I’m nearing week 38 of my pregnancy. We’ll be meeting this energetic little prince soon. Even though I’ve gone through labor once, the unknown scares me still. It truly is one of those feelings a woman cannot deny, no matter how much one reads, researches or prepares for D-day. The only way to learn about it, is to experience it. I can tell you someone how scary and painful it is, but it will not amount to the actual experience.
The same goes for parenting, I believe. People don’t know how difficult it is until they have a child of their own. Movies, books, and stories relating to parenthood are just passing information that goes around like a summer breeze. You hear about it, acknowledge it, maybe question it a little, and then it goes away. When you’re a parent, it doesn’t go away. It is the real deal. Then, you realize your whole world now doesn’t revolve around you. I used to think babies are so wonderful to be around with all the time, until I had one of my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love my child immensely, but it takes work. Just like marriage, it takes work to keep it together. It is a constant adaptive change because we are always growing in and out of phases in life. Miracles happen, shit happens. Days and nights get turned upside down, but constantly rewarded with precious, short moments that make your heart flutter.
In the blink of an eye, my daughter will soon be 3 years old. And we’ll have another baby to nurture. Emma’s been clingy lately, and she has been giving me random hugs and kisses, something which she never did before. People say that young siblings can sense, from the moment you conceive another baby, that there is going to be competition. I’ve been trying my best to educate Emma on having a baby brother. I make it as genuinely positive for her, about how our lifestyle is going to change, and how she’ll be an awesome big sister. I’ll tell her baby brother will look up to her for everything, and learn from her. She likes that. Probably because she’s at an age where she likes to have some authority over every decision. I want to make her feel as important with a new member arriving in the family.
This time, I have vowed to fully breastfeed the baby. With Emma, I was not prepared, even though I thought I was. Like I said, in this aspect, reading forums and books/articles about breastfeeding doesn’t even bring you an inch close to face the real experience … or shall I say, the obstacles. I attended a breastfeeding course with my husband, and feel better prepared for what’s to come now. From the moment the baby is born, we have to be firm on our decisions and not let anyone, including relatives or the hospital staff influence our decision unless (of course) the baby’s life is in danger. Having my husband attended the course with me was very beneficial. I’m not perfect, I have my weakness. And in a split second, I could give in to a moment of doubt just because I have so much love for my child. My husband is my pillar of strength, and I need him there to reassure we are doing the right thing.
There is a huge shift in a generation’s mentality on breastfeeding. Our parents were raised to always appreciate having not to go hungry because they grew up in poor families. Of course, seeing your grandchild go hungry without any milk for the first couple days is devastating, and that’s why most people succumb to feeding formula milk from the start. And the more the baby drinks, the happier the grandparents are. The chubbier the baby, the so-called healthier baby is. Our parents generation are wired to give the future generations a better, not necessarily healthier, life than they had. But what I don’t understand is how they forget growing up suckling from their mother’s breast as a baby. That’s natural, for a mother to nurse her baby just like any mammal in the world would. Moreover, it is proven that mother’s milk is the most nutritious for a baby, so why do people still give formula?
Convenience. Security. Independence.
But being a mother, you can’t have convenience anymore. You can’t have independence anymore. There will be this little human clinging to you forever (well, at least the first few years of his/her life). So why has breastfeeding become so unnatural to the point where it is even taboo in some places to stick out a boob in public to feed your baby? It is a shame. I was raised drinking formula milk, and while it kept me alive and thriving, I don’t think it was ideal for my health. If I could change one thing about bringing Emma up as a baby, it would have been to breastfeed her fully. But I gave up quick. It was tiring, yes. Exhausting. Mentally and physically. I can’t control the physical part, naturally. But mentally, the people around me were pushing to stop breastfeeding. I remember my mother-in-law telling me my milk isn’t suppose to squirt out so little like this. She said it was not enough. But how does she know? She didn’t even manage to feed her own son her milk. They rather I sweat like a pig and drink herbal wine to replenish my body, and feed artificial milk to my baby. The popular Asian post-natal confinement ways, had me thinking at first, “Wow, lucky me to be part of this culture, which advocates nurturing the mother’s health. It’s not all about the baby.” But soon, I realized there were many things that didn’t make sense. I agree to eating well and healthy after delivery, but why should it be to the point where the alcohol in the food will suppress my milk supply? Also, I can only eat meat, I cannot eat vegetables …? I have to sweat like a pig, and not bathe because the water will bring “wind” into my body and give me rheumatism when I age? Whatever happened to hygiene? Also, a clean bath is so mentally refreshing. Whatever happened to taking care of the mother’s mental health? There’s already so much to do, especially with breastfeeding a baby. I’ve come to see that post-natal confinement practices and breastfeeding conflict with one another. I think Malaysians are the only ones in the world, till today, who still practices all this. And they claim these practices were handed down from ancient China. The irony is that the Chinese in China don’t even practise it anymore. Perhaps, there is truly a reason why it doesn’t need to be practised this way. We are more educated today, and I find it ridiculous why we are taking two steps backwards to practise something that is not even suitable in this era and age.
Sigh. I wish I had more family support on the things that make sense to me. But you see, the older generation will always say they have had more experience than you did. I know everyone wants the best for me and the baby, but perhaps this time they are wrong. So moving forward, as long as my husband and I are on the same page, we will not care about what others think. Till today, I still remember the way Emma looked at me and coo when she suckled at my breast in the early newborn days. I miss it so much and I feel guilty for not giving her more of that comfort when she was a young baby. I wish there could have been longer moments of it for me to keep in my memory. And I always question myself, if I had breastfed longer, maybe she would be much healthier and have a stronger immunity. I’m not saying she’s no good now, but there’s always that fight to give your child the best.
May I have the strength this time to deliver a healthy baby boy without any complications, and kick off a smoother breastfeeding journey.