What I Wish I Had Known Before Baby
I was the first of my close girlfriends to get pregnant. Some of my best friends spent their 20s chasing their career (and are doing seriously incredibly things), but I somehow decided to tackle career + the marriage and baby thing...So, I didn’t know a lot of the insider mom secrets. You know... the things that happen to you when you have a baby but know one really wants to talk about.
Luckily, I spent a LOT of time researching and reading about childbirth and the newborn phase (who knew there was a ‘fourth trimester’?). Things I didn’t know existed until I got caught spending too much time on Pinterest or reading childbirth blogs. But I’m glad I read it all - the good, bad & ugly. I thought it would be interesting to some mamas-to-be to share some of my own takeaways. Warning: no filter on this post!
1. The exhaustion is real, but you can handle it and will get used to it. I love my sleep, so was worried about the whole ‘not sleeping once baby is here’ thing. Like, I needed 8-hours of sleep to function pre-baby and was not ready to become a walking zombie! But not every night is bad. There are some nights where it feels easy and the baby sleeps, and then there are nights when you’d spend any amount of money to sleep more than a 2-hour stretch. But you adjust. And it does get better. Most importantly, your inner mom adrenaline kicks in and you can handle it! Nap when you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help just to sleep! There were days when I had my nanny come just so I could rest and that’s money well spent.
2. You might not want visitors at the hospital. When I dreamt of my labor plan, I imagined the movie-version where you deliver the baby and it’s all magical and your close family & friends are there afterward to celebrate. Boy, was I wrong. After a 24-hour labor that ended with an emergency c-section, the last thing I wanted was visitors. I was exhausted. I remember telling my husband I didn’t want visitors, except our parents. I needed time. I needed rest. And looking back, I am glad I listened to myself and didn’t allow a ton of visitors in the hospital or those first few days once we got home. Plus, our friends and extended family got to see the baby when we were all more rested and recovered. No one needed to be around those first few days!
3. Motherhood can feel lonely. While I am thankful to not have experienced PPD, I did feel very lonely. When my husband went back to work (after 1-week home), I was alone with a newborn most days. I felt overwhelmed and very alone. All of a sudden, I was a mother - fully responsible for raising this tiny baby, and it didn’t all come naturally to me. While I loved my new role, it felt very lonely at times. I wasn’t prepared for that feeling and definitely did (and still do) feel guilty admitting that it wasn’t always easy.
4. Breastfeeding is HARD and it hurts. I was really looking forward to breastfeeding while I was pregnant. For some reason, I just expected it to happen naturally for me. Once again, I was wrong! My milk didn’t come in for five days. When it did, I was completely engorged and had a very hungry baby who was tired of formula and wanted his mama. My boobs were so full that my husband had to help me with getting baby to latch properly. Talk about a supportive husband! My poor nipples were cracked and bleeding. I would cry sometimes because it hurt so bad. None of the positions seemed to work. I wanted to give up, but I kept trying because I knew it was something that our baby needed, even if it was such a challenge to begin with. It took 2-weeks, but we did eventually get it down. And now it feels so natural and is one of the favorite parts of being a mama. If you want to breastfeed and it’s not easy for you at first, keep going AND ask for support. I visited a lactation consultant even after leaving the hospital and that helped so much.
5. Hemmoroids are not just a thing your grandmas gets. Between pregnancy constipation and the dreaded first poop after labor, nothing is regular anymore (no pun intended). Honestly, I’m two months postpartum from a c-section and it’s still a struggle! Plan to stock your medicine cabinets with Metamucil and stool softener. And when the nurse at the hospital offers prune juice, you take it!
6. You are now on baby’s schedule. Remember your schedule pre-baby? Throw that out of the window. While you can still find time for yourself, it’s suddenly centered around your baby. I am constantly asking myself - “Do I want to shower, eat, answer emails or workout?” when baby takes a nap. It’s not always easy. Just when you think your baby has a schedule, it changes. On the days you pray the baby naps so you can be somewhat productive, it doesn’t happen. But I wish I had known to relax and enjoy those chaotic days in the beginning. I was so set on balancing my life, work and baby that I didn’t always stop to enjoy the little moments. The newborn days are hard, but go by so fast. So, give yourself grace and learn to give your baby what they need - even if that means you have to forgo work/shower/fitness/etc. But at the end of the day, the little things don’t really matter. Being present is much more important.
7. Your heart will grow 10x, but it might not happen overnight. I think having a somewhat traumatic labor and delivery made my bond to baby a bit of a challenge. Having a major surgery and being so weak afterward made it hard for me to even experience skin-to-skin right after the baby was born. I envisioned this beautiful labor and it just didn’t happen for me. And then having to recover and not being able to do much the first 24-hours made it hard for me to feel that deeply emotional bond you envision when having a baby. My heart did grow SO much, but it was more of a gradual experience. I thought there was something wrong with me for not having a magical labor and bonding moment, but I now get to fall in love with my baby more each day.
8. You have to trust YOUR instincts. There is so much information out there about raising a baby, that it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to play the comparison game or to feel like you are doing something wrong. But the most important lesson is to realize you have to trust your own mom instinct and do what’s best for you/your baby! I promise, every mom has this intuition and if you listen to yourself, you can always figure out what is best. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to ask other moms for advice and to decide what’s right for you!
9. Your body is so strong. I fully expected to hate my postpartum body. I think it’s because our culture today always talks about the ‘ugly’ aftermath of our bodies after childbirth - the stretch marks, cellulite, and wears & tears from the extreme of pregnancy to labor. But if I am being honest, I love my postpartum body so much more than before. I am in awe of what a woman’s body is capable of. I was able to carry my baby for 41-weeks. I loved my pregnancy body (belly and all), and am so proud of how strong I felt the entire time. It IS possible to love your pregnancy if you are willing to take care of yourself and stay positive! But postpartum, I had a new appreciation. I’ve never felt more strong and resilient. Not only did I experience labor and have to undergo a major surgery, but my body was able to instantly start to recover and take care of my baby. Thanks to treating my body right during pregnancy, I had a speedy recovery. Now, I will not support the unrealistic expectations of “bouncing back”, because some things will never be the same. But I am so much more appreciative of my body and thankful for everything that it did (and still does) for my baby.
10. You will gain a new appreciation for your parents. I never knew how much I needed my mom until I became a mom myself. You can’t fully understand what your parents have done for you until you experience motherhood. I have grown even closer to my mom and have leaned on her (and my sister) more than ever before. I can always count on my family to help out with the baby and to provide the support I need when times are hard. There’s been so many times when I think to myself (or tell my husband) “wow, it’s amazing what our parents did for us.” I am so thankful to have family close by that are always willing to help.