Each week for almost a year, SheKnows has been honored to feature an exclusive excerpt from the bestselling series, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Our newest Chicken Soup for the Soul exclusive is from the series’ latest book that profiles inspiring stories for new moms written by new moms. From this new book of real-life uplifting tales, Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms, SheKnows has been given an excerpt by new mom Maizura Abas entitled Motherhood: Not Quite a Stroll in the Park.
Chicken Soup’s sage story
Mothers and daughters are closest, when daughters become mothers.
As a young woman, I used to work at a pharmacy right in the middle of London’s affluent neighborhood of Holland Park. At the same time every morning, I would look out of the shop to see a particular mother out on a stroll with her pretty baby propped up cozily in what must have been the latest state-of-the-art pram. Sometimes, she would grace the pharmacy with her presence. On some days, she would glide in dressed in a very feminine, floaty dress. Other days, she would be smartly attired in a casual designer suit. Her hair was always immaculately coiffured. Invariably, she looked elegant, like a woman in full possession of her mental and emotional faculties. She would look around the shop and peruse the shelves for the latest beauty products. She looked like she did not have a care in the world. Most impressively, she maneuvered the baby and the pram around effortlessly, as though they were merely fashion accessories.
Fast forward four years later, in a different continent altogether. In that reality, I have become a mother myself. I could not have been a more stark contrast to that calm and collected Holland Park mom who I imagined must have had a whole army of nannies and other support staff to manage her baby, household and wardrobe for her. For a start, I would never be dressed in anything other than a crease-proof T-shirt and the most comfortable pair of jeans. I dressed for the sole purpose of ensuring that the main source of nourishment for my baby — my breasts — could be easily accessed. The accompanying accessories to my outfits were often some stain or lingering smell of something the baby had regurgitated. My hair would always be carelessly pinned back in no particular fashion, strictly to keep loose strands from getting into my baby’s face as I bent down to kiss him for the thousandth time.
I could not have loved my precious newborn more, and I wanted to spend all my waking and sleeping hours with him by my side. In those early days when I walked around bleary-eyed and disheveled from surviving on perhaps three or four hours of sleep each night, I cared about nothing but the wellbeing of my baby. When I wasn’t cradling, changing, feeding or burping him, I would be poring over parenting books and magazines in a frenzied search for the answers to questions that were crowding my already addled head. Why did my baby constantly need to be breastfed with hardly any respite between each feed? Was it natural for every single feed to shoot straight out of the other end? What if his cognitive or physical development did not quite meet the milestone markers clearly laid out in parenting books? I had also become a constant fixture in the pediatricians’ office, furnishing soiled diapers with feces of questionable color or consistency for him to examine and tirelessly besieging him with one query after another about all manner of things related to the baby and parenting. Bless that lovely man, for he never once judged me or let on that he felt I was making a beeline for the funny farm.
Yet whilst I was completely immersed in the world of motherhood, I could feel a rift widening between my husband and me. Soon after the birth of our baby, he started being given greater responsibilities at work. This required him to travel out of the country quite frequently. If he were to come home at night, I would already be deep in slumberland, quite often with the baby still in my arms. At times, I would just pretend to be asleep. I had begun to develop a slight resentment for how his life had not changed in the least after the baby. The increasingly fewer conversations we had would inevitably end up with me launching into a tirade about how exhausted I was and how yet another one of his relatives had visited. The trouble with those visitors is they could never resist dishing out unsolicited advice about parenting, which predictably questioned the way I was caring for my baby. They were also fond of making comparisons between my little angel and so-and-so’s child of a similar age. In any case, their visits were never something I looked forward to.
Then one day whilst on the phone with my mother, I broke down in hysterics and told her how I often felt frustrated about not coping as a mother. My mother listened very attentively throughout and then spoke, “It’s only natural to be experiencing all these feelings that you are having right now. I’m still discovering new things about motherhood at my age. I now have to learn to be a mother to someone who has become a mother herself.” I just had to chuckle at that. She then added, “I know how busy the baby keeps you, but you must make the time to enjoy the things that you did before the baby came along. And you must make the effort to keep the spark in your marriage alive.”
I kept thinking about what my mother had said. A couple of days later, my old boss rang me and asked if I would be interested in helping out with some mini projects that she was working on. I did not hesitate to call my mom straightaway and ask if she could babysit for a couple of days a week. In the end, it was not just those couple of days that I would turn up at my mom’s.
My mom had insisted that I keep a set of baby clothes, a pack of diapers, toiletries, feeding bowls and a sterilizer at her house. That way, I could just strap my baby in the car seat straight after breakfast and literally deposit him at her doorstep whenever I was running late for the classes I had agreed to teach. My mom was truly a godsend. When my baby showed little interest in eating his pureed vegetables, my mom taught me that by sweetening them with a little fruit puree, we could make him eat every last drop. When my baby started babbling, my mom sang songs and read wonderful books to him to boost his speech development. My mom bought him his very first Thomas the Tank Engine toy, which grew into a large collection of trains, tracks and books. It was so apparent that Grandma and baby delighted and flourished in the company of one another. Although the travelling to and fro my mom’s was a little tiring, we were all infinitely happier.
With Mom ever willing to volunteer her babysitting services, I managed to find the time for the occasional hair treatment, pampering massages and, most importantly, the romantic nights out my husband and I had missed and sorely needed. I never quite got my act together enough to dress and carry myself with the admirable composure of the Holland Park mom I had encountered in my youth. But there were actually days when I caught myself in the mirror and smiled at what I saw. I realized that motherhood is seldom a stroll in the park. It is not something you gain mastery of overnight. However, if you can accept that and reach out to ask a trusted person for help along the way, it makes motherhood so much more manageable and enjoyable. Getting my mother involved in the caring of my firstborn was the best thing I ever did for myself, my baby and my marriage.
By the way, my husband has become an incredibly supportive and amazing father since those early days of parenthood. We now have two kids, and they both put him on a pedestal where he rightly belongs. My mother continues to be the best grandmother any child could ever ask for.