The joys and pain of a first-time mum

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  • Wednesday, 04 Nov 2015

Tending to a baby gives one a foretaste of what it’s like to raise a child

“WAIT till you become a mother, then you will know what it is like to bring up a child.”

My mother used to say that to me when I was a teenager and I would retort with the famous tune, Don’t worry, be happy.

She explained that a child would not naturally grow up healthy, become educated, well-behaved and lead a straight life without proper parental guidance and supervision.

Although I knew that motherhood is tough, it is beyond all the difficulties I have ever gone through. After having put myself in her shoes, I finally began to understand what she meant.

Like a merchant ship, she brought home groceries from the markets and supermarkets.

Braving the sun and rain, she bought and carried heavy loads of fruits from the market and every day without fail, she blended juices and packed our lunch boxes.

She made sure the house was clean, the food was to our liking, our clothes were trendy and pressed, and we went to bed early and got up in time for school. She smelled our hair and checked on our personal hygiene and tidiness.

Every day she chauffeured us to school, tuition, music and dance classes.

She drummed in us a hundred reasons for being honest, studying diligently, behaving properly, respecting the elders, caring for each other and staying alert, especially during outings.

I, or rather we, including my siblings, preferred our own ways of doing things like sleeping a little longer, watching movies, staying up late, skipping meals, not making our beds and so forth.

She raised her voice but never her hands to discipline us. We would tell her to relax and not worry so much.

In her frustration she would say we would not know how a mother feels until we have our own children. My smart-aleck retort was, “I will be a cool mum and my children will appreciate me”.

Today my baby, Cat, is six months old and I am beginning to see the light.

I won’t mince my words – bringing up a child is tough. At the same time, it is fulfilling and amazing watching her grow.

Being a first-time mother, my world has turned upside down since she was born.

No amount of reading and advice from my relatives and friends prepared me for the suffering and sacrifice of motherhood.

First were the nausea, clumsiness and anxiety of carrying the baby in my womb for nine months.

Next came the immense childbirth pain. But the joy of having her born healthy compensated for the trauma and pain of natural childbirth.

My decision to breastfeed Cat for the first two years is easier said than done. In the first few weeks, she needed to suckle every two hours, day and night, depriving me of proper sleep.

It is hard to describe the stress and hurt I experienced when I could not produce sufficient milk for her and she cried incessantly whenever she was hungry or thirsty. I think only mothers understand this.

I frantically called up my friends who are breastfeeding mothers, scoured the Internet and read suggestions from a breastfeeding advocate group and even hired a lactation consultant for advice on increasing milk production. Whatever they suggested – herbs, meats, seeds, supplements, anything edible – I ate without hesitation.

Looking back, I had a slim figure right up to my pregnancy. To produce milk, I have to eat richly and adequately. Consequently, I piled on a massive amount of weight that I can hardly recognise myself. Neither can anyone.

Having to carry Cat in a fixed position for feeding over prolonged periods caused tendonitis in both my hands, so painful that I could not carry or bathe her. My mother has to help me out with these duties.

As she grows, she suckles more milk each time and the intervals are lengthened to three hours. Like clockwork, I wake up twice at night to feed her. Breastfeeding is demanding, time-consuming and restricts my freedom. I am confined to my house to perform this sacred function.

The consolation is the frequent breastfeeding built a strong bond between my baby and me.

As she grows, she becomes heavier and more difficult to carry. She has since learnt to roll over and I have to be alert at all times, even when I am asleep, and ensure that she does not suffocate when lying on her chest.

Fortunately, Cat is a joy. She is well-behaved and responds to our gestures and facial expressions with giggles, smiles, laughter and swinging her hands and kicking her legs gleefully.

Occasionally, when she is uncomfortable or demands attention, she will cry loudly at the top of her voice. In the evening when she is tired, her incessant crying is like needles pricking my heart.

Nine months of pregnancy and six months of tending my baby has given me a foretaste of what bringing up a child is like.

My mother has forewarned me that this is only the beginning and bigger headaches will come when my child grows older and goes to nursery and picks up undesirable habits of some children. Also, I have to expect more problems and even heartaches when she enters adolescence as teenagers tend to be rebellious.

We are talking about having one child. The suffering of motherhood will magnify if I were to be blessed with more children.

So I can’t be certain that I will not say to my children, “Wait till you become a parent, then you will know what it is like to bring up a child.”

I pray and hope that my journey of motherhood will not be too bumpy.

Chermaine Poo is a chartered accountant turned actress, TV host, emcee and columnist. Follow her on,, and or drop her an email at

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