Despite the mountains of books you may have read, nothing will prepare you for motherhood until the day you become a mother.\r\n\r\nYour own mother (and everyone else who is a mother) may have given you loads of advice on baby care, your paediatrician would have given you a rundown on the milestones baby is supposed to achieve, you yourself would have asked your WhatsApp groups and Googled like nobody\u2019s business prior to delivery \u2500 but you never realised the actual weight of reality \u2500 until it hit you like a ton of bricks immediately after birth.\r\n1. Baby Weight Takes On a Whole New Meaning\r\n\r\n\r\nStraight out of the delivery room and still reeling from the ordeal of birth \u2500 (for me, \u00a0it was 18 hours of mind-numbing agony culminating in a whole half hour of hard labour pushing) \u2500 the nurse puts your baby in your arms. You blink at him for the first time and he blinks back and suddenly you realise \u2500 my, what a weight there is in the crook of your arm. It\u2019s a \u201cnew\u201d kind of weight, something you have never felt before and at 3.8kg, it is weighing down muscles that have never been weighed down this way before! That weight soon grows on you (literally) as time goes on.\r\n\r\nTo illustrate how strained your muscles can get, try cradling a 5kg bag of rice in the crook of your arm for a day.\u00a0 Suspend that bag in position as if you are carrying a baby, don\u2019t let it down \u2500 because baby doesn\u2019t like to be put down \u2500 and learn to go about your daily activities such as eating, walking, having a conversation or sitting down to watch TV and see how long you can sustain carrying that bag before your elbow muscles scream in protest.\r\n\r\nWhat makes the whole carrying business even more precarious is that right about the time you are struggling with the new weight, you will also find out just how "barely glued together" baby\u2019s body really is. Yes, you\u2019ve heard of being careful with a newborn\u2019s floppy head and neck but you didn\u2019t know exactly how feeble his entire structure is or how "still open" and vulnerable his skull is, until you try to contain all that wiggling, dangerous fragility in your arms.\u00a0 As a brand new mother who has never held a soft and "everything still rolling around" infant before \u2500 you can get crazy scared to handle baby. What if you accidentally twist something or forget to support that heavy head and it flops backwards and injures him? These are serious concerns!\r\n2. Your Breasts Don\u2019t Know What To Do, Actually YOU Don\u2019t Know What To Do\r\n\r\n\r\nI never bothered to read up on breastfeeding before the birth because I thought my boobs would instinctively know how to fill up with milk to feed baby. All I would have to do was insert them into his mouth and he and my breasts would do the rest. Boy, was I wrong! Breastfeeding has to be taught and learned the hard way \u2500 very hard I might add; sometimes with the help of lactation nurses who would handle your breasts (like they were public exhibits) and squeeze and tweak them to get them into running order.\r\n\r\nYou would have to get into positions you never got into before to get the entire areola into the back of baby\u2019s tiny mouth so that he can clamp his powerful jaws around your tender nipples to extract the milk for his consumption. He does this by repeatedly clamping down with his jaws, pressing the milk out with both the roof of his mouth and his tongue and sucking like a suction cup. Don\u2019t underestimate baby\u2019s tiny size for the force he can exert on your breasts.\u00a0 It can bring tears to your eyes, tears of pain that is.\r\n\r\nApparently, nowadays, with extended study on the mechanics of breastfeeding, if you feel pain while breastfeeding: You\u2019re doing it wrong. You need to go back to square one and start again. And maybe again and again and again until you get it right. (For the correct method on breastfeeding, read: How To Get A Good Deep Latch: The Key To Successful Breastfeeding\r\n\r\nAnd so it seems that I had been doing it wrong all the way. The pain never stopped for me all through the months. The pain wasn\u2019t from cracked nipples either \u2500 that\u2019s just skin pain \u2500 but from deep inside the breast. I felt as if he was sucking out my insides, along with blood, but since I never used a breast pump in my day, I could not verify what I suspected.\r\n\r\nAnd then after all that, you find that there really wasn\u2019t much milk to begin with, definitely not enough to satiate baby\u2019s hunger. Luckily, I had the commonsense to supplement with the bottle from Day 1.\r\n\r\nHere's how my decision was made:\r\n\r\n \tMe (holding baby moments after birth): Baby is sucking hard and struggling but there doesn't seem to be anything coming out for him to drink.\r\n \tNurse: Oh, there won't be milk for now. It will take sometime to come in. But he can drink the colostrum in your breasts.\r\n \tMe: Colostrum? Where?\r\n \tNurse: There! See that tiny drop on your nipples when you squeeze?\r\n \tMe: That tiny drop? You mean baby will be drinking nothing but these tiny drops for the next 72 to 96 hours?\r\n \tNurse: If you want to exclusively breastfeed, yes.\r\n \tMe:\u00a0 (after 5 second hesitation) Gimme the bottle.\r\n\r\nImmediately my son stopped fussing and gratefully guzzled down 3oz. In a matter of days he was doing 4oz every four hours and in a few weeks, he was drinking 8oz every three to four hours. Sometimes, during a growth spurt, even 8oz wasn\u2019t enough. There were times when I had to make a second bottle immediately after because he just wasn\u2019t satiated. He had a strong appetite. My breasts certainly wouldn\u2019t have been able to keep up.\r\n\r\nMoral of the story: Babies don\u2019t go by the book when it comes to how much they can drink or how often. For the first time mother, this is a learning curve you\u2019d have to get around through playing by ear.\r\n\r\nFor your additional info: Your breasts will be painfully engorged, tight and heavy in the days after you give birth, yet it will take about three to five days for your milk to come in if you're a first-time mother. (It can come in sooner if you have had a baby before). \u00a0Meanwhile, baby can get colostrum from the breasts but the amount is only about half a teaspoon to two teaspoons or so per feed in the first three to five days. That is why you will need to offer your breasts very often. The first breastmilk produced in the first week will only amount to 1 to 2oz at every feed. If exclusively breastfeeding, you would have to feed on demand (meaning anytime baby wants), or every one to two hours round the clock.\r\n3. You Join the Sleep-Deprivation Society\r\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=XgFW71GfdRQ\r\n\r\nWho doesn\u2019t remember the famous royal joke from Prince William to Prince Harry on the birth of baby Archie Harrison. Prince William had said, \u201cI'm very pleased and glad to\u00a0welcome\u00a0my own brother into the\u00a0sleep deprivation\u00a0society that is parenting."\r\n\r\nTruer words have never been said. When you become a mother, you will be joining this society. Welcome to the club where all its members look like pandas \u2500 black rings around bleary eyes from having no sleep due to constant round-the-clock feeding, cleaning, washing, carrying, looking after, checking on and worrying about baby.\r\n\r\nPart or most of the reason sleep for parents, and particularly for the mother, gets constantly interrupted is because: Babies must be breastfed every one hour or so, or bottlefed every four hours round the clock from the day he is born right up till he hits the ripe old age of six months because that\u2019s when he can, at last, be weaned on to solids that will make him fuller and hopefully, sleep longer. In between his sleeping times, there are the household chores to do, the bulk of which, usually falls on mother.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, don\u2019t you believe what the books say about newborns sleeping for 18 hours a day or sleeping through the night by three months or sleeping after every feed.\r\n\r\nBabies don\u2019t sleep at all!\r\n\r\nOr at least, that\u2019s what it seemed to me. Or maybe, in my desperation for sleep and in my naivet\u00e9 at motherhood, I mistook the statement to mean babies will sleep through 18 hours, not thinking that it meant that newborns sleep for a total of 18 hours in a day, but only intermittently for an hour or two at a time throughout the 24 hours of the day and night. The rest of course, would be waking hours where he would want to play or be interacted with and carried around and paced up and down the house. This could happen at 3am everyday for weeks on end, well beyond the first three months of life.\r\n\r\nCase in point: My son did not sleep through the night by three months. After a feed, no matter what time of the day or night it was, he would be supercharged and alert and ready to googoo-gaga until the next feeding session. It usually happened when you were most tired and that would be everyday. Conversely, my second child \u2500 my daughter, slept through the night from the second day home from the hospital. She was like clockwork. Her last feed would always be at 11pm and her first feed would be at 5am, giving me six blessed hours of uninterrupted sleep every single night.\r\n\r\nEnd word: Babies just don\u2019t play by the book. They will sleep or wake and remain awake or asleep whenever they wish.\r\n4. Doubt and Confusion will Reign Supreme\r\n\r\n\r\nAs a first time mother, you will be like a sponge, taking in advice from every Tom, Dick and Harry ( or Jane, Joan and Mary) just because these people have had babies or baby and childcare experience before and so you think they must know better. In the case of swaddling baby \u2500 one of the first things you will need to learn after learning to hold and breastfeed baby straight after birth \u2500 I was told to wrap baby up tightly like a popiah when you lay him down to sleep.\r\n\r\nAt the hospital nursery, I could see rows of popiah babies sleeping on their stomachs in their individual bassinets, all tightly wrapped in identical muslin cloths.\r\n\r\nIt seems that swaddling baby is a necessity. The rationale is to replicate the feeling of being tightly \u201chugged\u201d in the womb for the newborn, thus comforting him. It is also believed that swaddling lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).\r\n\r\n\u201cMake sure you swaddle baby tightly like this and place him to sleep on his stomach, turning his head to one side when you flip him over,\u201d the maternity nurse had instructed me at the hospital.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe reason for sleeping like this is, if he vomits in his sleep, the vomit will come out of his mouth and on to the bed, thus preventing him from choking if he were to lie on his back,\u201d she had said.\r\n\r\nBeing a first time mother, of course I followed her instruction. It made sense to me. Babies often regurgitate their food, burp, spit out and vomit. And so I made sure I made my baby lie on his stomach after swaddling tightly every time I laid him down to sleep.\r\n\r\nIt did occur to me though that if I restricted his movement and wrapped him up so tightly, wasn\u2019t I making him very hot and uncomfortable? But I thought, since a professional taught me this, surely she knows better.\r\n\r\nYears later, I find out that babies should not be placed on their stomachs because it is linked to SIDS! And then even more recently, I read that babies shouldn\u2019t be swaddled at all!\r\n\r\nWhich is correct?\r\n\r\nTo this day, I still don\u2019t know!\r\n\r\nA happy outcome: But while I was wondering, my children grew up, one after another, sleeping in this manner. Neither of them had any untoward incident and were happy, healthy, active children who smiled and gurgled a lot and reached all their milestones without a hitch. \u00a0And no, they never once vomited while sleeping swaddled. They also never had colic despite being combi-fed (breast and bottle, then bottle all the way) and were not an ounce overweight despite the "higher than recommended" amounts I was feeding them. On top of that, they seldom got sick, were never hospitalised, and they hardly cried or threw tantrums throughout their growing up years.\r\n\r\nSo, don\u2019t fret too much when given conflicting advice. You may be a first time mother with no experience but if you follow your intuition and your inborn mothering instincts, you will be able to sift the wheat from the chaff, improvise and sail right through.\r\n5. You will be Preoccupied with Checking Out Your Blood and His Poop\r\n\r\n\r\nFirst time mother, please don\u2019t panic when you notice yourself bleeding pretty heavily after you give birth. The blood is like menstruation only it\u2019s a lot more, it lasts a lot longer and it\u2019s filled with bloodclots. It will also go on soaking up packs and packs of maternity pads. Your doctor won\u2019t allay your fears when he says: \u201cIf you\u2019re hemorrhaging, you must come back to the hospital immediately!\u201d\r\n\r\nBlood: But how do you tell if you\u2019re hemorrhaging or just bleeding? Both look the same. In the latter case, the bleeding is normal. \u00a0The bloody mess is called lochia and it comprises blood, mucus and tissue from the remnants of the placenta which is discharging from the uterus as it contracts back to its normal pre-pregnancy size. This bleeding will occur immediately after birth and go on for up to 10 days or more and then taper off from deep red to pink to brown and finally to yellowish white in the next six weeks or so. In short: prepare to buy a lot of maternity pads.\r\n\r\nThe bleeding only becomes an emergency when the blood pours out uncontrollably and your blood pressure drops. Your heart will also pound and you will feel terribly weak and unwell. In this instance, it is called postpartum hemorrhage and you really need to get to the hospital immediately.\r\n\r\nFortunately, this occurrence is rare. But do check with your doctor if you\u2019re unsure.\r\n\r\nPoop: In the case baby\u2019s poop, don\u2019t freak out when you notice that upon coming home from the hospital, your newborn is passing out poop that resembles used motor oil. The goo is greenish-black and sticky and it has a name: \u00a0meconium. Essentially, meconium is made up of amniotic fluid, mucus, skin cells and other things he ate while he was in the womb. However, as bad as it looks, meconium doesn\u2019t smell at all because it is sterile. He will be passing out all this black stuff within the next 24 hours of his life and it should stop shortly after it has all been cleared from his system.\r\n\r\nOnce baby starts eating \u201creal\u201d food in the days to follow, his stools will turn yellow or slightly green and look like diarrhea sprinkled with seeds if he is an exclusively breastfed baby. (The "seeds" are undigested milk curds from the breastmilk). On the other side of the fence, he will have firmer, peanut-butter-like poop on the brown colour spectrum of tan to green-brown if he is an exclusively bottlefed baby. The bottlefed baby will have smellier poop.\r\n\r\nAnd there you have it \u2500 poop described in all its glory.\r\n6. Baby is Too Hot to Wear\r\n\r\n\r\nBaby wearing is all the rage these days. It looks cool when models make fashion statements wearing baby in a range of colour-coordinated slings and wraps. However, it\u2019s never so cool when you try to do the same in real life.\r\n\r\nFirst of all, baby is a hot blooded creature. He emanates 36.4\u00b0C of heat at all times. He sweats too and can get angry, itchy rashes when he gets overheated. Malaysia is a hot and humid country, the weather is sweltering most days and is unforgiving on other days. Put these two together strapped tight to your body and you just might start to see smoke.\r\n\r\nOn top of that, baby has a weight. By the time you start to carry him in a sling or wrap or carrier, he would no longer be the 3.8kg he was when he was born. Strapped to you like a permanent pouch, this will put an additional stress on your already pregnancy-strained back, not to mention, create sweaty, uncomfortable friction heat between the both of you. Furthermore, those carrier edges and straps can chafe wet skin.\r\n\r\nThink of how it feels like when you lug a cumbersome laptop backpack on your back all day all over town. You will feel hot and uncomfortable very soon, not to mentioned develop shoulder and backache.\r\n\r\nForget fashion and those hopes of carrying baby around handsfree like what you see displayed on ads. Baby will be very hot inside and some might even fall out of these carriers if not supported properly. A stroller will be kinder on both of you.\r\n7. You will Suddenly Realise \u2500 This is It! This is Motherhood!\r\nSomewhere during the first or second week into motherhood, when you haven\u2019t seen the light of day for ages and you\u2019re toiling with diaper duty, baby comforting duty, baby burping duty, breastfeeding duty and all those new skills and duties you\u2019ve had to learn at one go, all without having slept a wink since before you went into labour \u2500 you will suddenly realise: This is it! This is what motherhood is all about and you\u2019re in for the long haul whether you like it or not. You can\u2019t say you want a breather now or you want out. \u00a0You\u2019d just have to bravely soldier on.\r\n\r\nThis realization often dawns when you\u2019re in the depths of despair. Don't worry, you're not alone. Exhaustion plays a part in this, and plummeting hormones another.\u00a0 Loss of your social life and your once svelte body are additional downers. You\u2019re at a point in your life when you\u2019re desperately searching for that light at the end of the tunnel and you can\u2019t for the life of you, see it.\r\n\r\nBut hang in there. Things will turn around just when you think it won't. Your life has actually completely changed from the moment you gave birth.\u00a0 It\u2019s just that, right now at this point in time when you\u2019ve just become a first time mother, you\u2019re finding it a little hard to embrace that change.\r\n\r\nYou might even swear you\u2019d never want to have another child again. But one fine day many months from now, when that baby of yours looks meltingly into your eyes and coos his first word \u201cMama\u201d, chances are, you will embrace motherhood most willingly, all over again.\r\n\r\nFor more stories on becoming a mother, go to Motherhood.com.my.