Motherhood is without a doubt one of the hardest jobs in the world and there is absolutely no preparation for it. You can read all the books in the world, take all the classes and even ask your mom friends but none of this will fully prepare you. The books are guidelines and generalizations which can honestly be a little frightening (I recommend NOT reading ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’). The classes are in similar format, giving you generalizations and while I found them to be overall informative, they still do not prepare you for motherhood. And finally, our dear mom friends (I explain in detail here, ‘Being a Mom, I Get It‘)…why would they scare us with their experiences (maybe some of your friends did!) or tell us how difficult it is? They don’t, because everyone has their own experience and it isn’t until you actually go through it that you can understand why they didn’t and completely relate.
I’ve made a list of things, in my opinion, that no one can prepare you for as a new mom. Again, this is from my own personal experience but hopefully it helps any new moms-to-be out there (or reassures any recent mothers):
1. Going into labor is a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ situation. You cannot predict when you will go into labor, where you go into labor and what you will be doing so you have to just ‘go with it’ and of course, try not to panic. I went to the hospital with a concern about leakage which I thought was my water breaking but didn’t end up being that. They ran some tests and found that as my contractions were happening (which I could barely feel), my little peanut’s heart rate would drop. Since I was three days away from my actual due date and their concerns, I was admitted and induced (totally wasn’t ready for that!).
2. Birth plan…what birth plan? As the overly organized and prepared person that I am, I had a birth plan. My husband and I decided together that I wanted to have a natural birth (I won’t say “we” because he wasn’t pushing out the baby!). We took the expensive classes, practiced the breathing techniques at home and made the birth plan which we had our instructor review and edit. I then provided a freshly printed copy to my OBGYN in advance to keep in my file. When they told me I was going to be induced I knew that meant Pitocin (drugs), which I specifically stated on my birth plan that I did not want. Well, I didn’t have a choice! I was upset at first (I actually starting sobbing!), but I knew that this was a possibility. Some mothers have birth plans which end up working out perfectly for them (well, aren’t you a lucky duck?!) but for me, it was the complete opposite. I also ended up having an epidural because of the pain from the Pitocin. In the end, it didn’t matter because all I wanted was a healthy baby and I would do whatever was needed for that to happen!
3. But how do I push? For obvious reasons, you don’t practice pushing during your birthing classes but they make it sound so easy, just push! Well, there’s a technique to it and I don’t know how to explain it (after 26 hours of labor, I was quite delirious by the last hour) but what I do know is I felt like every vein in my head and face was going to pop! That is what I would consider to be the wrong way to push. Luckily, I had the most amazing nurse with me who helped and I figured out my breathing (which took a little bit of time) and Emma arrived 45 minutes later! I will say that pushing hurts at the very end because there is no epidural that numbs the pain but it goes quick at that point, or at least for me it did.
4. You will be sore!!! The amount of pain you are in afterwards is…rough. Maybe you are or will be one of those moms that doesn’t feel any pain that day or the next but whether you had a normal delivery or C-section, I have a feeling you will be sore. It gets better, I promise you, but plan on sleeping being difficult the first few nights and don’t be afraid to take Ibuprofen, it’s given to you for the pain by the hospital (and won’t affect your baby if you’re nursing).
5. Don’t feel bad if you send your baby down to the nursery! You just had a baby, you literally just pushed a baby out of your lady parts or had a C-section which is also an intensive procedure. You want rest and you need it, trust me you sooooooooo need it. The first night we didn’t send her down until around 2 in the morning because we were both exhausted and she was wouldn’t stop crying. I felt terrible, I actually didn’t sleep, paced around for a half hour then called and asked to have her brought back down to us. The second night I didn’t feel as bad because I was beyond exhausted and so many people reassured me it was okay to do (again, as a new mom, you question everything)! Please know, you are not a bad mom. You are not at all! And if anyone makes you feel that way, they are an idiot!
6. Breastfeeding is NOT easy. Honestly, the class I took, in my opinion, was a joke. They did not at all explain how much work and dedication it takes to breastfeed. They did not go over the issues and problems you could run into or how stressful it can be for you and baby. If you can breastfeed, do it. Do it because it’s so good for your baby. But if you can’t, don’t worry and don’t feel bad. Formula nowadays has all the nutrients your baby will need. I had to stop breastfeeding after three weeks. I wasn’t producing enough, Emma wasn’t gaining weight and we were both crying and miserable. I tried everything: weighing her daily, feeding her every hour, visiting a lactation consultant…it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I felt terrible for weeks. I felt envious of my friends who new babies who could breastfeed. But then, I let it go and I lived my life. I found the best formula for Emma and she is a healthy and happy 8-month-old now!
7. You will be sleep deprived. I never knew how much sleep deprivation could actually affect a person. I felt like I was going crazy! Luckily, I had help. I had my husband, my mom and my sister who were all beyond amazing. They saved me. If you have people willing to help, take it. When your baby sleeps, YOU SLEEP. Trust me, you’ll burn out quickly if you don’t get rest. Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, things get so much better. Emma started at 8 weeks so we were really lucky. But even then, you never really get your sleep back, you just learn to make it work with what you get!
8. Who cares what your house looks like! I am a cleaning freak. I hate clutter, messes, dust and dirty dishes. When she would sleep, I would clean. I would cook and clean and do laundry. Why?! Who cares! When people come over they get it! Again, when your baby sleeps, YOU SLEEP. There is nothing more important than you, because if you aren’t taking care of you, you can’t take care of your baby. Cleaning can wait, carryout can replace cooking and laundry should only on a need-be (most baby stuff) basis. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, yeah right, I can do it. Don’t. I overworked myself trying to be the perfect housewife and mom, got burnt out and it was a disaster!
9. Do something for you. When you bring this new baby into your world, your life revolves around them. You don’t have time for yourself but you need to make time. Do something that you would normally do so you don’t feel like a prisoner to your baby. I did my nails! It’s one of my favorite things to do and it gave me some sense of normalcy. It’s important to still have your independent self, even though you are now (and forever will be!) a mom!
10. Leave the house for a bit. If you can leave (based on feeding schedule) the house, I recommend doing it. I tried leaving a few times but would come back a half hour later having crazy anxiety. I worried if my husband was having any issues with her, was she crying, was she hungry, is she okay? It was bad. Finally, he told me to leave for 4 hours and not to come back a minute before. In that moment, it felt like the hardest four hours of my life. I did it though and I needed to. When you are on maternity leave you get few breaks. I had four hours of freedom (I know that sounds terrible but freedom from my baby) to do whatever, and even though I think I cried the first hour in my car, I actually did some things for me and it felt good. Granted, when I got home you would have thought I was gone for a week!
11. Be a partner. Being new parents is so difficult. You don’t know what you’re doing, you’re questioning everything and you’re fighting. You’re fighting at what one is doing vs. the other and it just becomes a battlefield! That’s when you need to stop and be a partner. You are both in this together and you need to be a team, not working against one another. When my husband would come home I would get upset or critique him with Emma because I felt like he was undoing the things I did or not handling her properly. But who was I to judge? He was just being a dad the same way I was just being a mom! I ended up asking him to do some things a certain way instead of telling him and we both shared tips about things we found to work best. The minute we became a team and not competitors we were able to focus doing the best by Emma, and that’s what was most important.
12. Have a date night. It will be so hard to leave. You will go out and want to come home the minute you pull out of the sub but don’t do it, stay out. You need to reconnect. You need to focus on the two of you. And don’t spend the whole time talking about the baby! Sure, share those special moments but don’t let it consume your evening. Get back to the two of you because your relationship is a crucial part of the new family dynamic. If you are single, have a YOU night. Have someone come watch your baby while you get a manicure or a massage. There is no guilt in leaving for a few hours. It’s refreshing and good for you!
13. Do what you need to survive. You have no clue what you’re doing, I get it! I didn’t. All the books you read tell you not to do this or that and you’re worried about your baby. In the first three months, it’s all about survival mode. If you have to drive your baby around in the car seat for him or her to fall asleep, so be it! You do what works and trust your gut.
14. Ask your mom friends! I have the most amazing mom friends. They are literally the best. I felt like I was group texting them daily (probably was) and no matter how many questions I asked, they all responded. They never judged, never made fun of me and never got annoyed with me. In fact, I still text them now about things! They are moms and they know. Emma had a lot of stomach issues in the beginning and they told me about gripe water and gas drops. Never even heard of this stuff and it worked amazingly for her! Whether you need reassurance, time to vent, cry, ask a question or just laugh, know that’s what your mom friends are there for!
15. Love. Love every second, every minute and every moment. Take pictures! I’m so happy I took so many to look back and see how much she’s grown. There were moments were I couldn’t wait to get to the next phase (definitely out of the crying one!) but now I look back and I miss them. I miss the way she would curl up and fall asleep on me after a feeding or how tiny she was! Of course there is always something to look forward to (her first smile, first laugh, etc.), but don’t let those beginning moments pass you by…cherish and love them!
No one can prepare you for all the things to come as a new mom but the one thing I can prepare you for is this: it’s the greatest, most amazing job in the world! It gives your life so much love, happiness, fulfillment and pure joy. It will change your life forever and it’s the best thing that will ever happen to you…or at least it has been for me!