NOTHING that anybody tells you can prepare you for it.
Your mother, your sister, your best friend. They have gone through it and are more than happy to share their tales and dispense advice.
You listen attentively, taking mental notes and hoping for the best.
Then, it happens. After long months of feeling not too great, you are holding your baby in your arms.
Sleeplessness and low energy during pregnancy are difficult to deal with, but that is nothing compared to how you feel and what you go through once the baby is out!
Round-the-clock feeding, getting up every two to three hours, sore body that feels like it has taken a beating, huge dark circles under the eyes, uncombed hair, sensible robes, loose-fitting clothing, and nursing bras that clip on the front. Welcome to motherhood!
Whaaaaa!!! Wide open, gummy mouth delivering a full-lunged scream of hunger or sleepiness, or gassiness, or signalling that there is a dirty diaper, or that the room is too hot or too cold.
You jump in response and go through each of the possibilities and the baby eventually calms down or just collapses from exhaustion after all that crying. That is, until he or she wakes up for the next round of feeding.
Not to mention the laundry. Mountainous piles of clothes, burping cloths, towels, and of course, your own clothes that you change three to four times because the baby spits up on them.
That never-ending cycle is the new reality for parents of newborns.
If that were not enough, add to it the expat experience. It is at times like these when you need everyone’s help, but what do you do when you live in a different country from your family? There are several options in this case.
Option 1: Fly your family to your location and hope that they will stay for as long as possible.
You have probably never been so loving and kind to your mother-in-law nor so willing to listen to your own mum when she tells you that you are putting too much diaper cream on your baby’s bottom.
Option 2: Hire help.
Here in Malaysia, hiring someone to help you around the house is quite easy. Hiring a confinement service is even easier, and what an amazing service it is. Imagine not having to do much more than feed your baby.
Dirty diapers taken care of, baby bathed by true professionals, and take your pick of healing foods cooked by Chinese aunties or healing massages given by Malay kakak.
Option 3: Do both.
Take all the help that you can get, because taking care of a newborn is no joke. That something so small could make so much noise, produce so much waste and require so much constant care and attention is actually quite amazing. So, the more people available to meet the baby’s every need, the better. Forget about privacy and alone time.
With a newborn, there simply isn’t any, so invite the world into your home to share the work.
Option 4: Go at it alone.
Yes, it may feel truly rewarding that you can take care of the baby all by yourself. But remember, that every minute that the baby is sleeping, you should sleep as well, so that does not leave much time to do household chores.
And doing household chores on so little sleep is not recommended. After all, it only takes a wisp of red cloth to turn an entire load of laundry pink, and suddenly people think your lovely little boy is a sweet little girl.
Of course there are many other options, but what is true is that expats face unique circumstances when caring for a newborn, especially when living far away from family back home.
It is probably more difficult, but at the same time, living in a different country is a real adventure.
Your baby can eventually boast of being born in an exotic location and what better souvenir to remember a place than to have it be where your family life began.
A creative and adventurous American who has found a beautiful life and love in Malaysia.
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