AT THE time of writing this, I have been housebound for six days. Aside from trips to the paediatrician in the past week, I have been spending Chinese New Year (CNY) indoors nursing my sick baby.
Had this happened a year ago, I would have been hallucinating from cabin fever and acting like a primate beating at its cage door.
But I am now a mother and the key thing is this, “there’s no room for monkey behaviour” and my perception has shifted considerably towards selflessness.
You often hear people say “your life completely changes after having a baby”, but what does it really mean and to what extent does this happen?
You will not have the same freedom as you did before and getting a good night’s rest may be months away.
For me, it was the complex emotional discovery, the dawn of new feelings that I was unable to comprehend before my daughter was born.
Having lived in London away from family, the past, present and future consisted of one big letter “I”.
What mattered to the “pre-baby me” was what I would eat and wear for the day, how I would spend my weekend, how I would progress in my career and what do I have to do to get my talents across and inspire the world?
Yes, I am a child of the new millennium, a product of the continuous western societal drilling of “you can achieve anything as long as you want to”.
I am not saying that the transition to selflessness happened overnight.
In fact, it happened gradually from the early days of my pregnancy; you feel weightless yet heavy from nausea, elated yet worried for your unborn child, and from then on, you focus on survival, nurturing and birthing.
This is Mother Nature’s gift to women — the brewery of pregnancy hormones that improves our ability to understand life through conception to delivery, and throughout motherhood to the birth of your child’s future child.
My acute understanding of life began when my daughter was born.
The overbearing love that borders on the panic and anxiety of looking after a newborn, the crushing worry when they become ill, the euphoric high when you are able to make them laugh, and the constant surveillance of the environment to ensure that no harm will ever come their way.
And since coming home to Malaysia over the festive period, the ability to finally understand my parents’ approach in nurturing, disciplining and advising me through my early life until now makes sense.
I realise how little appreciation I had for the sacrifices they made, until I became a parent myself.
Translating these changes to everyday life, the following depict the adjustments that we have to make now that I have a baby.
As I am breastfeeding by demand, I take my baby everywhere, and as a result the nocturnal me has retired.
The world outside has not seen me past 7pm, and if I have been spotted, it would be because I have had both arms twisted by my mum to do so during Chinese New Year visiting.
Aside from this, we are welcomed only in cinemas and concerts that are catered especially for parents with young babies. I used to go out with my friends and enjoy a cocktail or teh tarik.
Not now, as I reach for the apple juice and smoothies to nourish my milk for my baby.
It’s quite funny that I don’t mind staying in in the evenings as much as I thought I would, because I know this is temporary and it is much more important to be around my baby’s life early on.
As mentioned in my article last month, travelling with a baby has given us an insight into a whole new world:
The priority check-in and boarding, special assistance with airport buggies and striking up an easy conversation with other first-time parents whom you come across on your travels.
Holidays are not what they used to be. When I was single, I would happily plan a hike up a volcanic mountain in Sicily. Now with a baby in tow, the thought of it would have me worried.
In our forthcoming trip to an island in Malaysia, my husband and I had to worry about baby-friendly facilities and forgo ferry trips to adjacent islands as well as any speedboat transfers, which are child-unfriendly.
However, having been on three holidays (one in the UK, France and now Malaysia), I see things through childlike eyes and you learn to really appreciate the spirit of each place you visit.
It is less of the glamour of a new place and more of the comfort and quality time that we spend in each other’s company that matters.