I had the strange luck of being adopted, so my mother never gave birth… and of finding a husband that was also adopted, so my mother-in-law hadn’t given birth either. I had no idea what to expect, or what to trust. I watched YouTube videos that freaked me out. I made a Birth Plan that was thrown out 45 minutes into active labor. I looked down at my huge belly 36 weeks into my pregnancy, and seriously wondered how this baby was going to get out of my body. When my sister became pregnant, I told her all the things I wish I knew. I felt like it was my duty as her big sister to tell her the truth about the journey ahead and not romanticize it. It went a little something like this:
My gift to you all is to tell all of the things nobody told me about having my first kid.
It’s scary. I remember waiting for every kick. You go from day to day, trimester to trimester. Then you look down at your huge belly and wonder how the heck is this going to work? OMG, have you seen this belly? Then another week goes by, and it gets even bigger!
Going into labor
It’s different for everyone. Yours will be unique to you. Get your butt to the hospital when you think your in labor, because again, holy moly, contractions really hurt! Like, really bad. And they do not subside, at all, until the contraction is over. Yay, to the miracle of the female body…
Having the baby
Drugs might be bad for the baby, but dang, they sure do work. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s ok. Don’t freak out, give it to God/Creator/Spirit. I trusted my doctors when they told me my son needed to come out by cesarean. It was scary, but I needed to do what was best, so I did it as calmly as possible. I might have cursed out a few nurses while medicated, but you know, it happens sometimes.
Your new baby
Having a brand new baby is amazing. And it’s awkward. Your breast is probably as big as their whole head. You have to twist and twerk to find the right nursing position. Babies are tiny and fragile. They’re going to have to figure out how to latch. And still breath… It’s going to take a few weeks for the both of you to really get into your grove with nursing. Let the nurses help as much as possible while you’re in the hospital. This is the last break you will have for about 2 years. I almost forgot, your arms that you thought were so strong are going to ache. So will your neck and back. Holding a new baby uses muscles you didn’t even know you had.
Hey, guess what! You boobs are going to hurt. Your nipples are going to be sore. Pumping us just ridiculous. But eventually, you get used to it all. Oh, and you can basically throw away any shirt you still own that doesn’t have buttons or a V-neck. The only thing that will get you past the awkward and painful first few weeks is knowing it’s the best nutrition you can give your baby.
Seriously, sleep when the baby sleeps. Don’t try to get a bunch of stuff done. Sleep. You will need it when the baby wakes up 4 times in the middle of the night to breastfeed. Oh, and do yourself a favor… just co-sleep. You have this one time to snuggle and nourish this tiny little blessing. Make your baby feel warm and safe sleeping in your arms.
You will never be so consumed with poop as you will now. What color is it? How often is it happening. Does it smell funny? Cloth or disposable? Get used to it, potty training doesn’t happen on your time, it happens in theirs.
You may have picked it out, you may be paying the rent… but this new baby runs the show. You will have to baby proof everything. Cabinets, toilets (yes, toilets- you’ll see), anything breakable, anything you love that you don’t want broken, anything with sharp corners and right angles. Pens and pencils get moved high up. Knives, of course. I have no idea how my kids reach the things they shouldn’t reach or open the things they shouldn’t open, but they do… just pray they aren’t a climber.
Hobbies, quiet time, long showers
Say your good-bye now. Cozy up to the idea. Those days are gone. Seriously, they are over. At least for a little while.
Life will never be the same. This sounds crazy, but it’s true… and it’s also great! You have a baby! You aren’t just married anymore, you are a family. You are a mother. And when you look at your husband, you will see a father instead of another man. You are now a sacred unit. All decisions are now made if not for the 3 of you, for the good of your new baby. All those things that may have seemed of importance just fall away. Your orientation in life changes because you have changed. Sacrifice is an easy decision when it’s for your little one. Your routines will all be replaced by the needs of your baby. It’s ok to change whatever you need to, your clothes, your coffee table, your house, your neighborhood, your friends, your job… whatever you need to do. Give yourself permission now.
Whatever you do, do not compare yourself to other mothers. They are different people with different lives. For some people, motherhood is an easy transition. And some people are just full of crap. Raising kids isn’t easy. You have good days and bad days… sometimes good hours and bad hours. Finding a support system of mothers is a really good idea though. They understand being a mom in a way that your husband just can’t. Find your circle.
The best way to freak yourself out is to compare your child’s milestones to other kids. Every person develops differently and at different times. My son didn’t start to speak in clear, full sentences until he was 4. Now he won’t shut up. My daughter is began to talk at 2. Same parents, totally different children. And keep in mind, comparing kids is more about parental ego than anything else.
Feeding your baby
My dad used to say, “everyone’s a professor.” So don’t listen to anyone else! Follow your gut (get it)! This is what I did with my kids: No solid food until at least 6 months. I let them try things off my plate that was well cooked. I decided not to feed them rice cereal, and opted for fruit in the morning instead. They still prefer fruit to cereal for breakfast. Which leads me to eggs. I waited to 12 months to introduce eggs. My son has no food allergies. My daughter is allergic to milk and I found out she’s allergic to cashews when I tried giving her cashew milk as an alternative to milk. So much fun! Closest milk to breast milk = coconut milk. Only milk with every amino acid the body needs = hemp milk. We did baby-led weaning when it was time for solids.
It might take a back seat for the first year, and that’s ok. It’ll be there when the baby doesn’t need you so much. Be patient, and find a good babysitter.
Your baby and you
Yes, your kid is really the cutest kid in the room. You’re going to love being a mom. You are going to hate hearing the name “Mom” after it’s said 5 times in a row. It’s dirty, stinky, scary, time consuming, exhausting… its fun, amazing, magical, beautiful… you will love like never before. It’s going to be great!