I was never good with babies.
I’d often see other ladies swoop a baby up into their arms and immediately be able to charm them, making them smile and laugh right on cue. Even if the baby was midway through a crying spell, they’d somehow lull the infant into a state of calmness in a matter of minutes. Perhaps even get them to nod off to sleep.
As for me, I couldn’t even figure out how to pick up a baby properly.
In fact, more often than not, if friends or family were to extend a baby in my direction, prompting me to take the child from them into my arms, I’d most likely shrink back from the responsibility with a vehement shaking of my head, followed by a firm, “No, thank you”.
Now, it wasn’t that I hated babies or children in general. The truth was, I liked being around them. It’s just that, unfortunately, I felt really awkward whenever I related to them. Even more so when there were other people watching.
“Here’s your chance to practice with mine so you’ll know what to do when you become a mummy,” a friend would say to me. And that would only make me feel worse and not even want to try.
But here’s the thing: Deep down, I really wanted to become a mother. I always imagined that I would become one someday.
It wasn’t an obsession that I dwelled upon constantly. It was more like an ideal outcome that would linger in the periphery of my mind, emerging unbidden at random moments in my life.
I had a wonderful mother.
She quit full-time employment when I was midway through primary school, just so she could stay at home with me and my younger sister as we grew up. I faced a lot of emotional turmoil and struggles in those years, but my Mum was there through it all.
I hoped to be that sort of mum to my own kids.
It was the year 2010 when my husband, Deric and I first broached the subject of children. We were only just six months deep into a serious relationship back then. Yet this topic came up somehow, and we agreed to settle down once we’d dated for about three years. We also intended to raise two children.
It was actually a pretty presumptuous thing to say back then, since I don’t think either one of us could even tell whether we’d make it through the year with our relationship intact. Nevertheless, we called it, and that’s precisely how things went.
However, after we’d gotten married in 2012, it took us awhile before we actually started a family. One of the reasons for this was that I still felt really insecure about motherhood. Essentially, I feared I would mess up the lives of my future children due to poor parenting skills.
I had all kinds of silly worries…
What if my baby disliked me from the very beginning? How would I deal with that?
And what if I decided I wanted to quit parenting halfway through? It wasn’t like there was a Refund and Returns Policy for these things.
Well, I tried to quell my fears in a few ways.
I tried Googling for answers on the Internet. Search terms I used were along the lines of “How to know if I’m ready to become a parent.” What I found wasn’t really that useful.
For example, I came across an article containing a checklist for aspiring parents. It included suggestions like trying to spoon soggy cereal into the cavity of a swaying melon that was suspended from your ceiling, and emptying the contents of every drawer in your house onto the floor. You were supposed to try doing these things, so you’d know how it would feel like being a parent.
At any other time, I might have considered this to be a hilarious and entertaining article to read. But at that time, I needed serious answers, and this wasn’t helping in any way.
Since my Mum had been my golden standard for motherhood all along, I also approached her for counsel on the matter. But all she did was basically assure me that everything would be okay and that I needn’t really worry too much about it. This didn’t rid me of my doubts at all.
In the end, the only thing that really gave me the confidence I needed to become a mother was the support and optimism that came from Deric.
We had a chat one day and I asked him whether he thought we should start trying to conceive. I told him about my mixed emotions regarding the whole parenting gig. He responded really positively to the entire idea in general, and he told me that he believed parenting was something we could handle together. It was his willingness to give it a shot that finally convinced me.
Well, our journey as parents didn’t start off easy. In fact, there was already drama from the get-go.
We faced a nuchal cord issue during our eldest son’s delivery. Jamie had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck during labour, and this caused his heart rate to drop rapidly. Consequently, I had to undergo an emergency Caesarean section to avoid life threatening complications. Post-surgery recovery was painful, and my initial foray into motherhood often had me feeling lonely and rather dejected.
Next came a whole host of other issues: Breastfeeding. Fussy spells. Trouble sleeping. And all those inevitable arguments and misunderstandings that Deric and I faced as we tried to figure out what worked or didn’t when it came to caring for young children.
Amidst the many challenges we faced along the way, it was the fact that we faced it together that made it achievable. Parenting is definitely hard at times. But with the right company and support, we can make it through.
I’ve survived nearly seven years of parenting my two kids so far. There’s still a long way more to go, but hey, I think I can carry a baby pretty well by now! I can also deal fairly well with diaper changes, naps, tantrums and a lot of other child-related challenges too.
The writer with her two children.
Looking back, I’d say it’s nearly impossible to ever be 100% ready for motherhood. If it’s truly an experience we desire to have in life, then we just have to make the decision to go for it in spite of our insecurities.
With a good support system in place, I believe anyone can become a great mother or father. Ideally, our spouse ought to be the one we’re partnering with for this journey, but the help of others can be enlisted too wherever necessary, as long as the people we approach are willing, reliable and available.
And that’s really all you need to become a parent. The rest we figure out along the way.
Susanna Khoo cherishes the diversity in motherhood that she sees all around her and hopes to encourage other mums to be their best unique selves through her writing. Formerly a tech journalist, she decided to become a home-based freelance writer once her kids arrived on the scene. She seeks solace in coffee, music, books and crafts like crochet and sewing as she treads the fine line between chaos and calm daily.
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