For Dana Al Khalifa, the Bahraini curator and founder of The Overdressed Pavilion at Jewellery Arabia, the old adage “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” rang particularly true. After the birth of her baby girl Alia and son Mahmoud, however, there are new jewels in her life. Here, Al Khalifa shares the most important lessons she learned thus far.
You will know what to do when the baby comes.
It’s funny because you get an influx of positive and negative feedback about having a baby when you’re pregnant – people telling you that your life is over, people saying it’s the greatest thing ever. I was just amazed at how I knew what to do when the doctor put the baby in my arms. Of course, I read a lot about babies prior to the arrival of mine, but I was just so astounded by how nature took its course, how I could decide things for my baby, and how my decisions could make her comfortable and happy.
Parenthood is not the end of your life.
Yes, having a newborn isolates you from your flourishing social life, but personally, I was ready to take a step back and spend all my time with the baby. This is not a permanent state, though, and that’s what new mothers fail to realize – your baby is a newborn for only six months. That time will fly by, so enjoy, savor, and love every moment!
I feel like I need to discuss sleep because it is very important to me. I can go without eating for days, but I need 12 continuous hours of sleep and there is no room for negotiation! This, of course, is not an option when the baby arrives, but I was so excited that I didn’t mind until it caught up with me. I also decided, very naively, that I didn’t need anyone to help me. Please don’t be so ambitious; have someone feed the baby expressed milk or formula so you can sleep for six continuous hours because breastfeeding is an uphill hike!
A happy mother means a happy baby.
I was very idealistic when I was pregnant, thinking I could breastfeed for six months. I didn’t realize how much you have to constantly eat in order to produce milk. The eating was exhausting me more than the breastfeeding, to the point where my sister literally had to continuously slap some butter on my toast and feed it to me while I was feeding the baby so I wouldn’t pass out! I found I was getting very angry with the baby because she was not satisfied with my feeding. And I hated that, so I stopped and we became friends again. Having said that, you need to read about breastfeeding because you have to understand what your body is doing.
Don’t get frustrated if your baby won’t follow a routine.
I am the biggest advocate of routines and schedules. I wanted to put the baby on a schedule from day one! But this really is not possible at all, especially if you’re breastfeeding. I got very frustrated at two weeks when my baby wouldn’t follow a routine. Give it time, but keep trying – it will work, and it’s magical when it does!
Try to have some alone time as a family.
Here’s the thing: dads really feel like they’re not needed because the baby is literally attached to you during the first couple of months if you’re breastfeeding. Plus they get so overwhelmed by the size of the thing – mine was especially small! There are also the grandmas and aunties who are all over the baby, so I recommend spending some alone time as a family. It’s very satisfying to sit there, the three of you, just staring at each other and playing music. It’s blissful.
There is nothing I can say or do about this, as it’s inevitable. Just make sure you keep clearing the baby’s closet so you make use of everything you’ve bought or been gifted. There are so many things out there that you really do not need, so keep the things you buy to a minimum.
The love will grow.
I was excited to meet the baby, but I wasn’t hit by this overwhelming love that everyone talks about when the baby was handed to me, and I was worried. But it comes and it grows – and grows and grows some more – and you feel like your heart will explode from the love you feel for your baby.
Parenthood is a state of mind.
If you’re happy, you’ll have a happy baby. I’ve seen this happen. I know moms who are very happy and relaxed, and their kids turn out the same way.
To Gina Ford or not to Gina Ford?
I’m a huge fan of this author, just as I am a huge fan of routines and schedules – which were the main selling point in her book, The Contented Little Baby Book. It has a wealth of information about babies – their mannerisms, what they mean, and how to react – and taught me a lot.