A Tiny Bundle Of Big-time Changes

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - January 30, 2008
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A smiling Koen
A smiling Koen

The last three months have been the craziest yet the most wonderful months of my life! I gave birth to a baby boy, Koen Kaimalieokalani Makinano, on my birthday (Oct. 2), and since then life has never been the same.

Being a mom is so much more work than I ever imagined it to be. By the end of my first week home from the hospital, I called my friends who have children and apologized for not being more help to them when they had their babies.

Seriously, even if it’s just dropping off food, doing their laundry or stopping by for a few hours to watch their newborn, I now know that an extra set of hands can really make a difference!

So I’m starting this new year of columns with a big thank you to all moms for all they do for their children: the sacrifices they make, the love they give and the lack of sleep they suffer.

Really, being a mom is a lot of work. And, yes, dads deserve some credit too!

I don’t think any book, article or baby gadget can really prepare you for parenthood. There are things that can help, but when the day comes, it’s just you and your baby 24/7. I’m not trying to scare anyone from having a child. I’m just telling it how it is - a lot of work!

“Every baby is different,” says Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, a pediatrician at The Queen’s Medical Center. “Some are easy-going, some are high maintenance and some are in the middle. That’s just the way life is.

“For new moms, I think the biggest mistake they make - and it’s really not a mistake - is thinking your child is supposed to act a certain way. For example, some babies like to sleep and feed on clockwork, and other babies just graze when they feed. My advice would be for moms to try to sense how their baby is doing and try to intervene only when it’s necessary.”

For the first two months, my baby had his days and nights reversed. Yep, he was wide-eyed between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., which means I was up, too, feeding him every two hours and keeping him entertained in between.

When he would finally go down for a nap in the day, I would hurry to brush my teeth, make something to eat and, if I’m lucky, tidy up the room a little before he would wake up again.

And feedings take time. After nursing for 20 to 30 minutes, it’s time to burp him, which takes me about 15 minutes (most of the time more) and then, of course, the diaper change.

Multiply all that for an average of eight times a day and that’s a lot of nursing, burping and diaper changing. Actually, I’ve been keeping a tab of my diapers and wipes and, since Koen was born, we’ve used 1,040 diapers and 3,120 sheets of baby wipes!

Even with help from my husband and family, I was still extremely exhausted. Finally, I had to learn to just shut my eyes every time Koen did, even if it was for only an hour or two.

“A new mom, even when she has the luxury of a partner who is interested, the biggest mistake she can make is doing everything by herself,” adds Dr. Tenn Salle. “She’s doing all the breast-feeding and trying to keep the house clean. A lot of moms experience a severe lack of sleep because they’re staying up all night with the baby and doing things in the day. If someone can’t physically help you out, whether it be an aunt, mother or partner, that means too bad, your house cannot be in perfect shape. You need to nap with your baby in the day.

“I think new moms commonly misinterpret how much time they have. You feed them, burp them, change them, give them a little bit of love and they go down for a couple of hours, and then you start all over again. If you can realize that, you’ll give yourself a break.

“Also, a trick to make up for your lack of sleep at night is to extend that three hours to six hours by sharing the night feeding: You (mom) do the midnight feeding, and your partner should get up for the 3 a.m. feeding (with a bottle). Or you can still do the breast-feeding, but they do the burping and changing.”

Salle adds that it’s important for new moms to try to get as much sleep as possible because lack of sleep can exacerbate post-partum depression. Yes, post-partum depression is real. And now that I have a baby, I can totally understand how it happens.

“Post-partum depression doesn’t happen to a certain kind of person,” explains Dr. Tenn Salle. “Even if you don’t have any history of depression, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. It may be strong or subtle, and a mistake that a lot of women might make is not speaking to someone about it.”

Like most new moms, I often wonder if my baby is normal. Is he eating too much? Is his poop supposed to look like that? Is it OK that he spits up so much? Is he in pain when he’s crying?

“The smartest thing for new moms to do is to share their concerns,” says Dr. Tenn Salle. “From my standpoint, I’ll listen to what the mom is saying and then I look at the baby - and that’s where the (pediatric) training part comes in. I usually look at how much the baby weighs, poops and pees. It’s all about what’s going in and coming out and if they are happy. Those things can tell you so much about the baby’s general state.

“And there is no magic solution to raising a happy child, but any baby with parents or parent that truly loves them and is devoted to them will, in the end, be happy. Whether you went back to work the second day or the second decade after your baby was born, the child will be happy if the child knows and feels that you love them.”

My eight weeks of maternity leave was spent mostly at home in my pajamas with Koen. When we did leave our apartment, it was such a production. And with a newborn, you can’t just run into a store, gas station or restaurant anymore. It’s all about drive-thrus!

And while I’m happy to be back at work now, it’s not easy. Mornings are so unpredictable. Even if you wake up on time, there’s still a good chance that you’ll be late.

For example, one morning I was all ready to go, makeup on, diaper bag packed and stroller ready, and as I was strapping Koen into his car seat, he spit up all over himself. So, I took him out and as I was changing his shirt, he pooped. So, I changed his diaper and strapped him back into his car seat, but then I heard more poop come out. So, I unbuckled him again and changed his diaper again, only for him to vomit all over his clothes - again. Needless to say, a good 30 minutes went by and I ended up being late.

I’m not a morning person, so having to wake up early is not something I enjoy. Even on the weekends, there’s no more sleeping in. But the No. 1 hardest thing about being back at work is being away from my little bambino all day long. And that is something I don’t think any new mom can get used to.


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