Over the last year and a half, the number of family members and friends who have been expecting is crazy! Love has definitely been in the air, or in the water, or whatever they say. With that has come lots of opportunities to share my life experiences and trials. That’s why I was so inspired to write this article. The first time I gave birth was a long time ago. 16 years, to be exact, and if you’ve read my other posts then you’re probably trying to do the math. I’ll save you the trouble. I got pregnant at 16. We can talk more about that later though. Since then I have had three more kids. Most recently, seven months ago, and there are still some things I wish I had known beforehand.
If you’re like me, then you probably gave little thought to the after part of your pregnancy. I mean, I gave a lot of thought to baby names, the color of my nursery, and play groups I might want to try. You know, all the “fun” stuff. But I really didn’t give much thought to after birth and the days to follow. And no one told me!
I was actually feeling angry a few days afterward. I thought to myself, how could no one tell me it would be this hard? It was almost culture shock. It was supposed to be happy and perfect like in the movies and TV shows I had seen. False advertisement, people!
It’s no one’s fault, really. I realize now that women who had gone down this road before me hadn’t shared with me probably because they didn’t want to scare me. But all that did was create a false sense of reality. I started to wonder if I wasn’t handling things as well as I should have. Or as well as maybe some of the other Moms in my life. (For my second child I actually wasn’t and was diagnosed with Postpartum depression, but that’s another article for another day.)
So, I decided to share a little here. Of course, there are always exceptions and everyone’s story is different, but from my experiences here are five things I wish I had known (and you will too) beforehand.
1. After birth is an aftermath. And it hurts.
I don’t know why, but for some reason, I thought that after I gave birth, my baby would be born and my body would be mine again. I thought I would take a shower, throw on my old jeans, and be done with it. Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did you know that all those contractions your cervix does to expand so that you can hold that tiny (although it doesn’t feel that way) human in your arms, actually happens for hours to days afterward? Yep, your body has to contract back, and it hurts, and it’s awful!
No one told me this. They also didn’t tell me that you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck physically, emotionally, and mentally for weeks afterward. They failed to mention that the steady stream of people asking how you are is mentally exhausting or how you’ll want to live in sweatpants (guilt-free) and not leave the house unless you have to. Of course, some days are better than others, but it took me months to start to feel like myself again. Maybe if someone had told me, I wouldn’t have felt like the worst mom on the planet! Heck, I could’ve enjoyed my sweatpants days.
I thought to myself, how could no one tell me birth and after pregnancy would be this hard? It was almost culture shock. It was supposed to be happy and perfect like in the movies and TV shows I had seen.
2. There’s going to be some dark days.
Que the movie scene here: Mom has a terrible, painful delivery. She’s screaming with perfect beads of sweat running down her forehead. All of a sudden, she is holding this beautiful, super clean (probably 3-month-old) baby, and everyone is happy and goes on with their lives. That’s not always the case. Yes, you’re happy, and yes, you are filled with unspeakable joy. You have this child, and he or she is amazing. But after the adrenaline is gone and the meals have stopped coming, and your partner goes back to work (and you realize you may never shower freely again), it’s hard! It’s really, really hard.
It’s okay to have some dark days. It’s okay to be scared, nervous, and worried beyond belief! Let me tell you now that you will never experience worry like this until you are a mom. I actually remember staying up all night crying because when Brooklyn was five days old, she was twitching (newborns do this and its normal). Anyway, I was convinced there was something terribly wrong with her and rushed her to the doctor first thing in the morning to be told she was perfectly healthy (and she is) and to go home and take a nap. While this might not be everyone’s normal (I tend to take things to the next level), it’s normal to have all kinds of emotions. Your hormones are still raging and it’s okay. You will be okay! There will be some dark days following your delivery. But you will be okay!
Side note: Postpartum Depression is very real. It’s more than having a few dark days here and there. I had it with my second child and I can’t stress enough that if you’re having feelings of sadness or depression that are strong and they last most of the day for days in a row, or if you’re having trouble sleeping, even when your little one is sleeping, please, talk to your doctor right away!
3. When people offer to help, they mean it.
It took me a couple of kids to realize this, but it’s true! I was always weary of accepting help from others, maybe because I thought they felt they had to offer it to be socially acceptable or something. Whatever, I don’t know why. What I have now realized is that people want to help! So let them!
Life is hard; there are so many situations and occasions that are hard. People get excited about babies. And why shouldn’t they? They want to help because they love you, and they love your baby. Let them in! Open yourself up. These people will be part of your community. They will play a huge role in the people your children will become, and you will be so thankful not to have to cook dinner. I promise.
4. Breastfeeding is hard!
I don’t know why I didn’t know this. To be honest, I guess I didn’t think about it. I assumed I would have a baby and that I would breastfeed and that would be great. It would be my decision.
Not so. I tried so hard with my first two. I’ll spare you the gross details, but there was a lot of bleeding and engorged breasts, and I quit. With my third, he would have nothing to do with it, and so I pumped, and pumped, and pumped. Morning and night. In the house, and on the highway (I’m sure there are a few truckers who can attest to this). It was hard. Like really hard. With my last I got lucky! She came out and latched on and away we went. But I now know that’s rare.
It’s going to be difficult. You might cry and you might cry some more and you might even end up at a very uncomfortable breast feeding clinic with a bunch of topless women and think to yourself how did I get here and how fast can I get the heck out of here? (True story.) Whatever the case, it will get easier! I promise! There will come a point where you will be adjusted and it will feel normal and easy and you will be so glad you stuck it out. Or, you might not want that and you will formula feed and that’s okay too! Just know that women everywhere have gone down these roads before you and whatever path you take to get there, you will get there. And your baby will eat solids and one day they will be five telling you your food is gross and you’re ruining their lives (also true story).
You will be okay! There will be some dark days following your delivery. But you will be okay.
5. Resentment will grow if you’re not careful!
Wow, this one is important! I don’t know how many new moms I have talked to that have allowed resentment towards their spouse to manifest in their hearts. As much as our spouses love us and love our child, there will be times when it feels like you’re carrying the load alone. Notice I said the word feels.
Our bodies have been through turmoil. Our hormones have gone up and down and back and forth, and we’ve just been wrecked. We’re trying to breastfeed and juggle all the newness of becoming a mother, and we can no longer leave the house without packing a suitcase. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re the only one who can wake to feed at 2 am. And 3 am. And 4 am, and you might go an entire day without an adult conversation. We start resenting our spouse for being able to do everyday tasks like drive to work, go to the gym, or even eat their meal without it getting cold! It’s as if (to us) that their normal hasn’t changed much. At least that’s how it feels. I can assure you it’s not the case. I can also assure you that, just like you, their world has been turned upside down.
At some point, these feelings will creep up on you and if you’re not careful they can create a terrible divide between you. I encourage you to talk to your spouse and share how you’re feeling. A lot of the time they just don’t know where to jump in. They are looking for direction. They are trying to figure out where they fit in. We have had the opportunity to bond with our child for months. We’ve felt every move, every hiccup, every kick. They have felt our hearts beating and have heard our voices from morning until night. We can become so consumed with caring for this baby that we can even start to put our spouse to the back burner. They are not mind readers. They are just as nervous and scared as we are, and as much as we think we shouldn’t need to, we need to communicate our needs. You will be surprised at how fast and how well they will step up if you give them the chance!
Congratulations! You made it to the end. Thank you! But really, this is just the beginning. There is so much more to be said. There is so much good that will come with this. You will experience strength you never thought you had. You will find a love that you never knew before. Endurance will be your middle name. But you can’t and shouldn’t want to do it alone.
So, find your tribe.
They are out there. They are your mothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. They will listen to you as you vent and as you cry about the explosive diarrhea your baby had at the doctor’s office when you forgot the diaper bag. Why do babies always take a dump in the doctor’s office? They will talk you off the edge when you haven’t slept for days. They will laugh and bring you wine, and they will literally keep you sane. Every woman needs a tribe. If you have one, great, find a mom out there who doesn’t and invite her along. If you don’t, message me. You do now! Motherhood is an incredible journey, and it’s even more incredible when we share it with others.
You’ve got this, Mama!
For more encouragement for the new mama, listen to this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Feel Your Emotions in a Healthy Way With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 075