Author Ala Paredes-Buencamino and her baby Zadie
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Just the sight of her takes me to such places of bliss and inspires such feelings of sublime love that I can’t help but get all choked up. I don’t just love her, I need her, even when she doesn’t need me.

 I am giving way to my daughter Ala Paredes Buencamino this Mother’s Day. I especially want to reach all new mothers out there with her beautiful article.

By Ala Paredes

Once upon a time I was part of a really hip, fun-loving club called Childless Adults. We had disposable income to blow on artisan coffee, avocado on toast in trendy Sydney cafes, happy hour cocktails after work, new clothes that we didn’t really need or like, and fancy dinners. Also, we had time to spare. Lots of time. Though I thought I was time-poor, I only learned the true meaning of time after I had a baby.

Every day, I woke up, put my best face on, dressed in a smart outfit that still made me feel cutesy-cutesy, and draped myself with tons of big, chunky, dangly accessories. Then I would get on the train to go to work at a job where I felt challenged, appreciated, admired and respected. Not all Childless Adults feel this way about their jobs, but I did. I was a youngish professional urbanite living in a trendy, hipster neighborhood, who lived on pre-prepared grocery meals, and whose life looked happy and successful on Instagram.

All that came to an end when I had a baby.

There are a lot of things you can’t possibly anticipate about child rearing before you become a mother. This is coming from someone who thought she had a good handle on what it means to care for a baby. Growing up, I had a younger brother whom I took care of with such devotion that after my mother came back from a month-long trip, he looked at her blankly and ran to me, his “mother.” I also had a little niece who lived with the family from birth so I’d had my own experience with rocking, burping, feeding and entertaining a baby. I had experience, and was not afraid to handle little humans. I was maternal.

But all new mothers walk into their new role with hope, excitement, trepidation and total naiveté. Taking care of someone else’s child is a world away from becoming a mother. It’s like the difference between reading a book about swimming, and actually jumping into a pool and learning to swim. You may have dipped your toes in the water or waded and splashed around, but when your own baby is placed into your waiting arms, it’s sink or swim, Mama.

Here were my biggest shockers about motherhood.

1. I never imagined that my baby would own my breasts. Never did I imagine that my modest breasts would suddenly become the most important part of my body. In the first three months, I felt like all I did was breastfeed, sometimes for four hours on end (this is where having Netflix comes in handy). Your baby will need your breasts when she’s hungry, scared, tired, bored, sick, when she needs to poo/fart, or even when she just wants to be close to you. She will guard the breast jealously, and she might cry when hubby plays with them. (As I write, I can just imagine my baby yelling, “You shall NOT pass!”, Gandalf-style, at my husband.)

If you choose to breastfeed, your baby will be on your boob so often that you won’t even bother putting them away in between feeds and will get used to walking around the house topless. Which brings me to my next one…

You may find it hard to feel sexy about them. It’s hard to keep an aura of mystery about them when they’re always exposed. Besides, it’s hard to feel sexy about them when they wax and wane around the clock.

They belong to baby for now.

2. I never imagined motherhood to be so animalistic.

My smart-cutesy outfits, my signature shade of lipstick, my big jewelry, my job, my glossy Instagram feed — all those marks of urbanity and sophistication, were stripped away the moment I went into labor — quite possibly the most animalistic I’ve ever felt in my life.

While humans are animals, it’s not often that we feel like an animal under our polished public personae. In labor and birth, you are no different from a cow giving birth to a calf despite the trappings of modern medicine surrounding you. Since I’ve become a mom, I often feel more like a mother wolf with her cub in her den, than a career woman in a nice, inner city apartment. Motherhood really awakens your basest biological instincts. Mommy can see danger, smell danger, and watches out for the predator lurking just past the protective circle of light. Mommy is up on her feet as soon as she hears baby’s distress signal. Baby in turn wants mommy’s animal smell, the touch of her skin, her voice, her heartbeat.

You spend so much time alone at home in various states of undress, in barely passable levels of hygiene, cuddling with your baby in bed sheets that haven’t been changed in so long that it begins to smell like the two of you. As the months pass, you begin to feel like you no longer belong to the civilized outside world. Whenever I leave the house dressed presentably, I feel like the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood”: a beast dressed in borrowed clothes.

3. I never thought I would need my baby so much.

The first time I was given the afternoon off after weeks of living in my mom-cave, I walked out of the house swaying to Aretha Franklin’s Think (“Freedom!”), planning my glorious afternoon. Little did I know that I would get an anxiety attack midway and come rushing back home, only to find my baby asleep and unaffected in the care of my husband.

The umbilical cord may be severed at birth, but that doesn’t mean the baby stops being a part of your body. Before I gave birth, I had read The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine so I knew there was a complex interplay of hormones and brain chemicals between a mom and her infant. But to actually experience the profound effects that my baby’s touch, smell and voice had on me was something I wasn’t really prepared for.

I would be reduced to an anxious blob of Jell-O whenever I was away from her for too long. I found it impossible to fall asleep without her touch, and would instead writhe around in bed like a junkie going through withdrawal. The very thought of her would instantly make my breasts harden with milk, and I would then feel a crazed urge to run home, jumping over cars and pushing cyclists out of my way, to make sure she wasn’t starving. Merely imagining her hungry hurt my soul. And yet, my lovely baby’s smell would instantly restore calm and balance to my mind.

To this day, even just the sight of her, in real life or in photos, takes me to such places of bliss and inspires such feelings of sublime love that I can’t help but get all choked up. I don’t just love her, I need her, even when she doesn’t need me.

Who would’ve thought a mother’s separation anxiety can be just as bad as their baby’s?

So there you have it. If you’ve got Bun No. 1 in the oven, be prepared to morph into a half-naked, clingy, irrational, feral creature of the dark; one whose beating heart is about to experience the deepest levels of human love imaginable.

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You can read more of Ala’s musings at

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