Becoming a parent comes with the crashing realization that you KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You can read books, you can talk to other parents, you can talk to your own parents. And you will still know jack squat when you take that baby home for the first time. I could fill my own Wikipedia with what I still don't know, but here is what I have learned. I am dubbing this Volume 1 as my baby is only on the cusp of 5 months and there is a long road ahead.
The good news is that once you do know, you are a gall dang EXPERT. You will have Strong Opinions. Then your child will throw you a curve-ball and you will feel like a dumb ass again. It's a wonderful roller coaster of expertise and braindeadness. Welcome to parenthood.
Click here for Vol. 2 –Babies
Labor is way harder than you thought.
Epidurals may fail. FAIL. It will be the worst pain you ever felt and you would do it again. You have to PULL while you push (I didn’t read that anywhere so you are welcome). You don’t know how to push and the only way to learn is to pretend you are pooping until your body starts to make sense again. Once your water breaks you have 24 hours to give birth whether your body is ready or not. Inducing labor and all the drugs involved are the worst. Your birth plan will be forgotten unless someone remembers to shove it in the doctor’s face. There will not be enough tables for your LED candles and iPod and whatever random crap you brought. You will be in too much pain to care about music. You will forget to light the fake candles.
Postpartum is delirium
You will have too many visitors. Your whole body will ache from pulling and pushing. You will be exhausted, hungry, and delirious. You will want to sleep and hold your baby. Make sure your partner eats, make sure you eat, don’t let them take your baby to the nursery if you don’t want them to, be assertive, ask to see a lactation consultant IMMEDIATELY and don’t let them boss you around. The whole birth experience in a hospital can leave you feeling drained and powerless, but you are not. Ask for help, ask for what you need, and remember – you are in charge.
Bring gifts for the nurses
They are not expecting it and they will love it. They work so hard (harder than the doctors actually) and really deserve a thank you. I brought a basket with a dozen hand creams, hand sanitizers, lip balms, and little bags of coffee. I got the stuff at Christmas Tree Shop, Target Dollar Spot, and Five Below. Don’t spend a ton of money but it’s nice to be thoughtful. They may be shy so make sure your husband or other birth coach(es) encourage them to take stuff. I only did one basket and it looked sad when I brought it up to post-partum so next time I’ll do one for the Labor nurses and one for the postpartum.
Modesty is gone forever
Once you’ve had at least a dozen strangers reach into your lady garden while wearing nothing but a sheet with small strings on it that supposedly are there so it closes and fits around you… you’re like whatever. You don’t care if the bathroom stall door is closed all the way. You don’t care if the bathroom door is closed. You get dressed in a dressing room and it’s okay if the door isn’t closed. Basically if someone sees you naked it’s going to be worse for them than it is for you. People have profusely apologized for almost walking in on me pumping and I’m like – you’re really the one who would have been traumatized, really. Have you SEEN those contraptions?
You can shower every day
I can see how it would be easy to slide into the habit of not showering. And I don't blame someone for not doing it. Being a new parent is really really hard. I find it was very easy to shower every day because I shower at night. When DH returns from work and baby is fed, it's very easy to hand her off and take a quick 15 min shower (nothing is getting shaved just yet). You can also put baby in a Rock N' Play or bassinet if it will fit in your bathroom. Something about the white noise of the water and the steam is very calming to them. It also helps with stuffy noses so it's good to get used to bringing them in there anyway. You can also play peekaboo with the shower curtain!
Scary thoughts happen
I was lucky enough to not suffer from post-partum depression (PPD) a very real and serious condition that demands immediate help. I did however have some moments. I was overcome with some scary thoughts and visions a few times that I tried desperately to block as soon as they came. They all involved horrible things that could happen to my baby. I later read that this is evolution - your lizard brain comes up with all these scenarios so you are extra careful to avoid them and keep your baby safe.
You may lose it
I didn't lose it to the point where I needed to walk away but I did have a moment where, on a night where baby would not go the eff to sleep, I held her in front of me, looked her in the eyes and said "What do you want from me?" Her little blank look of complete innocence staring back at me completely snapped me back into reality. It can be hard in the middle of the night when you are tired, aching, bleeding and stretched to your limit. I am lucky that my little nugget was able to break the spell so easily. If you find this happening and you aren't snapping out of it, best to put baby down and go collect yourself for both of your sakes.
Postpartum necessities for your bum
Maternity Leave can be isolating
Especially if you are home in the winter, those long weekdays where your SO is at work, no visitors are coming with trays of food, and it’s too cold to take your baby outside can be tough. Luckily there is cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime video, and social media. Otherwise I would have really lost it!
If you are lucky enough to be part of a village of women who mentor, support and get you through what will be the most intense experience of your life, thank them every day. For the hand me down clothes, toys, and baby gadgets. For the breastfeeding advice. For making you feel normal. For just letting you vent. For being able to understand when your loving and well-intentioned husband just can't. For being there. Thank you.
Generosity that overwhelms
I don't think I've ever experienced such generosity. To be handed hundreds of dollars of baby equipment, clothing, and more without so much as a thought. All the gifts - the present train will continue long after the first few weeks of visitors. Rarely will someone come to your house without food, a gift for the baby or a gift for you. It's amazing and it makes you want to do the same for the next mom.
Women Be Shoppin’
Even with hand me downs and 2 baby showers (I’m lucky I know) there is going to be a lot that you still need. Especially one thing you need at 3 am that you don’t have. You will make many anxiety based purchases. Remember that Amazon Prime is your friend (free 2 day shipping and I don’t have to wear PANTS?!) and to make sure your thermometer has a battery so you don’t end up in the ER at 3 am when your baby doesn’t actually have a fever.
Your body looks like it got hit by a bus
This is by no means intended to offend those who have actually been hit by a bus. But let’s be honest ladies, unless you are a very young, supple skinned mom or work out constantly or don’t eat your weight in Cheez Wiz like I did, you are going to look pretty stretchy down there. It’s called: loose, stretchmark covered saggy skin. Pointer for you young kids going to the boardwalk this summer; don’t get a belly button ring. Just ask my amazing radial belly button stretch marks. If you are at the piercing and tattoo parlor, send me a message and I will text you a picture of your future. It looks like a sunburst of regret. And don’t pack away those maternity clothes mama. It’s not just the 4th trimester for your baby missing the comfort of your womb, you still look pregnant..for a while.
Breastfeeding (for me)
You will love breastfeeding once you get the hang of it and overcome tongue tie, a nipple shield and how the hell to position pillows perfectly to ensure a good latch. Soon you won't even need a pillow. You will experience DMER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) which makes you feel intense shame every time your milk lets down, and thanks to the internet you will realized you are not actually crazy and this won’t stop you from feeding your baby. You will get mad every time someone suggests you give a bottle so you can sleep (because you'll have to pump anyway), give formula, give rice cereal, or give solids before 6 months. You will become a crazy crunchy breastfeeding mama who finds herself using the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding. You will read every book by La Leche League and join Facebook groups like Dairy Queens. You will breastfeed while doing laundry, talking on the phone and while guests shift uncomfortably in their chairs. You will pump while driving to and from work. You will feel a little exiled when people ask if you want somewhere to nurse privately but also be grateful for the escape. You will pump at a wedding and bring a small camping cooler to protect your precious liquid gold. You will feed with and without a cover and learn the awesomeness of the two shirt method and special nursing tops and dresses. You will squirt milk in your baby’s eye for immediate clogged duct relief and pour it in her bath. You will pump in odd rooms without tables and prepare to be walked in on several times even though the door has a sign on it. You will nurse in Lowes, Target and many other stores in your sling. You will feel like a g'damn superhero every time you can feed your baby with your BODY! You will kiss your muscles like a guido gym rat every time someone compliments your little's chubby little thighs. You will love it and it will be everything.
You will have regrets about your pre-baby ignorance
I know why people are rude to and about mothers. Because they have no effing idea what they are talking about. You don't know. You just don't know until you've been through it. I used to balk at moms nursing in public because I'm an American and we're puritanical about boobs unless they are being used to sell us something. I feel bad for trying to cover my friend when she was nursing when my husband walked in the room. I feel bad for judging moms for feeding their babies. But I didn't know.
You will become boring
Being locked in the house for 3 months limits your conversation topics to about 1 or 2 things and both involve your baby. The part of your brain that used to care about pop culture, politics, your job, and other hobbies and interests will be suctioned out and replaced with baby knowledge (hence this blog post). Your childless and single friends will not understand. You may feel left out. They will be excited about your baby but not necessarily about you or anything you have to say. They will be happy for you but they won't be able to relate. Hopefully you can hold on to the best of these friends but don't waste your time on the rest. Find new mama friends and hold on tight to them because they are your village.
Click here for Vol. 2 - Babies
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!