In the 4 months or so that Zara has been in my life, I've discovered that I am particularly vulnerable to something that has never really bothered me before.
As a teen, I did experience a little jealousy when my friends owned better clothes or better hair, skin and teeth than I did, but I learnt pretty early on that with braces, a little bit of makeup and some DIY clothes alterations, Insecure Me could actually be quite comfortable in my own skin.
Growing out of pimples and buck teeth (and eventually being in a career I was good at) helped boost my self-esteem, and so - I thought - peer pressure was a thing of the past, a pesky teenage thing I would never have to worry about again.
I rephrase - so I thought.
I've observed for some time now that no mother can escape having herself or her baby compared to other mums and babies, and that being a new mother (the sensitive, vulnerable and worrywart characters that we are) in this predicament can be particularly hard.
For someone who had put my teenage insecurities behind me, over the last few months as a new mum, I've had to endure people commenting on:
- My weight:
"Aiyo, you still quite big ah you... you know ah, your neighbour/Ziana Zain/Erra Fazira/Angeline Jolie/Jennifer Lopez (twins some more!) all smaller than you after 4 months ah?!"
- My looks:
"Aiya... why you look like that wan nowadays... never wear makeup also... then how to jaga your husband leh... you know ah, your neighbour/Ziana Zain/Erra Fazira/Angeline Jolie/Jennifer Lopez (twins some more!) all still look so hot wan?!"
- My clothes:
"Wei, why you still wearing size L ah you... you four months already give birth lah... you know ah, your neighbour/Ziana Zain/Erra Fazira/Angeline Jolie/Jennifer Lopez (twins some more!) already back to size 0 ah?!"
- My milk supply (really!):
"Eh, I think your milk supply not enough lah... see you baby cry so much, some more so kurus, your breasts tak cukup susu lah. You know ah, your neighbour/Ziana Zain/Erra Fazira/Angeline Jolie/Jennifer Lopez (twins some more!) all got banyak susu you know...!" (Sheahnee says: Yeah, right... As IF you know!!!)
- My skills as a mother:
"Aiyo, why you bathe your baby like that wan... why you feed your baby like that wan... why you don't do this to your baby leh... etc etc..."
The list does go on.
I would probably be able to put up with it, as I have learnt to master the art of the plastic smile and the in-one-ear-out-the-other trick, but the problem is, the peer pressure has now begun to extend to my little girl too:
- Zara's weight:
"Eh, why your baby so small one ah... you never feed her enough milk ah... you know ah, your neigbour's baby (etc etc) now 4 months almost 7kg you know! Some more so pui-pui!"
- Zara's skill development:
"Eh, your neighbour's baby can already crawl/walk/sit-up/stand on her head/do somersaults you know... why your baby so slow wan..."
- Zara's behaviour:
"Sei lor, why your baby cry so much wan? You know ah, your neighbour's baby ah, so quiet wan, so good never cry, always smiling wan..."
- Zara's milk rashes:
"Aiyo, why your baby got rashes wan... you know ah, your neighbour's baby ah, drink so much milk until today also no rash wan... Maybe your milk got something wrong wor..."
Yes, this list also goes on.
I think the point I'm trying to make is that I've learnt that no two babies are the same, and neither are their mothers. The faster people learn to accept that, the less stressed-out and miserable new mothers would be.
And if all this nonsense could be prevented, then you wouldn't have to deal with it until your baby is herself a 30 year old woman, constantly being compared to her neighbour's daughter's job, salary, looks, husband and kids.
So if my baby can or can't grab her teddy, or weighs less or more than my neighbour's kid, so be it. She is her own little person, and I'm sure for every thing she can or can't do, there are things your baby can or can't do too. Take solace in that.
To all other new mothers out there, remember, in-one-ear-out-the-other. And smile :-)
*This post is dedicated to my friend and new mother, Ida.