Two of my very dear friends are pregnant with their first babies. I’m not sure who is more excited, them or me. I was the first in my close group of girlfriends to have a baby and then babies. I like many new moms felt completely clueless and totally overwhelmed and alone when my girls were tiny newborns and lets be honest, I still feel that way sometimes. My mom, sister and sister in law were great resources for me and gave me incredible advice, but I still felt alone. I remember thinking on more than one occasion, whether it was the middle of the night and my baby just wouldn’t sleep unless she was being held, or she had just exploded poop out her diaper in the middle of target and it was leaking out of the strap holes of her car seat on to the floor of target…….WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS PART?!?!!?!?!?! I wish someone would have clued me in on the embarrassing not so glamorous parts of motherhood. It wouldn’t have changed my mind about wanting to become a mom but it might have made some of those moments not so lonely or defeating. The following is my list of things I wish someone would have clued me in on so I could have laughed at myself more and stressed less. Some have a more serious tone while some aremore humorous.
*Pregnancy has a very short “cute and comfortable” stage, and very quickly turns into bloated, swollen and unappealing. This condition grows at an exponential rate in the last 10 weeks.
*People (including strangers) will think it’s okay to touch your stomach, and comment on your size. Neither of these things are appropriate and you should feel free to let your hormones get the best of them.
*Labor hurts, birth hurts, and the “ring of fire” is a true fact. It’s okay to get an epidural, it’s not going to make your baby born stoned. It’s also okay to want to forgo the pain medication and give birth without medication. Don’t let someone tell you your plan “isn’t natural” the act of birth itself is natural, whether it’s with or without medication or whether you push your baby out yourself or have a c-section. It’s your body and your baby and the only opinions that are required are yours and your doctors.
*If you have a vaginal delivery – Ice pack pads, epifoam, and witch hazel pads are your best friend. Stockpile these three things from the hospital. Continually ask for more, and hoard them in your bag to take home. You and your vagina will thank me for it.
*If you have a c-section – Don’t try to be a hero, take the pain medication offered by the hospital and stay on top of it. I never had a c-section birth but have had 2 surgeries on my ovaries with the same incision as a c-section and trust me when I say, I bow down to c-section mamas. I don’t know how you do it after that kind of surgery, you women are incredible.
*Breastfeeding is hard, it hurts in more ways than one, its emotional, its frustrating and you are going to want to give up. It’s hard because you think “oh women have been doing this for centuries, it’s natural, I just put the baby on my breast and off we go…..” and then reality hits that there is a science to it. There is correct placement of the babies mouth on your nipple that can make or break your nipple skin, literally. It pinches, its not comfortable even if you have the proper latch, and then once you get all that worked out, all the sudden your stomach starts cramping and it feels like early labor all over again. Yes nursing makes your uterus contract, it’s one of the human body’s amazing tricks, nursing makes your uterus contract quicker….but what no one tells you is…it hurts. It doesn’t last forever, maybe a couple days to a week. Its emotional because you yourself are an out of control hormonal roller coaster, and the littlest things can make you feel like you are going to fail as a mother. The best advice I got on breastfeeding came from my sister: Don’t think about your end goal of breastfeeding for a month, 6 months, a year etc. If you do that the task seems so overwhelming, and never ending and in those early days when your nipples are raw and you are exhausted the simple thought of having to do this for that long may push you over the edge. Think about the feeding at hand, get through that one, and when that one is over its one more under your belt. Then focus on the next, take it one feeding at a time. The pain stops, the nipples toughen, the routine gets to be second nature, but it takes time and not just a week but a few weeks.
*Don’t let anyone shame you for your feeding choices. If you choose to breastfeed, great. If you choose formula, great. Both of my daughters were both breast and bottle fed and both are smart, happy, healthy girls. I was able to nurse while on maternity leave but once I went back to a high stress job my supply tanked. I started using formula because the stress of trying to keep up with their demand was taking its toll on my mental state, which in turn took a toll on my daughters. Do what works for you and your family when it comes to feeding choices for your baby, neither choice is right or wrong. Trust me easier said than done and I still have twinges of mom guilt sometimes when I see a mom nursing her baby and I wish my nursing relationship with my daughters would have lasted longer. If I had continued my mental state would have suffered.
*Your body has changed, it’s expanded in incredible ways. Even if you are one of the lucky ones that gets back to your pre-pregnancy weight quickly, there is a large possibility that your clothes won’t fit the same way they did before you were pregnant. These next statements are going to be really hard and freeing at the same time to share. I am 5 feet 5 inches tall, I weighed 148lbs when I got pregnant with Evie, The days she was born I weighed in at 183lbs. I got back down to 150lbs when I found out I was pregnant with Nora (Evie was 6 months old), I don’t know how much I weighed when Nora was born because I was so down on myself I refused to look at the scale anymore at the doctors office. I struggled to shed the “baby weight” the second time around and I tore myself down on a daily basis about it. I refused to give myself any grace that I had had two babies and that I shouldn’t let my worth and beauty be measured by my weight or size. I had two beautiful daughters and they are worth every extra pound I carried for those first couple years. It took me over 2 years to finally get back to a healthy weight for my height and it really has happened in the last 9 months. The moral of this section is to understand that it takes time for your body to heal, and reshape. Give yourself some grace and some self love.
* Poop will happen at the most inconvenient times. Exploding out the diaper of your newborn into the carseat and then dripping out on the floor of the Target check out lane while your 15 month old is having a massive meltdown over glitter hair clips.
*You will go to an important meeting with a giant spot of spit up or snot on your clothes and you won’t realize it until after the meeting is over.
*You get an hour to yourself and you go to try on nursing bras to try to find one that makes you feel more like a woman and less like a cow and the woman in the next fitting room baby starts to cry and you realize you have leaked all over a bra that is awful and it isn’t yours and doesn’t fit. Take a deep breath, this happens more than you know. Just inform the sales associate and they will take care of it and not make you pay for it.
*Your days of personal space are over, from the minute you find out you are pregnant your body has now become your baby’s (child’s) and that never really stops.
*You will think you won’t make it through the night, your heart will sink when you hear them restless in their bed 10 minutes after you laid them down and you will pray to any higher being to just let them go to sleep, you will cry out of exhaustion, you will think tomorrow will never come and that you will die from lack of sleep. Then in that fleeting moment of desperation your baby will smile at you, or grab on to your shirt as you rock them, will snuggle in and fall asleep in the nook of your neck and you will feel such love and that is what helps you make it one more day.
*When they sleep through the night the first time, you will most likely wake up in complete panic, possibly soaked in breastmilk and fly into their room like a bat out of hell, then once the panic passes you will silently dance with joy back to your bed.
*When they get older you will find yourself sneaking in their room to tuck them in, and linger just a little to watch the sweet innocence of them sleeping.
Motherhood is messy, emotional, sometimes painful, frustrating and the most incredible job I have ever had. The hard times are muted by the joy. Every mom has hard times, every mom has struggles, we are all human and perfect in our imperfection. Next time you see a mom with a dried booger on her shirt, or spit up in her hair….hand her a wipe and give her an understanding smile instead of a judgmental look. We all need a little support and a lot of love.