Dear New Moms

I had this really bitchy post up before this but decided that while it was really satisfying on my part (a girl's gotta be a bitch sometime, you know), it wasn't one of my best. It was also not very constructive.

So then, I decided to write an open letter in my humble blog, to new mothers or mothers-to-be, who may visit it regularly, or may have stumbled upon it.

So you are on one of the most important journeys of your life. You may have just begun. If so, congratulations. You must've heard or read it a million times before, and it does sound cliched, but you are indeed the bearer of a most precious gift. Money may be able to purchase it these days, but it is a gift nonetheless. Even if you're not religious, you must believe in the force of nature which makes possible this miracle that we call a soul, that no amount of science in the world will be able to produce.

If you're halfway through, I have felt your pain. Take pride and comfort in the fact that you're pregnant, eight little letters that can evoke the most extreme of emotions in people. Enjoy your pregnancy – and your life as a wife or a non-'dependee'. And know that no matter how much research you do, stories like this letter you are reading, advice you accept, you will never be prepared enough for motherhood. That's what makes discovery fun.

If you're almost there, take some time to reflect on your life before the Big Day. Go for a stroll with your husband or significant other. Start a blog or a journal to write down all the ideas and memories and opinions you have about the way you see the world. This is to remind yourself, after that Big Day, who you were. And to witness for yourself just how much motherhood will change you six months from now.

Now here's why I came to write this letter.

I have two beautiful daughters. Raeven turned four today, and every year on her birthday because she's my first child, I reflect on the year that was her life. I look at her baby pictures from the day she was born until now. I look at that personal journal I was talking about, about my life before I had her and then after. I cry a little at how much I've changed as a woman. I feel sad and happy about many things. Guilt and relief at some of the choices I've made.

But most of all, I feel blessed.

Same goes with Skyler, my 19-month old. She was born 10 weeks premature and had Patent Ductus Artereosis, confining her to the ICU for 53 days. For 53 days, I went to the hospital once, sometimes twice a day, to see and touch her not only because I was sick with worry, but because the doctors said it would help her develop. For 53 days, I pumped breastmilk and brought it to her (and you know how difficult that is when your baby isn't at home with you, I had to look at her picture to get the juices flowing). In 53 days, I learned to drive my ass through busy traffic to the hospital by myself, which was about 15 minutes away, up the narrow carpark building, and my licence was just one month old then.

For 52 days, I cried everyday, blaming myself for whatever it was I did that made me go into pre-term labour, praying to God to spare Skyler's life for whatever I did wrong. On the 53rd day, I cried tears of joy because the doctors let me take her home – but not without making sure I could care for her on my own (she had apnea).

People say you start to look at the things you take for granted when something bad happens. That is a shame, but it is true. I never appreciated my blessings until Skyler came along, making the 53 days not only the most challenging, but the most contemplated time of my life.

I breastfed Raeven only for two months and blame my confinement lady then for secretly feeding her formula when I could've stayed vigilant about giving my daughter the very best I could give.

I took my in-laws for granted, letting them care for her while I continued to work, thinking that she was better left with them than a maid, when all I was doing was depriving a child of the attention and love only a parent can give. I could've re-evaluated my priorities (I was a freelance writer) given the blessing that my husband was earning enough to keep us moving along. Instead, I chose to work for that extra money which I thought would give us a better life with the expensive vacations and 4X4 car and branded clothes.

I took the easy way out – yes, working hard and earing money IS the easy way out – and never thought that I would be missing out so much on my kids. And more importantly, that they would be missing out on me, especially Rae, who was practically raised by my in-laws until we came to the US.

Giving up your career and opting out and breastfeeding or being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom – these things are not about trying to be a hero. They are not regressive or backward but rather, life-changing, heart-breaking decisions that took a LOT of sacrifice to make, particularly today when anything is possible for a woman.

But being a woman is nothing compared to being a mother.

Parenting will be the most important role you'll ever play as a person. Sure, many working career mothers who never breastfed or coslept with their kids still raised great individuals. But I'm pretty sure it's not because of the designer clothes or expensive holidays or big house your hard-earned money and time away from them bought. And frankly, I would like to meet one of these women whose kids have now become useful individuals and shake their hand, because God, I sure could'nt have done it without sacrificing something essential, like my sanity.

Or my kids.

I'm not advocating that you should give up your career to be mother of the year. But ask yourself one question: of all the sacrifices you are NOT WILLING to make, which is the LEAST painful that you can make, that will benefit your child the most?

The answer is breastfeeding.

After two kids and knowing perhaps close to a hundred other young moms, I find the decision NOT to breastfeed the most selfish one a mother can ever make. I cannot tell you how much I regret not having nursed Raeven (I nursed Skyler until she weaned herself off at nine months) as long as I should've, and all because some people told me I wasn't producing enough and I believed them.

You probably have read and heard about all the benefits of nursing, so I won't reiterate them here. And still, the decision can be so difficult to make, simply because of how it inconveniences one's life. 

The thing is, it's not even inconvenient. 

So mothers-to-be, and new mommies who are on the verge of giving up – heed this. Without my breastmilk, Skyler would've stayed at the hospital with PDA much longer. Think about all the benefits of breastmilk you are depriving your child that no formula in the world in the world can substitute. Think about the fact that your baby has no immune system until he or she is six months and relies on the antibodies your milk contains to protect them.

And if that doesn't work, think about the fact that you won't even need to get up five times each night if you learn to nurse your baby with him/her sleeping next to you. Or the fact that you won't need to lug out warm water and tupperwares of formula and bottles everytime you go out. Just your boobs, diapers, wipes and you're good to go.

Breastfeed, my friends. It's the least you can do.

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11 Comments »

  1. Shamira said

    Lovely post Jenn. I couldnt have agreed more. I am a full time working mom and the bond that me and Alysha have despite the fact that I spend 8-10 hours away from her is because I breastfed her till she was 2.

    Looking back it was surely a sacrife worth making. I’d do it again and again anytime. This is a reminder to me to do the same with Inarah.

    So all momies, trust us. Breastfeed, as Jenn says :its the least you can d”.

  2. topazwildflower said

    Yes, I believe breastmilk is very important, however way you can get it. I could never feed directly so I always pumped/expressed. I sacrificed my job, holidays overseas, dieting, sleep and a whole lot of other fun stuff to keep the milk flowing. It’s more troublesome to express as I need a lot of “equipment” but I am willing to do it. BREASTMILK is the way to go, however way you can get it!

  3. Vien said

    Thanks. This post came just in time. I needed this re-affirmation.

  4. Thanks ladies. Sometimes, some people just bring out the worst – and the best – in you, huh? I just get so worked up about some new moms who think BM is a luxury instead of a necessity. These women I know worry more about getting back in shape or getting their lives back as soon as they can rather than giving the most basic nutrition to their kids. Just makes me mad. And sad.

    I remember once telling this mother who didn’t even try properly that BM contains antibodies to help your infant survive, say, a cold bug that’s been passed around, u know what she said to me?

    “Miracle meh breastmilk?”

    They think I’m joking. It’s not magic. It’s biology, and they just choose not to believe it. Or maybe just too damn lazylah.

    Ish.

  5. Manju said

    Hi Jenn,

    I am a frequent visitor to your blog through Shamira’s link..but never left a comment. But this topic was simply beautiful. I too breastfed shaveena but not exclusively…and I went on till there was no more milk coming. (8th month) This time around with my son I am going all out with no formula and I know it’s the best gift I could give him.I am already geting negative remarks from relo’s..but I am not gonna stop for whatever reason.

    Syabas to me! And to all moomies out there who are BREASTFEEDING and for those who intend too.

  6. lmokhtar said

    I too have been a silent audience till this post. It just touched me so that I actually had tears welling up in my eyes. As a breastfeeding mom myself, this is exactly what I’ve always wanted to say to other mothers. This piece is absolutely beautiful. I’m definitely saving a copy to show to others. ‘It’s the least that you can do’ Great tagline for a breastfeeding campaign. Lol. Well done Jenn. πŸ˜€

  7. a&a'smom said

    Gr8 post! I too truly believe in breast milk as it cured my Abilash from UTI whle his formula fed elder bro (also had UTI) kept on getting infections even after several doses of antibiotics. So breastfeeding is worth it!

  8. Erna said

    I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids (belum jumpa father, macam mana?) but sadly I can’t breastfeed. Chronic Hep B carrier, which is such a pity as I do agree that breastfeeding is the better choice.

  9. Hey Jenn and Loke,

    Hope Seattle is treating you well! Those of us from the game industry miss you, Blake is cool but not as cool as you. My wife and baby just moved down from Hong Kong, setting up a blog about him at littleJJ.wordpress.com

    Later!!

  10. Erna – so am I!! Even if you hv cancer, u can breastfeed. Hep B is transferable blood to blood only, so right when my babies were born, they were given neutralisers, which are said to work 90% of the time. 10% is still a lot, but better than nothing I guess.

    Avenger: Aww thanks, but I'm 'retired' now hehe. Perhaps one day I'll develop games, who knows? πŸ™‚ Great, welcome to the parents bloggers circle! πŸ˜€

  11. elfimka said

    Dear Jenn, thank you for such a warm and touching post. I still feel like crying when I think what you went through during those horrible 53 days and how you had to pump and look at the picture… One of the things I would like to add, please do not have any regrets of what you have or haven’t done. The thing is… it doesn’t matter what we [mothers/parents] do, we will always wonder if things would be better if we did it differently… Does it make sense? You did what you felt was the right thing to do at the time. May be if you stopped working and stayed at home, you would regret losing your career. Or you would go really stir-crazy and would not be able to be such an AWSOME Mom you are now. Come on, your own babies tell you that you are the best mommy in the world. That means a lot.

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