(‘Birth and Being a New Mother’ Edition)
As a new mama, I’m learning all the time. You can read all the books & blogs you want, but until you actually experience it for yourself, you will be caught by surprise and will have many unexpected adventures.
Here are a few things I wish someone would’ve mentioned to me before having a baby.
1. The doctor isn’t there for most of labor.
In movies and shows, as soon as you start to push, the Dr comes in and is there for it all. Not real. Your nurses will be by your side through it all. You push with them. They are the ones you lean on. I pushed for about an hour and a half, and even saw Ben’s head for at least 20 minutes, before the doctor arrived, swooping in to “save the day”. He was gone again as quickly as he arrived. Lean on your nurses. Tell them what you need, how you are feeling, and ask them any questions you may have.
2. You don’t need the classes.
When you’re pregnant, you’ll find that everyone talks about breastfeeding classes, birthing classes, Lamaze classes, etc. Save your time money. I recommend taking a tour of the birthing center or hospitals you are interested in giving birth at, but for the same reasons as number 1, your nurses will teach you all you need to know about breastfeeding, breathing and pushing during labor, how to swaddle your baby, and everything in between. When asked by my OB what classes I would be taking, I nervously told him I wasn’t going to take any, expecting a lecture. It was very comforting when he told me he was happy to see a first-time mom that made this decision (for the very reason I mentioned!). Save your hard-earned cash for diapers, and skip the classes.
3. Breastfeeding HURTS.
Breastfeeding is so beautiful. But for many women, it’s also so painful that it literally makes your toes curl. You will tear up, if not completely cry your eyes out. But it’s not just your nipples– you have contractions for the first few days every time you nurse, which causes you to bleed more. It’s like you’re in labor again, while your uterus contracts to shrink back to normal size. Yes, breastfeeding is beautiful, but for the first few days, you’ll want to give up and crawl in a hole and cry. There are a few lucky women out there that don’t have this issue. But if you aren’t one of them (like me), my biggest advice is to stick with it. It’ll get much easier and less painful before you know it, and it’s totally worth it.
4. The nurses get very… personal.
Every few hours for the first couple days, your nurses will come in and check you. They will check your bleeding while pushing on your swollen, sore belly. It’s uncomfortable, yes, but after what you just went through, you aren’t shy about letting anyone see you do anything. Housekeeping even saw my boobs on at least one occasion (true story). If your nurses are as wonderful as mine were, they will give you privacy while still making sure to do their normal checks. So if they aren’t there when something important or out-of-the-ordinary happens, make sure to let them know right away.
5. Night sweats.
I had never read about these being completely normal post-partum, so when it happened to me, I thought our house was too warm and turned down our thermostat… in December (my
poor COLD husband!). You’ll wake up pouring sweat for the first couple weeks and will just feel SO gross, like you’ve never needed a shower more… every. single. morning. It’s due to the extra water your body retained during pregnancy, which means that, unfortunately, you’ll just have to sweat it out. Try to avoid deodorants with antiperspirant, which prevent your body from releasing the sweat that it need to. Thankfully, it’s only temporary, but it makes every shower feel like a spa day, so enjoy the sweet (and rare) few moments of quiet!
6. The first poop.
*TMI ALERT* The first time you have to poop after having a baby, you’ll feel like you’re giving birth to a bag of glass shards wrapped in barbed wire. A warning about this would’ve been nice, although you can drink gallons of water and take all the stool softeners you want; it won’t matter. It’s inevitable. I was sitting on the toilet crying and feeling bad that my husband was going to find me dead on the toilet and would have to raise our brand new son alone (my postpartum hormones made me overreact a tad). Sorry, no advice here. Just know this is how it will be for a little while. Thankfully, this too gets better with time. STAY HYDRATED!
7. “Just sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Looking back, I wish I would’ve done this more, since this is probably the number 2 advice every mother gave me when they saw my growing bump. However, my hormones were still crazy and I was irrationally nesting and cleaning EVERYTHING. I seriously couldn’t sit still, which caused my post-partum healing to take a lot longer than it should have. But your opportunity to get anything done means doing it when the baby sleeps. If you’re one of those people that has lots of help, bless your heart. Otherwise, use the baby sleeping as your opportunity to get things done, while still sleeping when you can. Forget this old saying and try to aim for as much sleep as you can while still maintaining your sanity. But be a little extra forgiving with yourself, Mama. Everyone will understand if you’re a few loads behind on laundry or have some dishes in the sink. Sleep is important, too.
8. You will be judged.
Being a new mom is hard and confusing and scary, but that doesn’t mean everyone and their brother won’t have something to say about every thing you do. I experienced this during pregnancy. I was always “too big” while being “too small” and “I didn’t start showing as early as you” or “wow, I’m glad I never had morning sickness”. Everyone will make you feel like there must be something wrong with you or your baby, so by the time your baby is born, you’re probably used to people giving their unsolicited advice. I was told everything from, “your baby shouldn’t be cross-eyed and will need surgery to fix it” (newborns go cross-eyed because they are trying to focus their undeveloped eyes on something. Totally normal.) to “well, my baby was already *insert verb* by that age” (milestones vary and are not exact for all babies.), or “I lost all my baby weight by the time I left the hospital”. Everyone will also add that their niece/ nephew/ sister/ son/ uncle was a bigger/ stronger/ better baby that only ate from the breast of their glistening, organic, grass-fed, unicorn-of-a-mother, and that that’s clearly the only option for your child because, well, why not? Listen, motherhood is hard enough without the extra judgement. Let’s all realize that each parent knows what’s best for their own baby, and that advice shouldn’t be given to a pregnant woman or new mother without her asking. Be nice. Tell her she looks wonderful and that she’s doing a great job.
9. This is the best adventure you will ever go on.
Okay, you’ve probably heard this one. But in all honesty, being a parent is the most amazing experience one could ever have, and you can’t even begin to comprehend the love you will have for such a small person until you are holding them in your arms. There’s nothing like it. It is rare that your days will be easy or perfect, but try to take it all in. Soak up that newborn smell, take lots of pictures, and try to remember that while the days may seem long, the years will go quickly.
Do you have any advice for expecting mothers? Feel free to post below!