I think it’s safe to say I thought I was prepared. Ask my family! They would tell you that I’ve always been semi obsessed with pregnancy/childbirth/being a mom. I read books. I read blogs. I read magazines and websites. I talked to my mom. I talked to other moms. I went to every class the hospital had to offer. I was so ready and knew all I needed to know about having a baby….. or not!
Starting the second my midwife laid my sweet baby on my chest, things started happened that I was so not prepared for. And the kicker??? The list of things I didn’t know has just kept on growing! So here I am 19 beautiful months later sharing some of those with you… maybe then you’ll be a little more prepared. Probably not (because honestly who’s really prepared to have a baby!?) but at least a few things won’t be such a surprise! Hang on tight because it’s going to be a long, sometimes graphic, ride!
1. Labor hurts… A LOT. Okay so this one seems like DUH, but seriously you guys it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. I mean think about it. Your body was designed to push a baby out without you even having to consciously push – there’s bound to be some serious pain involved. In order for a watermelon to come out of an opening the size of a grape it’s not going to be pretty. It’s kind of hard to describe how it feels but imagine it like this: you’ve got a 200 lb weight sitting on your stomach while your insides literally feel like they’re being ripped out along with intense pressure similar to feeling like you need to poo… now multiply this pain that you’re imagining by like 50. Nope, you still don’t have any idea. That’s okay, you will… But are you ready for the craziest part of all??? 5 minutes after it’s over, you’ll be thinking “that wasn’t so bad”, 2 weeks later “I really thought it was going to be worse” and a year later “I think I’ll do it again!” Isn’t it amazing that God erases the memory of pain almost immediately – it’s so you’ll have more!!!!! And although at some point you will think to yourself, and possibly even shout it from the top of your lungs, that you can’t do this, can’t go on, have to stop…you can, you will and no you don’t. It won’t last forever, the pain is temporary and you will get through it. Isn’t that awesome?!
2. While we’re on the topic of labor – let’s talk about your hubby! All along I assumed he’d be Mr. Tough Guy while I’m doing the hardest work of my life to pop his kid out, right? Not so much… Okay actually I was pretty lucky – my husband has always been super supportive of me, especially my wishes during pregnancy and labor (ahem all natural, tell me I can do it, don’t offer the drugs, you get the idea). However his first mistake was not going to bed at a decent time so he’d be well rested. I mean here we were 6 days past my due date and when I told him at 8:30pm that I was going to take a shower and go to bed because I was having contractions and wanted to see if resting would make them stop, you would think he would’ve gone to bed too, right? Wrong! When I woke up at 12:30am and my water started to break… guess where he was. Downstairs. Still awake. No sleep for him… Second mistake: not eating. By 7am not only had he not slept since the night before – so well over 24 hours at that point, but he also hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before. Not a good combo. We’re talking dizzy, feeling like he’s going to pass out, needed to sit down right as I’m going through the hardest part of labor!!! Thank goodness for my mom who not only took care of me, but him as well! 🙂 Lesson learned: make sure the hubby is well rested, FED!, and has additional snacks/things to drink during the process. That way you don’t have to add being worried your husband’s going to pass out before the kid is even born to your plate during labor. All jokes aside – my husband was right there by my side the entire time (with the exception of the few times he had to sit down and take a breather!) and was a great source of support and encouragement!
3. Breastfeeding is not easy. At all. As in it’s actually really hard, doesn’t seem at all natural at first and is something that you have to work at. Who knew, right?? I mean I had this idea that I would breastfeed because it’s what my body was made to do and that I would produce enough milk and it would all be a piece of cake. HA HA! First of all, it’s really awkward at first! I mean here you are having just had a baby and all the sudden you’re supposed to just “know” how to nurse her. And if you don’t, well that’s okay because the nurse or lactation consultant will come in, whip your shirt up and be all up in your business making sure the baby is latching correctly and everything looks right! Luckily for me, M took right to it and it wasn’t so bad. However, no one warns you about the pain! By the 2nd or 3rd day in, we’re talking major pain the first couple of sucks… of every feeding!!! That Lanolin cream works wonders, but it still doesn’t completely alleviate the pain of your bra rubbing, the water from the shower or baby’s hungry mouth. All you can hope for is for those babies to callus quickly!! I have heard however that you can help prevent the pain by “toughening” your nipples ahead of time. This was something I found out much later after having nursed M so I can’t speak to this – but it’s worth a shot!! In addition to how painful it can be, milk production is a very sensitive process. For example, you aren’t drinking enough water? Your production will go down. Baby isn’t nursing as much one particular day? Your production will go down. You aren’t taking in enough calories? Your production will go down. Do you catch my drift? Here’s my best piece of advice: breastfeeding is hard work. Get all the assistance and help from lactation consultants that you can, go into it trying your best, but realize that it’s not for everyone and if you aren’t able to continue… you haven’t failed! I lasted 3 months, but I gave it my best and am proud to have lasted as long as I did.
4. This one might be my number one thing that no one EVER told me, so listen up. You think labor is painful?! Postpartum is wayyy worse! Everyone knows labor isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but I had no idea how much worse it would be afterwards! Yeah I had my baby and everything was great, but talk about discomfort and pain! While the magnitude of labor pain is much worse, postpartum pain goes on and on for days… sometimes weeks. That is just not a good time! You’re swollen, bleeding, there’s a pretty good chance you’re stitched up from having been nearly torn in half (okay that might be an exaggeration but it sure feels like it!) It hurts to sit, there’s pressure when you stand and don’t even get me started on going to the bathroom. Peeing is bad enough… it burns, but luckily if your hospital is like mine, they give you this fabulous numbing spray, a squirt bottle to keep everything clean and witch hazel pads to ease some of the discomfort. Combine that will this most amazing cream by Earth Mama Angel Baby called “Mama Bottom Balm” and you’ll be good to go for the most part. However, poo-ing is a completely different story. I think I was more afraid to go number 2 after labor that I was to push M out! I cried. I’m not kidding. The thought of sitting on the toilet, pushing it out when I was still trying to recover from first pushing experience (when she was born) was enough to make me lose it! No one tells you about that! The terror, anxiety, desperation you will feel! It’s not fun.. all I can offer you is good luck, but just know that it’s coming.
5. While we’re on the lovely topic of poo, let me tell you something else disturbing. There’s a chance, okay a really good chance, you’ll poo during labor. Here you are bare for the world to see and you just might lose control of your bodily functions. Lovely, huh? Luckily those labor nurses? They’re amazing. They will have just finished cleaning up vomit (oh yeah, did I mention you might puke, too??) when they’ll have to switch gears to clean up another sort of *ahem* mess. See why they’re so great? (okay seriously pregnant mamas, how excited are you for labor right about now?!)
6. You will absolutely, most certainly, no doubt about it need help. When someone offers it, take them up on their offer!!! Even if it’s just half an hour to take a nap! We were so, so lucky when it came to this. Not only did my mom (who only lives about 5 miles away) stay with us the few couple nights home from the hospital to assist with nighttime feedings, but she also came over and made/dropped off dinner for like 2+ weeks after we came home from the hospital. Oh, and she cleaned my house, did the dishes and did the laundry that whole time, too. See, I told you we were lucky! The moral of the story here: take whatever help, as much help, as you can. You’ll be glad you said yes. Side note – let’s say no one offers, you have no family near by, etc…. forget about your house, the dishes, the laundry and sleep when the baby sleeps!! I know everyone says that, but trust me… DO IT!
7. Your body will never be the same. Ever again. And that’s okay. There’s something awesome that happens when you have a baby. Your body changes. There’ll be stretch marks, perhaps a scar, spider veins, tummy pouches. And guess what? They might not ever go away again. But that’s okay because when you look in the mirror and see every one of those marks remind yourself that it’s like you’ve been branded forever. A mommy. And that little girl/boy standing next to you? They’re your prize for having that body. And they’re so worth every single blemish.
8. No one tells you that you’ll never get sleep again. I mean you expect it’s going to be rough in the beginning, right? You have a newborn, newborns wake up to eat every couple hours, yeah yeah you get it. But you don’t. Here I am, going on 2 years later and guess what.. my baby bear doesn’t sleep all night most nights. According to a recent sleep study, over 30% of children ages 2-7 wake up at least once a night, and almost every child studied has at least one night a week where they wake up. So the whole idea that when they move past that newborn stage they’ll sleep through the night is a myth. Sorry to break it to you. And if your friends tell you otherwise, there’s a chance they’re lying. Sorry again. The bottom line: sometime near the middle of your pregnancy you’ll stop sleeping all night without waking up.. and this will probably continue until your child is in elementary school. Although then you’ll be listening for them to get up sick or from a nightmare… so maybe it’ll continue until they’re teens. Then again, by then they’ll be driving, sneaking out and just overall causing you all sorts of anxiety so you probably won’t sleep then either. Maybe when they move out… but then you’ll be worried about if they’re okay, safe, etc. Yep, it’s official. You’ll never sleep all night again! 🙂
9. You will never have “me time” again. For the next several years you will always have a shadow, someone watching you, looking up to you, depending on you. They’re always right there and you’re never alone. It’s actually kind of fun! However, you better enjoy always having an audience no matter what you’re doing. Changing clothes? Yep, they’ll be watching. Going to the bathroom? There too… even if the door is shut, M always ends up sticking her little hands under the door. Taking a shower? If they’re not in the shower with you, they’re probably still in the bathroom. Are you catching on yet? And even in those few and far in between times that you and the hubby might have a date night or you might get to run to the store alone, it’s like they’re there because chances are they’re all you’ll think about and talk about the whole time you’re away from them. Your life isn’t so much about you anymore as it is them. And that’s okay because that’s exactly the way it should be!
10. And the final thing that although people tried to tell me, I really had no idea about before I had her was the love and joy she would bring into my life. You think you know love. That all consuming, lay your life on the line feeling, but let me tell you my friend, you have absolutely no idea. There’s nothing like it. It’s the best feeling in the world. When that little baby, toddler, preschooler, child, teen, adult looks up at you and you’re all they see in the world. It’s simply amazing. No one will make your baby’s eyes light up like you. No one will calm her fears like you. Sometimes no one will matter but you. And what a feeling that is. To know that you love and are so loved, that you are literally the very being responsible for their life (other than God of course), the one they solely rely and depend on. There is no way to describe the love that your child will bless you with. And that’s all that matters and what makes it all so worth it.