Nothing that anyone can do or say will prepare you for motherhood. My personal experience is that it is literally magic. This tiny human has grown from next to nothing inside of you for almost a year and suddenly is out in the world to hold, protect, nurture and love… and love and love and love. There is no way of knowing what this love is going to be like until it comes upon you. It is an intimacy unlike anything I had ever experienced before. My best friend wisely said, “It’s like having half of your heart outside of you.”
Nothing that anyone can do or say will prepare you for labor and delivery. The bliss and terror and all of the emotions that go along with motherhood are yours and yours alone.
On the other hand, I have a host of friends who have also recently had children and we all feel like we could have been better prepared for labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum recovery process. I now can see that part of it is probably intentional because it is hard and it is painful and difficult to describe. For me, it was best to continue to keep my “eye on the prize” and remember that everything that I was experiencing was worth it.
Here are the most important things I wish that someone would have told me about having a baby:
- Recovering from birth is not easy.I actually do have some friends who bounced right back after having their babies (and I hate them), but for most women it will take around six weeks to fully heal. I was in a lot of pain and was icing around the clock, which was a big mistake because it took longer to heal. I would suggest rotating ice and heat with breaks in between to just let your thing do it’s thing. Get around and move as much as possible. The sooner you can do this, the faster you will heal. Here are the items I survived with:
- Granny panties
- Dermoplast Spray BLUE (not red antibacterial…that will sting like a bitch)
- Menstruation pads
- Witch hazel wipes (for hemorrhoid)
- Lots of snacks around the house (Trader Joe’s granola bars! Well, Trader Joe’s anything, really… YUM!)
- Nipple pads: dry and soothing gel (my favs are Lanitosh)
- Lanolin (my fav is Medela because it is the least sticky) – use this every time after feeding. Every time. I never got any chafing or cracking because of this. Which brings me to…
- Breastfeeding isn’t the most natural thing in the world at first. It certainly becomes that way. I had mixed feelings about this…I was surprised that it didn’t feel weird to have something feeding off me or even having other people see (nurses and my husband, relax), but I was surprised that it wouldn’t be an automatically natural process for both of us. It took a couple of weeks for Isaiah and I to get the hang of it. Babies have to learn to eat too. Also, it hurts!
- Milk doesn’t come in for most women until 3-5 days after birth, so the baby doesn’t totally get it yet either and they’re hungry! Doctors can freak you out about this, but there are options if your baby’s weight drops too much such as formula and donated breastmilk (if you are scared of formula like I was). My best friend Calla taught me that breastmilk responds to demand and she recommended that I start pumping right away (between feedings) and my milk literally came in within a few hours after that. So, I would suggest everyone get their pump before the baby is born. I could literally write an entire blog post on this, so maybe I will just stop with this, and then do that.
- They will literally take up all of your time…at first. I really had no concept of this. I signed up for a volleyball league and thought I would be back up and playing two weeks after having my baby. Even when you are finally feeling up for such activities physically, you will not want to leave your baby’s side if you are anything like me.
- “Sleep when the baby sleeps”… LIES!!! Maybe this is just for me, but I cannot nap on demand. On top of that, when my sweet little angel was sleeping, I kind of wanted to do things that would make me feel like myself again! Paint my toes, clean the growing pile of clothes in the corner, EAT, DRINK WATER… you know, basic human needs. I found that if I slept from 7 to 10 in the evenings and let my hubby stay on guard, that was enough for me to be caught up on the sleep I needed.
- Don’t be a hero. Get the epidural if you want to and let anyone who judges you…well, go on judging you, I guess, because who cares?! You are about to have a human coming out of you! Ask for help when you need it. Let your baby daddy or family member clean your toilet if you haven’t had the time or energy to get to it for weeks on end!
- Not all of the baby weight comes off at birth. Again, there are those friends that we hate that this is true for, but I was not that bitch. A women’s body begins to store excess fat in preparation for the energy required during labor. I gained 50 pounds and only lost 10 at birth (to be fair, I was under my normal weight after my wedding). Between breastfeeding and moderate exercise, I lost 35 pounds in about 3 months and am still working on getting my strength back. It’s also normal to still have a protruding belly for several weeks after having given birth.
- You don’t get to wear all of your cute clothes again right away after birth. Don’t put away your maternity clothes yet! Part of it is because of stupid #7, but most of it is because of the practicality of it. I was still wearing my stretchy maternity pants for quite some time postpartum. In fact, I’m not sure I even want to put a few of them away yet! There is also the accessibility factor if you are breastfeeding. I have several breastfeeding tank tops and bras (all from Target) that I wear daily and generally aim for button-down and front-zippered tops to go with them.
I could really go on and on and may add more things as they come to me. Please share your experience and words of wisdom with me as well!