Everyone tells you things they wish they’d known before they had kids. Myself included. However, as I had quite a few friends (and very honest ones at that) who had already battled newborns and toddlers, I had some idea of what to expect; or so I thought!
So, rather than 10 things I wish I’d known before E was born, here’s 10 things I wish I’d fully understood:
1. How hard pregnancy really is
Seriously. You imagine that you’ll be able to put your feet up, eat loads of chocolate & crisps and do nothing for 9 months. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can do that, but life still goes on. Stuff still needs to be done & everything seems exponentially harder than before. Even when you’re only a couple of weeks pregnant. Going to work, going shopping, getting dressed – all so much harder. In fact, I once had so much pain in my pelvis, that putting my tights on for work actually caused me to burst into tears!
2. How much people will annoy you during/after pregnancy
Now. I am known as a somewhat antisocial person, in that the general population tends to wind me up, so I might be over sensitive on this one… when you’re pregnant everyone will tell you how wonderful your baby will be (they are, don’t worry) and that’s nice. But, they’ll also say to you “ooh you look pregnant today”, “you should rest whilst you can”, “you shouldn’t eat that/do that/”, “are you having any more?!” I’m very hormonal. Leave me alone. If I bring up the pregnancy, fine. If not, let me be me, rather than pregnant me. Please!
3. The mixed information you’ll get from different midwives/healthcare professionals
Now, again, this could’ve just been me, so bare with. I’m overweight, so my pregnancy was monitored slightly different to average, but even then, I had mixed information and advice depending on which person I was seeing at which appointment.
At my first appointment I was told I may have to take aspirin if my blood pressure didn’t go down (I have Whitecoat Syndrome), but no more was mentioned. Then at another appointment, my consultant said I should consider taking it, but it was never made clear that I SHOULD be taking it. Then at the next appointment I was asked why I hadn’t been taking it (even though my blood pressure was perfect). Then another person couldn’t understand why I should take it… and so on and so forth. Now, I love the NHS, it’s brilliant, but as my first pregnancy it was not only confusing but also caused unnecessary worry! Always double/triple check advice!
4. How much labour hurts
I know what you’re thinking. Really? Everyone knows it hurts. Yes, you’re right, they do. But no one has ever hit the nail on the head for what it actually feels like.
Like you wouldn’t believe. Especially if you have a particularly sleepy baby (ahem, naming no names) so can’t have any pain relief other than gas and air or an epidural. I never wanted an epidural, so maybe it’s my own fault for not having it, but that pain was unbearable. At least the gas made me laugh at some point. Although, I did have to be told to breathe actual air a few times too.
It hurts, it really hurts. Like you’ve never known. I won’t try and tell you what it’s like, because everyone is different. Just expect the worse & then some. That’s all I can say.
5. The aftermath
Women do not exaggerate. It hurts to walk. You bleed for weeks. You feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. It’s excellent.
6. Leaving the hospital
Now, I know a lot of people leave the hospital almost immediately after having a baby, but as E was my first, I opted to stay for the night. You don’t realise what a nice little bubble you’re in, in the hospital. There’s help at the touch of a button. You don’t realise how nice it is because, well, you’re in hospital. Then you leave and you’re just at home with an equally-terrified husband (well, I was) and a tiny person. What the hell do you do now? It’s very, very overwhelming. I burst into tears because my mother-in-law brought lasagne round. It’s a lot.
7. How babies REALLY sleep
Yeah, those first few weeks are horrifically sleep-deprived and your body hasn’t adapted yet. Babies are naturally nocturnal to start, so expect to be up a lot at night. Plus, you’re recovering from what is essentially a massive trauma to your body. Plus, there’s the mental load of suddenly being a mum and all the pressure that comes with that. It’s tiring. Take advantage of when the baby sleeps at the moment and sleep. As it might be the only chance you get – some babies don’t like being put down once they get older.
This also ties into not understanding infant sleep. It’s not linear. It goes up & down. You aren’t definitely going to have a baby that sleeps through the night by the time they’re 1. It’s hard to accept (even now) but I think if I had thought about it more before, I may have had less breakdowns. I’m still hoping it gets easier.
8. Breastfeeding is not easy
Google image breastfeeding… I’ll wait.
There’s a lot of photos of women breezing through it, looking very happy and pleased with themselves. Unfortunately, that is very rarely the reality!
Breastfeeding is hard work. It can be painful at first, leading to cracked and bleeding nipples, sore boobs and achey arms (seriously it’s like a huge workout). Plus, it makes you ravenous. I mean by all means eat, you’re feeding a baby, but I was so hungry & thirsty all the time.
Then, there’s the cluster feeding. I now know I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I had plenty of milk and E was getting everything she needed, but at the time, it is almost indescribable. It makes you doubt yourself like you wouldn’t believe. You’ll want to stop & if you do that’s fine, you’ve gotta look after you too. What I will say is: use the help that’s on offer. Pester your health visitors and doctors. Get the support you need; without it, I would’ve given up months ago, but here we are 9 months later and I don’t know what I’d do without boobs!
9. It’s ok to ask for help
I’m sure my husband will attest to me being a little bit nutty whilst pregnant. Those pregnancy hormones are wild & running through your body for 9 months, then all of a sudden, they all change again. There will be a lot of tears. Drs call it the “baby blues” and say it shouldn’t last more than 2 weeks. To be honest, I call bullshit on that. Hormones are all over for a while, but if you feel like you need help get it.
My little girl is 9 months old & I’ve come to realise that maybe now it’s not the hormones and maybe I’m a little more down that I’ve been letting on. I’ve taken some steps to getting help and helping myself to feel better, so I would always encourage people to reach out as soon as possible. It’s stopped me from enjoying a lot of the last 9 months and stopped me saying yes to seeing friends because it’s felt too much. It’s ok to not enjoy all aspects of motherhood, that’s normal, but for me it was getting overwhelming, so something needed (and still needs) working on.
So, if someone offers help to make your life a bit easier, accept it. Tell people you’re feeling down. Admit to yourself and other people when it’s all getting too much. Mums need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. You’ll feel better.
10. It can be lonely, even though you’re never alone
You’ve always got your little best mate by your side. Hopefully, you’ve got some friends with babies and friends without who are there for you. You’ve got family there to visit and come to see you. You’ve got your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/friend, but sometimes it’s not enough.
Those night feeds are hard. They’re lonely. You can feel isolated. It’s natural. It does get better and you’re never really, truly alone.