Hey, I bet you thought motherhood finished me. It did. But I’ve managed to crawl my way back to the laptop to unleash my thoughts on the past year. First of all, I’m still here which means I have survived. It was a year that humbled me and challenged me in different ways. Motherhood is such an extreme life adjustment and I’m going to write my own personal review about it. I’m calling it a review because it was a movie, no joke. And yes, I’m rating each stage out of 10 because it’s kinda fun. Let’s get straight into it.

The Newborn Stage: A strong 1/10. 

It was constant anxiety. I hated every single minute of it and I’m not ashamed to admit that. There were many factors. It was a mixture of sleep deprivation, getting painful cramps every time I tried to pump, constant paranoia over the baby and trying to keep her alive WHILST recovering from giving birth. (In my case, a major surgery.)

When I think about the newborn stage, I think about pain. Physical pain, emotional pain and mental pain. My whole experience was blurred in the first 3 months due to the shock of being ‘a mother’ in itself, sleep deprivation and looking after a baby around the clock like a robot. A shock to the system, even after having 9 months of preparation. I’ll tell you this now, you’re never really going to be ready.

There was one specific night that challenged me to my core. It was the night I decided to stay up and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy instead of sleeping. I got sick and tired of waking up every 2 hours at that point. As I was watching the show in the dark, I heard a sound coming from the baby’s cot. Newborns generally don’t make a peep unless they’re crying. It wasn’t a cry… but it was a sound. It was a very faint sound but it was loud enough for me to hear it over Grey’s Anatomy playing on my laptop. I turned my head fast but I couldn’t see much. So I paused the show and turned on the light.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. Jennah was choking on her own vomit. It came out through her nose and she was struggling to breathe. Newborns don’t know how to breathe through their mouth at this stage, so if their nose is blocked… you better unblock it quickly, mama. Suck it out if you have to. Anyways, her eyes widened, arms were sticking out like she was reaching for me and her face turned red, covered in white vomit. I never jumped up so fast in my life and bear in mind, I was still recovering from the c section. I pushed through the pain and shot out of bed. I picked her up, turned her over and rubbed her back until she managed to catch her breath again. I don’t even know if that was the right thing to do but it just made sense to me at the time. “Jennah, you were sleeping, what is going on? I beg. Just breathe.” I was talking to her out of sheer panic, as if she could understand me. I was very close to running out of the room with her and waking up my mum.

The whole ordeal lasted about 2 minutes… but it felt like a lifetime. I sat back on the bed with Jennah in my arms and cleaned her face and nose. Then I finally breathed. I could not only feel my heart beating fast but I could hear it. I sat there for God knows how long, trying to hold back tears. “Oh my God… this is hard. How am I going to keep this baby alive?” The emotions that I went through in such a short amount of time was wild. I was thankful because of the decision I made to stay awake that night. Imagine if I slept? Alhamdulilah. I was in a state of sadness because I felt so sorry for Jennah. She looked so frightened and shaken up. But then, I was also angry because I made myself believe that I did something wrong and that’s why she choked. So the overthinking went into overdrive. It was a lot. Eventually she fell asleep again and I put her back in her cot. The choking incident wasn’t the first and last time. It happened a few times whilst she was awake too. So… do you think I slept peacefully after that? The paranoia was real. I could barely sleep, unless someone was watching her. Until…

Jennah at 3-6 months old: 10/10, would recommend. That was a big jump, eh?

It’s very simple: I slept better, which drastically improved my mood and mental wellbeing. One night, I put Jennah in her cot around midnight, right after a feeding. I laid my head on the pillow, expecting to wake up in about 2-3 hours. Long story short, I woke up to Jennah babbling in her cot at 9:30am. The utter shock. “Why is the sun up please? What time is it? *checks phone* Wait… did we just sleep for 9.5 hours?!? … OMG we did!” 

Guys, I was overjoyed. I don’t think you understand. Jennah was 3 months old. It was probably the first time I had slept for 9 hours straight with zero disturbances. I didn’t even get up once to go to the loo that night. A part of me thought it was just a one-off, but I still walked around with a spring in my step. Jennah really said: “You know what? You’ve had it rough for the last 3 months, so I’ll start giving you 8/9 hours of sleep, mmkay?”

After that day, it was consistent. Her last feeding would always be around 11-midnight and she’s down for the rest of the night. It was perfect. My sleeping pattern felt like it was getting back on track (I know midnight sounds late for a lot of people but that’s my usual bed time anyway), therefore I didn’t need to take as many naps during the day. I just wasn’t as groggy anymore. Jennah had a cute little swinging chair that she would use during the day, and she’d be chilling there whilst I made food, watched TV or tidied up. It was very chill. She also started smiling and laughing, and if I’m being honest… this was when the cuteness downloaded. Newborns aren’t cute and no-one can tell me otherwise lmfaoooo. So where was I? Ah yes, I had a spring in my step, summer was around the corner and I felt like the depression had exited my body until…

Jennah at 6-9 months old: The season changed, temperature started to drop. And I’m going to have to drop it to about a 5/10 here… Let me explain.

Motherhood in general is hard. But nothing prepares you for a sick spell. There’s nothing worse. Sleep deprivation comes back and the poor little thing can’t even tell you what’s wrong. That’s the saddest part about it. You’re going to feel HELPLESS. As in, you’re going to pray to God that he takes the sickness from your baby and gives it to you instead. Jennah got sick more than once in this period. The first time was when we rushed her to hospital around 1am because she couldn’t stop vomiting and then as soon as we reached the hospital… she was fine. Doctor was baffled and so were we. No signs of a stomach bug or anything. It was … weird. That night, in the hospital, she laughed HARD for the first time. She just couldn’t stop laughing. It sucked that it happened in the damn hospital but it made us laugh and she was fine after that.

And then she got sick with a cold. She had a cough and a runny nose that lasted weeks. But the worst one of all? When she developed a throat infection and her lymph nodes were swollen. At first, I thought she was teething because she had a fever and wouldn’t sleep unless I held her. But then, I noticed a rash on her stomach while I was changing her nappy the following morning. Upon further inspection, I realised that the right side of her neck was swollen. I knew instantly that this wasn’t a teething situation. So back to the hospital we went!

It took weeks for Jennah to get better. Almost a month actually. She was weak, her eyes were red and sunken, her skin was sore to touch and her fever spiked multiple times a day. She was so sick, that it was hard to look at her. It broke my heart every time. I had to go back and forth to the hospital so that she could get antibiotics through an IV because it just wasn’t working orally. She refused to eat or drink. I had to hold her down every time they prepared her for the IV and she’d be screaming and crying until she eventually slept from exhaustion. She even had to get a covid test done… can you imagine? I can’t even handle the swab up my nose at my big age. It was brutal and so hard to watch. But the nurse had to do it just to “make sure covid is off the table”. How did she get a damn throat infection? I guess I’ll never know.

Jennah at 9-12 months: I’ll give it a 9/10.

This is the most recent one, as she has just turned 1 not long ago. But the last 3 months was interesting and quite fascinating to witness. It’s such a trip to watch your baby grow and start to understand the world around them. Jennah is extremely smart mashaAllah. We give each other high fives all the time (I’ve been trying to get her to master high5’s since she was about 4 months old), she blows kisses back at you, she waves when I say “hello” and “bye”, I could hand her a wipe and tell her to clean her face and hands after she eats and she’ll do it, she started pointing at things and I would tell her what it is and she’ll absorb that information so quickly. She’s my little genius.  But my goodness, it took a while for her to grow some teeth! LOL. It’s not her fault, bless her. I know every baby is different. But Jennah was ALL GUMS until her first birthday. Not a single tooth in sight. She even started crawling a week before her 1st birthday. So walking is probably going to be a few months from now.

So … the unthinkable happened. Before Jennah grew teeth, before she turned one and before she even started crawling properly, she caught the chickenpox. At the age of 11 months. Chickenpox. Chicken. Pox.

I did not see that coming.

I wasn’t expecting to see chickenpox until she reached school but Jennah surprised me once again and somehow caught it. And that was two weeks of heartbreak. Two long weeks of rubbing her scalp, constantly trying to soothe her and watching her rub her head against the pillow whilst she’s sleeping. If anything good came from it, at least it’s something I don’t have to worry about ever again. It’s out of the way now but my goodness, the chickenpox definitely threw a curveball.

When your child hits 1, they’re a whole different child, let me tell you. Jennah is now DEMANDING things. And if she doesn’t get what she wants (it could be anything that I’m holding in my hand, even if it’s a kitchen knife), she’ll do a high pitched scream that even Mariah Carey can’t hit. She’s cheeky as hell, and she is finally growing some teeth alhamdulilah. The only reason this is not a 10/10 is simply because her screaming is what’s causing my daily headaches and I’m constantly chasing after her to make sure she doesn’t eat whatever she finds on her little adventures. The screaming started this week actually. It’s very new and quite frankly doing my head in. Oh, and remember when I said she slept good at 3-6 months? From 6 months until this very day, she wakes up several times a night. It was lovely while it lasted. 🙂

There are so many beautiful and joyful moments as a mother, so I don’t want you to think it was a year of hell. Jennah makes me laugh everyday, she has a great sense of humour and knows how to repeat dumb things just so we can have a giggle. But … that first year of motherhood. Whew. It made me question my own sense of identity. I still feel this way sometimes. It’s that feeling when you don’t know who you are anymore and that the “old you” is long gone. A distant memory. You’ll start to come to terms with the fact that this is your child and your responsibility for the rest of your life. That’s huge. And scary. And to be very honest, I still struggle to shake the feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and ‘losing myself’ on a daily basis. But I’m just taking each day as it comes.

I’d also like to point out that yes, even though some days are hard, it will never be as hard as the newborn stage. That’s ranked all the way at the bottom for me and will stay there. Maybe I’ll come back to the drawing board next year when we hit the “terrible 2’s”.

The nights (and days) are long. But the years are short.