Congratulations on your pregnancy! By now, you’ve probably read everything there is to read about babies and what to expect. You’ve made lists, packed your hospital bag, signed up for Lamaze classes, joined message boards, possibly toured the hospital, and even picked out the nursery colors.
Then the baby comes. Any mother will tell you that what they expected isn’t what happened. No matter how much you prepare (which of course you should do!), you’ll still never be completely ready for the birth of a baby. Even after the baby comes, your body still goes through big changes and adjustments. Your hormones will be all over the place, and staying up all night with a new baby will tire you to the extreme. No doubt, it will all be worth it, but as you’re going through these things you might find yourself asking: “Why didn’t anybody tell me?”
Well before it comes to that, here are a few things that you should know.
1- Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally
Many women have an image in their head that as soon as their baby is born, breastfeeding will be easy, not expecting any hiccups. That’s true for some women, but the reality is it often takes time, and there is a lot of trial and error involved. That’s normal, especially if you’ve never breastfed before. It’s a skill that takes some time to perfect.
For example, it takes a little while to get used to the “holds” and find the one that works best for you and your newborn (who may well be crying at the same time!). Regardless of whether you are doing it right or not, it may hurt at the beginning. The best thing to do is find the positions that are comfortable and work for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding usually becomes more comfortable for both mother and baby with time, but it can take up to 2 weeks to get to that point. Doctors, midwives, and nurses are usually a great source of help and will do all they can to make you comfortable. If breastfeeding takes a little time, don’t give up! If it takes time, it doesn’t mean you’ve somehow have failed as a parent. Nothing could be further from the truth!
If breastfeeding is not for you or if it just doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. In the end, you’re doing whatever is best for both you and your baby, and that’s all that matters.
2- You will probably cry. A lot.
You might cry during the birth of your baby and even afterward because of the emotion of the occasion. That’s to be expected. You may stop for a while, but around the fourth or fifth day, you’ll start crying again. You’ll cry because you’re tired or because you forgot the formula in another room. You’ll cry because you don’t know how to set up the baby monitor or just because you’ll suddenly feel like you can’t do anything right. You’ll cry for reasons that might not make sense. This is because your hormones haven’t settled down to their normal pre-pregnancy levels.
Crying is part of a phenomenon called the baby blues. This is when new mothers feel very emotional, tearful, and even moody. This is 100% normal and the blues usually come and go within 1-2 weeks.
If after 2 weeks you still feel down and overwhelmed, consult with your doctor. There is help available, and you aren’t alone.
3- Babies don’t always sleep
This is not the result of something you did or didn’t do. Just expect that your baby won’t sleep for long periods of time. This is especially true during the first few weeks of life. Eventually, this will change but getting a full eight hours won’t happen often. Other parents may tell you that their babies are sleeping; either they’re lucky or they’re being charitable with the definition of ‘sleep’. Don’t worry.
As your child grows, he/she will fall into a good routine and start sleeping for longer periods of time. For now, be prepared for the 1-2 hour naps, waking up often, and the tiredness that goes with it.
4. Get all the support you can get
No one tells you just how much work a baby is, especially the first few weeks. You will need help, and the best time to ask for it is before the baby comes. Just a few weeks before the birth, it is worth asking your family and close friends if they can pop by once the baby arrives. You may want help with a few tasks—be it babysitting for an hour, bringing over some prepared meals, or helping you with a load of laundry. It will give you a much-deserved break and a chance to take care of any personal errands. If you can get help, don’t refuse. You’ll need it.
Don’t worry if the house is a bit messy, or meals are quickly thrown together. Learn to make peace with the fact that things will not be perfect right away. After some time, your schedule will sort itself out, but for the moment, go with the flow.
TIP: When you’re feeling up to it, consider joining new mom groups, mother-baby classes, or whatever you can find in your local area. Networking with other new mothers can be a positive part of having a baby. It’s a good way to receive and share friendly advice with other moms and swap baby stories.
5. The first 3 months are the hardest
It’s called the fourth trimester for a reason. Both you and your newborn will be adjusting to new life after birth. The first 3 months is when you’ll find your footing. Your body will be recovering, you’re still quite weak, tiredness is the new normal, and you’re getting used to a new schedule as the mom of a newborn. It’s a tough 3 months, but it’s important to get rest, eat well, and ask for help when you need it. Just as important, don’t forget to take care of yourself and take some to rejuvenate.
Nothing can prepare you for your experience as a first-time parent. It’s an incredible journey filled with lots of highs and a few lows. Through it all, the important thing to remember is to take each day as it comes. The first few months will be challenging, but you and your baby will get into a good routine. The sleepless nights will soon be a distant memory.