I hadn’t meant to go so long without a blog entry, but with the little one’s feeding schedule, and trying to pump and nap in between, there just never seems to be enough hours in the day to do anything else. In the blink of an eye, nearly two weeks have passed since BabyDumpling’s one-month birthday.
I feel like I walked through a portal on May 17, 2017. My life since then is so different from my life before that point. And the difference is not like the kind of difference I’ve experienced with other major life events, like graduating from school or moving to a new country. In those instances, even though “everything” changes, all of that is external. In this case, it’s more like “everything” has changed internally, like I have changed into a different person. It’s hard to describe, but I’m sure other moms will know what I’m talking about. Everything that used to seem important no longer seems important. The way I see myself, even the way I see my husband, is different. And although I’m still not used to being called a “mom,” my brain has already rewired itself into a “mom brain.” Maybe not every part of my brain, but a large part.
Here are just a couple of examples of how my perspective has changed that I didn’t expect:
Nakedness. I have no shame for nakedness anymore. It’s like I ate the opposite apple that Adam and Eve ate. More than a dozen people have stared at my vagina in the past two months, and now it no longer seems that “private” of a private part. Not only that but since then, I’ve pretty much walked around with my tits hanging out 80% of my waking hours because of breastfeeding and pumping. I don’t see breasts as sexual objects anymore, I just see them as the thing that produces my baby’s food.
Food. I have been a picky eater my whole life, and I could not be forced to eat anything I didn’t want to eat. My parents told me that since I was a baby, I’ve been a picky eater; even if they were able to force me to eat something I didn’t want to eat, I would end up throwing it up after the meal. So pickiness with food was the one “vice” that my parents allowed (or gave up on), and it has stayed with me my whole life. However, in this post-partum period, I have eaten a lot of things I wouldn’t otherwise want to eat. Because now it’s about producing breastmilk and feeding my baby good nutrients. So even things that I don’t like, if I think it’s healthy, I will eat it. This was not true during pregnancy, although my baby was also getting nutrients from me during my pregnancy, but I became much more conscious of it after the baby was born.
Personal image. My priorities have shifted since the baby was born, and one thing that got deprioritized was my own looks. I used to always put makeup on before leaving the house, and would never be caught dead in public with sweatpants on. Now, I grab whatever’s comfortable and as long as I’m wearing clothes (check to make sure my tits are not hanging out), it’s a win. Makeup? Who has time for makeup? I have a bad case of post-partum acne, and I would try to cover up some of the acne, but that’s about the extent of my makeup. It also helps that I suffer from an abundance of self-confidence, and I think I still look great when I look in the mirror, considering I pushed a person out of me, so there’s that.
My husband. A lot of people talk about the bonding between a newborn and her mother, but no one talks about the bonding between the parents. I feel like PapaDumpling and I have bonded immensely over the delivery of our first child and the subsequent weeks of learning to be new parents together. There are articles floating out there about how having kids can hurt the parents’ relationship with each other if it becomes one of the things that gets deprioritized, and I think that’s a valid point, but so far, if anything, having a kid has brought PapaDumpling and I closer than ever. I feel he has a newfound respect for me, and for women generally, after seeing what I had to go through in childbirth. Moreover, being up at night together feeding BabyDumpling was the kind of “being in the trenches together” activity that you can’t help bond over.
“Liquid gold.” I’ve already discussed the challenges of breastfeeding in a previous post, and more generally, how hard it is to be a mother. Since then, I have come across so many articles and posts written by other moms on the exact same thing, and my conclusion is that breast milk is liquid gold, and every act of feeding your child breast milk is an expression of love. Since my last entry on this subject, I have moved on to exclusively pumping, and this article, every word, describes how I feel.
There are many other ways in which my perspective has changed that were totally expected, like how I view babies, and how much I care about safety, ingredients used in products, etc. I never knew one could spend so much time researching baby formula, for example, or reading up on strollers or pumping accessories. But almost all parents experience that, so it came as less of a surprise to me.
Although a lot has changed, some things have not changed. I still dream of traveling (and eating good food) every time I close my eyes, only now I try to imagine how I can travel with the baby. This is the part of my brain that hasn’t been rewired I suppose.
Despite feeling like I’ve walked through a portal, where the whole world, including myself, feels different, I still feel like my life is still mine, not one that solely revolves around the baby, and that’s a good thing. As many articles like this one point out, “Paying attention to your preferences and limits doesn’t mean that you’re selfish. […] You are merely trying to be happy so you can model happiness, which is actually your first and most important job as a parent. Your kids need to know what happiness looks like.” This is very important to me. This article focuses a lot on being a parent, and how you can still be selfish while being a parent, but I would take it one step further. I would say, “You are not just a parent. You are (still) also a woman/man, a wife/husband, a sister/brother, a daughter/son, a friend – whatever you may have been – you don’t automatically stop being those things once you become a parent. And, believe it or not, being a parent is not any more important than being all of those other things.”