he thought it was appropriate to sleep through my entire induction. Unfortunately, due to complications and Akshaya not tolerating the induction, only one person was allowed to be in the room with me so my parents weren’t there to comfort me either. Thankfully I did have two lovely nurses to keep me company throughout the night until I was ready to push the following morning. Then I was too angry to wake my husband up for support and later I was too stubborn to ask for help. Instead I struggled on my own and wore myself out doing too much too soon, significantly lengthening my post-natal recovery period.
To make matters worse, Akshaya developed colic around 3 weeks old and as a result screamed for hours every evening for the first 5.5 months of her life. My husband would go to work and then hang out with his friends rather than come home and deal with a colicky baby. Although my parents rushed over to help whenever they could, I was left alone with a colicky baby most of the time. I regret not having swallowed my pride and asking for help because had I gotten the support that I needed from my husband, I wouldn’t have suffered as much. To this very day I am really bad at asking for help because I believe those that truly want to help you will graciously offer. However, sometimes people don’t realize you need help until you ask especially if you are good at masking your pain and troubles like I obviously am.
5. Let myself experience my emotions
During my first pregnancy and specifically my post-natal period, I was happy one second, and sad or angry the next and I wish that I had known it was okay to feel everything I was feeling. Understandably, pregnancy causes severe fluctuations in hormones which can result in strong moods and emotions. In my case, stress due to being an undergraduate, and the lack of sleep and rest contributed heavily to my emotions being all over the place and because my husband wasn’t used to seeing me like that he was less than understanding. He was actually quite annoyed and didn’t understand why I had the baby if I was so miserable. In reality, I was miserable because I was in pain, my daughter was born five weeks premature, I missed exams, and I lacked the support that I desperately needed from my husband. Instead of opening up and educating him, I suppressed a lot of what I was feeling because that is what was expected of me. Looking back it wasn’t the best thing to do because I turned quite bitter and resentful towards my husband and it affected our relationship immensely.
Although I feel that I made notable mistakes the first time around, I was able to learn from these experiences and that is what truly matters. Do you wish you had done something differently as a first-time mom? If so, please share in the comments below.
NOTE: The vast majority of women find pregnancy, birth, and the transition into motherhood to be quite challenging and about 70-80% of women experience the “baby blues” which typically disappears one to two weeks after having given birth. During this time, it is beneficial to rest, eat well, drink plenty of fluids, accept help and not strive for perfection. If after two weeks you still feel sad, cannot resume your daily responsibilities, or feel suicidal, seek help immediately as you may be experiencing post-partum depression.