Do I Really Love My Baby?

Vol 5 - Issue 2 The flip side of MotherhoodThe love I developed for my baby during the nine months of pregnancy quickly vanished over the long duration of sleepless nights that followed his birth.

I didn’t notice it at first, but it was becoming obvious that this is too much to handle. I was overwhelmed, scared, paranoid and crying over every little thing.

I’ve always looked at babies as innocent, harmless creatures just hanging around, crying when hungry, sleepy or wet. The truth about babies dawned on me, after I took up the mommy duty. The truth about babies became scarier, when I couldn’t differentiate between my son’s hunger and colic cues.

Helpless, anxious and frustrated, I was afraid I’m hurting my baby. I couldn’t figure out why he’s crying. I couldn’t understand, why the women were bombarding me with questions and observations such as “He’s still hungry. Didn’t you feed him?” “You don’t know how to nurse him.” “If you don’t have enough milk, give him a bottle, he’s not taking the bottle, is he gassy, or is he sleepy?” “His diaper is full, when did you change him last?” I’m asking myself these same questions, I don’t know myself. So please just stop.

I was restless inside. I couldn’t sleep due to the fear that he might wake up soon and disturb my slumber anyway. I wanted to scream. I did many times. I pulled my hair, smacked my head and cried a lot. “I just want to sleep! Please, I just want to sleep!” I fought with my husband. I fought about everything existent and non-existent.

I told them I might be suffering from post-partum blues. Nobody believed me. It sounded too dramatic and “western”. I knew my hormonal fussiness reduced after twelve days. But I was still hormonal and crazy, just not as much as the first two weeks after delivery.

In this chaos, I had begun to un-love my son. Yes, I changed him, rocked him to sleep, nursed him and walked with him – did everything else I had to do. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t love him… I tried to find the emotion within myself, I really did.

It was like being in a perfect relationship for nine months and then going through a rough breakup. I wanted to patch things up, but I couldn’t forgive him for the sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion. Don’t even ask me, what went through my head regarding my husband and everyone else at home.

In this chaos, I had begun to un-love my son. Yes, I changed him, rocked him to sleep, nursed him and walked with him – did everything else I had to do. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t love him…

I seriously considered packing my bags and leaving with my son. I don’t need anyone! I can do this on my own, without people accusing me of having insufficient milk and lacking diaper changing skills.

But I stayed. I’m glad I did now. It’s been seven months and those sleepless nights seem so far away. But I shudder every time I think of it. He still wakes up during the night, but its okay, because he falls asleep quickly. These nights are better than the ones at the start. I get his cues now. I know what he likes and dislikes. I know what to do most of the time.

Sometimes I catch him looking at me, simply staring at my face. And then he smiles. It’s like he’s checking, if I’m still there and then telling me how much he loves me, too.

I enjoy preparing his food, even on days when I’m totally not in the mood. But I push myself to do it, because I want him to eat healthy, homemade baby food. I don’t want to give in to the packed foods. I know it’s easy, and I’m sure it’s not harmful. But I still can’t get around to introducing foods to my child that were cooked and packed months ago.

He’s the first one; you always do it for the first child, people tell me. Oh really? Are you telling me that you love your first kid more than the others? Okay fine, love is debatable, but the concern regarding their health and diet would always be crucial, wouldn’t it? At least for me it is and would stay the same. My mom had four kids; she fed us all homemade food. She didn’t cook up special pureed meals just for me, because I’m the first child, and then relaxed with my three pesky brothers, who came along later. So, please, don’t tell me about the first kid thing, because it’s not true.

I’m hygiene crazy; I wash his toys, rinse his bowl and spoon with boiled water before putting in food. I clip his nails, oil his hair and moisturize his skin after baths and before bed. We have a routine now, and most of the time it works. I have time to shower now, use the loo and even brush my hair! I also have time for naps, workout and meals.

This too shall pass is what I kept reading online during my mental frenzy. And, Alhamdulillah, I’m so grateful to Allah (swt) that I’ve made it this far. I know there’s more to the package. Teething is around the corner. Then there’s the constant fear that my son will put something harmful in his mouth, nose or ear. He might fall and bump his head, if he tries sitting up, when I’m not looking. I fear my niece might trip on him, sneeze, cough or maybe sit on him like she’s almost done thrice already. I’m afraid she’ll want to share her snacks of sliced cheese with him or maybe her gummy bears or chips!

I’m always afraid. But then I calm myself down. In my heart, I say a little prayer. I ask Allah (swt) to look out for my son, when I’m not looking or when I’m unaware of things that can potentially harm him. I remind myself that I can’t prevent accidents that are meant to be. Like the time he rolled with his walker outside the kitchen door and down onto the garage floor. The incident unravelled within seconds. There were three people around, yet nobody noticed he was speeding out the door. I was there too. This was last week. The scene is fresh in my mind, and it will always be.

I’m always afraid. But then I calm myself down. In my heart, I say a little prayer. I ask Allah (swt) to look out for my son

So am I finally in love with Abdullah? Is this constant concern evidence of my love for him? Or is it just a fear? Is it both? I think it’s both. You are always afraid for the one you love to be harmed. It was easy to love him, when he was inside the safe, protected home in my womb. But now there are all these external things to worry about.

Like, will he be a loser at school? Will the other kids like him? Will he study well? Am I feeding him well, am I not feeding him enough? Will he love me, will he disrespect me?Will he pray, will he willingly read and love the Quran? Will he hold his dad’s hand and walk to the Masjid for Salah? And then I say a little prayer inside. A prayer my Dad taught me, when I first told him I’m expecting. A prayer he prayed for all his children before and after their births. Ya Allah (swt) make my child healthy, wise and beautiful. (Sehatmand, Hakeem aur Khoobsurat in Urdu)

May Allah (swt) guide my son, my husband, me and the rest of the family onto the Straight Path. May Allah (swt) guide you and your families, too. May Allah (swt) bless us all. Ameen

Till next time, happy parenting!

Manage With Patience

Patience plan aheadIt was 6:15 a.m. Sobia woke up with the buzz of her alarm. She woke up in an instant as it was already late for Fajr prayer. She hurriedly rushed into the bathroom and performed ablution. She prayed and after that she quickly woke up her kids for school and made their breakfast. Then she got busy with her daily household activities. This sounds simple but not for Sobia. She could not manage all her tasks at the same time. She got angry and frustrated at times. She was not able to manage her level of patience. For those who are short tempered or get aggravated over the workload, be it at home or anywhere, you can maintain your patience level by following the few practical ways mentioned below Insha’Allah:

1. List your routine (make a things-to-do list)

Grab a paper and pen and jot down all the tasks you have for the day. In this way you can cross out the ones that are done. This will give you a clear cut idea what sorts of tasks you have. You can also prioritize your list depending on what you need to do first. Remember not to procrastinate. Once the list is done start moving on with the tasks required earlier. This will save you from the havoc of workload, and you will feel relaxed once all your jobs are divided for the day.

2. Learn to manage time

Manage your time according to your duties assigned. Think about what would require less time and which one of your jobs is time consuming. Dividing your time wisely will save you from haphazard situations and you won’t feel guilty later. Time management is the basic element. It saves you from chaotic situations.

3. Stick to your time-table

Try to stick to your time-table. Do not hesitate to relax. Take some time out for yourself also. If you are fresh and relaxed then you can manage chores efficiently. Keep this running in your head that you will enjoy after all the stuff is done. So, get started and take a deep breath.

4. Family time

No matter how busy you may be, you ought to take out time for your family. You can always share your difficulties with your elders and they are likely to give you a wise advice as they know the phase you are going through. So never forget to take a few moments out of your busy schedule and take Dua of your elders.

5. Sit back and relax

Take a preview of your day or week. Think of all the chores that have been accomplished. Feel proud of that. Appreciate yourself. Share your victory with your family or a close friend. Think of your mistakes and weaknesses. Assess it and relax for you accomplished your desired tasks.

Protract patience and live your life peacefully. May Allah (swt) give Barakah in our time and guide us to use it wisely. Ameen!

Ask the Savvy Parent: Positively Handle a Child’s Negative Emotions

muslim-motherMy 5-year-old son is a bit hyperactive. He can’t wait to get something done. He shouts and screams most of the time. He gets angry very quickly. Now, he’s fighting with the younger one too. When he plays with the other children, he is happy; but he can’t tolerate even small arguments. On the other hand, he is a fast learner, interested in learning new things, hearing stories, asking questions, and is also very sensitive. His teachers also say he is naughty but excellent in academics.

He loves books – the only way to keep him sit silently is with books but it is not possible always.

About me, I really enjoy teaching new things to him and clearing all his doubts scientifically. Also, I tell stories whenever he asks. I used to advice him according to Quran and Sunnah. I love him soooo much but the problem comes when he starts irritating me for silly things: crying and crying. I lose my control; then he starts to apologize. He says sorry and starts crying again; then I also feel sad. This happens daily 2-3 times.

I need your help very badly.

Dear Parent,
It sounds like you have a wonderful, active and bright child who just needs a little help with dealing with his emotions, Insha’Allah.

Losses and disappointments can feel like the end of the world to a child, and kids will do anything to fend off these intolerable feelings. So they cry and rage and lash out.

Many parents may be tempted to send an angry child to his or her room to ‘calm down’. It’s important to remember that we can’t reason with them when they are furious. It’s not the right time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. He needs to calm down. Remember tantrums are nature’s way of helping children let off steam. Their brains are still developing and they don’t yet have the neural pathways to control themselves as we do. (And please note that we don’t always regulate our anger very well, even as adults!)

Some parents, not knowing what to do or how to deal with their children, send the child to his or her room. The problem with this is that he will calm down eventually but unfortunately he will also learn that his anger is unacceptable, and that he is on his own when it comes to managing his feelings. No wonder so many adults develop anger-management issues, whether it is yelling at kids, arguing with the spouse, or overreacting to avoid acknowledging angry feelings.

Here are some simple tips and things to remember and will help your child manage his anger.
If kids feel safe expressing their anger, and we meet that anger with compassion, their anger will begin to melt. That’s when they can access the more upsetting feelings underneath:

1.      Take a Deep Breath. If your child is angry, it is even more imperative that you stay calm. If you are one of those people who get angry yourself, take a few deep breaths to calm down before attending to your child. Not only are you modeling emotion regulation, but by remaining calm he too will become calm. I have even taught children to take a deep breath and count to 10 when they feel angry. Counting gives them something else to focus on while their heart rate settles down.

2.      Set limits on actions not feelings. For example: “You’re so angry! You wish you could get what you want right now. I’m so sorry, but you can’t have that. You can be as mad as you want, but hitting is not OK, no matter how upset you are. You can pout or stamp your feet to show how mad you are, but you may not hit”.

It is also important for your son to understand that what is acceptable behaviour for him may not be the same as for his younger sibling.

3.      Empathize. Don’t try to reason or explain. When his emotions and adrenaline is high, it is not the time to explain why he can’t have what he wants. Acknowledge the fact that he is upset and reassure him that you will talk to him when he has calmed down.

 For example: “You really wanted that; I’m so sorry.” or “I’m so sorry you can’t have the _____ you want. I know this is so hard.”

Once you recognize the feelings under the anger, he will probably pause and get calmer. When you empathize and understand his anger, he collapses into your arms for a good cry. And all those upset feelings just evaporate.

Gradually, your child will internalize the ability to deal with disappointments, and learn that while he can’t always get what he wants, he can always get what he needs: someone who loves him, all of him, even including the unpleasant parts like rage and disappointment. You’ll have taught him how to manage his emotions. He’ll be more resilient over time. And you’ll have strengthened your relationship with him. Remember, you won’t always be able to pull it off. But every time you do, you’ll be one step closer to helping him handle his emotion.

Now about the other part about him bothering you for small things and needing you to be with him and keep him busy. Find activities that he can do independently on his own. Sometimes the problem arises because children don’t know what to do with themselves and look to the parent or another adult to help relieve their “boredom”. As parents, it’s important to spend time with your children but at the same time, children need to understand that you may be busy or need time for yourself and aren’t always able to keep them engaged in activities.

If your son loves books and being read to, designate a time during the day for book reading. If he wants you to play with him, set a time in the day for that too. As you have two children make sure you set times to spend with your other child too. Create a schedule and hang it up

Have a go-to basket with activities that he can go to when he doesn’t know what to do. Another option would be to have a “Busy Box”. Sit together with your child and come up with activities that he likes to do and most importantly can do without you. Write each idea on a strip of paper, fold it so that what is written cannot be seen and place it in the box. When the time arises that he’s unsure what to do and comes to you, direct him to “The Busy Box”. This helps him figure out what to do and at the same time frees you from the responsibility of entertaining him.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps.

Happy parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Coolness of the Eyes – What Does it Mean?

cool-water-wallpaperThere’s a powerful expression in the Quran. It’s captured in two words. Those two words are “Qurrata A’yun” meaning “Coolness of the eyes.” It is mentioned in a number of occasions and it is also found in ahadeeth of the Messenger (sa).

Before I tell you how it is used in the sacred text, I want to tell you how the ancient Arabs used this figure of speech. We can’t really understand it literally as it means something beyond that.

the Arabs had two figures of speech. One is the “eyes becoming cool” and the other is “eyes becoming warm.”

The first thing I would like you to know is that the Arabs had two figures of speech. One is the “eyes becoming cool” and the other is “eyes becoming warm.” When somebody is shedding tears of sorrow, he is suffering from the worst kind of fate. He is in deep depression, sadness and calamity. If an Arab would look at him, he would say that his eyes have become warm.

One of the worst curses in the ancient Arabic language was: “May Allah make his eyes warm,” which means may he suffer the worst kinds of sorrows in his life.

The exact opposite of this expression is what? The eyes becoming cool. For your sorrows… for your sadness… for your pains to be removed completely and for you to feel peace, tranquillity and joy like nothing else.

I’ll give you a simple example of coolness and warmth of the eyes. Imagine you’re at the airport and there are two pairs – each of a mother and son. One mother is saying farewell to her son as he is flying off somewhere. And the other mother is greeting her son who flew in from somewhere. Both the mothers are crying. But for one the eyes are cool. And for the other the eyes are warm. One is shedding tears of joy as she sees her son after many years; her eyes are becoming cool. But the other is letting go of her son. This is what? The eyes becoming warm. I hope you understand the difference.

A few pieces of context before I go further.

A poet, who was also an assassin in Arabia, said that the eyes of my tribe will remain warm. He was waiting on a sand dune, waiting to kill the tribe leader that had offended his tribe. He made poetry in the meantime (I guess he had got a lot of time). Anyway, he said: “My tribe’s eyes will remain warm…until my dagger isn’t warm with his blood.” In other words, when I kill this guy, only then my tribe’s eyes will become cool. The rage, the frustration, and the humiliation that they felt would only disappear upon this guy’s death. “That’s what I’m here to do, to cool the eyes of my tribe.” So it was a means of relieving frustration, anger and ill-feelings. This is the context in which it is used.

in literature we find the precedent of the “eyes becoming cool” equated with “finding refuge from a storm.”

I want to share a final yet beautiful context in Arabic literature where this expression is found. The Arabs used to travel in the desert and there they would experience sandstorms. And in a sandstorm, the Arab used to wrap his face up because obviously your face is being pounded with sand. That Arab was riding on a camel. Subhan’Allah, Allah (swt) has created the camel in a magnificent fashion. The eyelids of the camel actually trap sand and drop them. It doesn’t even have to blink. It’s got a screen in front of his eyes that captures sand and drops it. We don’t have that ‘screen system’ in our eyes. But the camel does. Now the rider couldn’t afford to cover his eyes… could he? Because if he covered his eyes, he wouldn’t know where he was going! He had to keep his eyes exposed and so finally he found a cave; he found some refuge and he said interestingly, “My eyes have finally become cool.”

In other words, in literature we find the precedent of the “eyes becoming cool” equated with “finding refuge from a storm.”

Original transcription courtesy; edited by hiba’s team with permission.