Parenting: Sleepless nights, baby screams bonded us
The birth of a child is one of the most exciting and joyous events for many parents. At the same time, it comes with tonnes of changes and adjustments to incorporate the new member of the family.
The first few weeks and months of taking care of a newborn may leave a parent exhausted and drained, due to sleep deprivation. This is what Lilian Gikandi had to endure when she became a mum.
Nothing had prepared the 32-year-old mother of one, who works as a communication specialist, on what to expect when she gave birth to her son Remyel seven-and-a-half years ago. From the time he was born, she had to put up with constant sleepless nights that left her feeling drained and fatigued.
“Newborn babies don’t sleep through the night, and neither do their parents,” Lilian says. She adds, “The first year of Remyel’s life was difficult for me; I battled post-partum depression when he wouldn’t sleep at night.
I would find myself crying with him and at that moment, I felt helpless. It was an overwhelming moment for me and I would question my ability as a mother.”
Lilian didn’t seek any professional help as she thought it was part of motherhood. “I just braved it and didn’t talk about it until much later. I also had a challenge of producing enough milk, especially at night, which just made the nights longer. His dad offered a lot of help. Sometimes he would stay with him in those wee hours for me to get some rest,” recalls Lilian.
No off days
As the years have gone by, Lilian has celebrated her son’s milestones; from the first laugh to the first steps, first day in school, first time he made the bed well, among others.
The mother-son duo has also had their fights, dealt with bullies, and learnt how to share, set up bedtimes, and many other activities. “It’s been quite an experience that nothing in life prepares you for,” she says. Motherhood has taught Lilian to be on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
“There is absolutely no time off once you become a mother. The challenges I face depend on the age my son is at. When he was an infant, the main challenge was mastering sleeping partners. She offers: “At that time, I was not employed. I was in business.
My productivity was greatly affected. I was constantly fatigued or treating migraines and when I couldn’t put up with it any longer, I had to get someone to watch over him during the day to enable me catch some sleep.”
As her son grew, Lilian had to deal with other challenges. “As a mother, I want him to keep good company to avoid getting into trouble. Illness is also a challenge every parent faces. When a child falls sick, you literally want to take the pain away from them, but all you can do is be present and pray that they get better.
These challenges have made me stronger. They have helped me appreciate the good seasons that we experience and to become a better believer. I’ve learnt that I am stronger, more so with a little human depending on me and to ask for help when I need it,” she explains.
She has also learnt to be honest in her interaction with her son. “I’ve learnt to communicate effectively with him, to take his contributions and feelings into consideration, celebrate his wins no matter how small, share lessons learnt from mistakes, to engage his thoughts on different issues and to have fun with him,” she says.
On balancing motherhood and career, Gikandi tries as much as possible not to take work home in order to spend time with her son. “I try to get home early, especially on weekdays so that I can assist him with his homework and spend some quality time reflecting on how the day has been before bedtime. I also intentionally take time off to be with my family, especially if I have engagements over the weekends,” she says.
They love to spend as much time as possible together, doing different activities. “When indoors, we catch up on our favourite cartoons programmes, bake and make different snacks together, play games, assemble puzzles and play random hide and seek.
When outdoor, we visit the museum, park or recreational park,” Lilian reveals.
She terms Remyel’s dad, family and close friends as her greatest support system in her parenting journey.
She offers: “Motherhood has taught me to be patient and accommodate others. I’ve learnt to own up to my mistakes and do better.”