I want to preface this post by saying that these seven things are based solely on my own pregnancy, labor and postpartum experiences. Everyone has a different story to tell and deals with it all in their own unique way. That’s the main take-away from it all — everyone is different — but here are some of the things that surprised me or what I wish someone would have told me:
1. “You don’t get a medal for a natural birth.” Actually, my mom did tell me this and I was so thankful to hear it. It really took the pressure off of me to feel like I had to have the same birth experience as anyone else or that one way was better than any other of one million scenarios I might be faced with. What a relief! Because Declan’s birth definitely didn’t go the way I had envisioned. The best way to give birth is the way that keeps you healthy and happy. After laboring for almost 12 hours, that epidural was a welcome part of my labor experience and I was beyond grateful for it. And when the doctor said we might need to have a cesarean, my first thought was of who would be disappointed if that happened, when instead it should have been how I felt about it. The unsolicited advice is sure to flood in while you’re pregnant and it doesn’t stop after you give birth either. No ma’am. But you’re the mom now, you make the decisions. The point here isn’t about a natural or medicated birth, cesarean or vaginal deliveries – it’s to say that it’s your body, your baby, your family, your health. You can thank anyone who gives you their opinion/advice or you can tell them to shove it. Do what’s best for you. And when it’s all over, give yourself a hug and a high five from me.
2. Everything is annoying. I had someone coaching me through labor with breathing, which was encouraging and helpful, but at a certain point the heavy breath sound they made sounded like a loud “shhh” and let me tell you: the last thing you want to hear while you’re sweating and groaning, enduring primal pain is someone telling you to shhh. No, you shhh.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t that specific thing that annoys you, but it will be something. Or everything. The smell of someone’s perfume or food during labor (which is a really jerk move if mama is not allowed to eat anything but ice chips and all she wants is a bacon cheeseburger), random strangers touching your belly while you’re pregnant (eww. and it’s almost illegal in some places.), the fact that your feet are so swollen you don’t fit into your own shoes anymore…let’s just say it’s okay to be cranky for a long while. You birthed a human. You get a pass.
3. You’ll be sore. Like really, really sore. In places you didn’t think you would be. While pregnant, I could feel some of my bones moving and making room. Ouch. But the most surprising for me was my arms a few days after giving birth. “Why the heck are my arms tired?” I wondered. Oh, you wanna know why? Because I was holding my legs spread open for three hours while I was pushing a human out of me. Also, every centimeter of my neck was sore from curling into myself and straining at the start of each push. So, word to the pregnant/wise: work out. Like, just a little. Do some stretching or yoga…maybe get some of those resistance bands. Because not only was I sore after delivering, when our little babe started packing on the pounds, this mama was getting quite the workout from all the bending and lifting. (On the plus side, I think I’ll have hot mom arms in no time.)
4. For the first few weeks at home, your boobs are out all the time. All. The. Time. Invest in a good robe, lots of nursing tops or good curtains. We moved to a new neighborhood just before Declan was born so I’m not sure if we have nosy neighbors. If we do, I think I’m probably going to be a popular lady on our block.
5. Just when you figure out one thing, something else. For us, we had latch problems at the get-go so Declan lost too much weight. We supplemented with formula for one day until my milk came in (my goodness is that uncomfortable!) and then I nursed and pumped to supplement with breast milk for a week and he gained two pounds so they told us to stop. Oi. Then his frenulum was just a bit too tight so we had it snipped. And all this with cracked, sore nipples, bleeding so much you’re practically in diapers yourself, not showering, not sleeping, hardly enough time to eat a decent meal, and trying to recover from major trauma to your lady parts while riding an emotional roller coaster. It’s rough. Which leads me to…
6. It’s okay to cry a lot. I was so relieved the first time one of my mom friends humored and comforted me in solidarity that the first few weeks with a newborn are pretty miserable. Why don’t you ever hear this? No one tells you. Of course you love your baby. Of course. But it cries all the time (which is enough to drive you crazy), it’s hungry all the time (so your boobs are super sore), it only sleeps in short spurts (so if you weren’t crazy before, you are now), and you hardly have time for teeth brushing, showering, eating, full sentences. What is there to love about all that? Yet I was bombarded with texts and Facebook messages asking me if motherhood was “total bliss” or if I was “in love with being a mommy.” Those first few weeks? No. The answer is no. Sometimes you’ve fed, burped, changed, held, snuggled, and changed that diaper (for the fourth time) and yet he’s still crying? WHY?!?!? Ahhhh!!!
Giving birth is hard. Having a baby is hard. Breast feeding is hard. Sacrificing the life you had in order to care for a helpless little human that relies on you for absolutely everything and cries loudly and spits up on the shirt you just found the energy to change into is not fun, nor is it glamorous. It’s okay to have feelings that aren’t rosy and it’s more than okay to ask for help. Please do. Other moms have been through it. They get it and they’ll help you get through it with a bit of humor and sanity too. (Let’s not forget that post-partum depression is real and affects a lot of women. It’s important to identify your emotions and talk openly with your partner and doctor. This article outlining varying thoughts and feelings you might experience was a great read for me and helped me to understand my various states of emotion.) If you’ve had a baby and it’s been all bunnies and sunshine and roses, that’s so great for you. Congratulations. Please share your secrets. But, for the rest of us: it’s okay. You’re a good mom. It’ll get better and easier (which is what all my mom friends encouraged me with…and it is, day by day).
7. You’ll love your dog more. So, so many people warned us while we were expecting that as soon as the baby arrived, Baxter wouldn’t get as much love or attention. On the contrary, having a newborn has given us a whole new level of appreciation for our fur baby. He seems so easy now; he entertains himself, eats and relieves himself without crying and, heck, he even burps himself! When Declan goes down for a nap, the first thing Mumbles and I do is curl up with Baxter on the couch for some quality cuddle time. Love that little guy! (Oh, and don’t believe anyone that says having a dog is a good introduction to having a baby — lies, LIES I tell you!)
What are some things you wish people had told you about giving birth or having a baby? I’d love to hear your stories!!
Read more “what you don’t expect when you’re expecting” stories via CNN here.