There are many sites that have Top 10 lists of what nobody told them about delivery, parenthood, babies, etc. I have a list too.
1. Adrenaline rush. I have heard of women being exhausted after delivery, and although I had barely slept for 48 hours, after the baby arrived I napped and was awake for about another full day. Being on painkillers dulled all pain, so I was out and about within hours, using the restroom, greeting visitors, being super excited!
2. Saying “no” to visitors. On the previous note, after we came home, I felt great still, so accepted visitors on a daily basis. In the evenings I was exhausted and within a few days I felt so ridiculously overwhelmed and physically getting sick, that I realized it was time to take a break from people coming over. I wish I blocked a few days for people to not come over at all (see why I didn’t in point 1).
3. Weight. I weighed 2 lbs less when I came home than when I had gone into the hospital. The liquids from the IVs and apparently the birthing process itself made me swell up. No swelling during pregnancy but after, go figure. It took about a week to go away, and then I was just about at my pre-pregnancy weight. My appetite was enormous! I ate so much that I gained a few lbs after a few weeks, so now I’m being more aware of what and how much I’m eating.
4. Accepting help. Being the oldest in my family, I apparently developed a somewhat controlling and high expectations type of personality. I expected myself to easily tidy up the house and prepare quick meals as well as learn how to care for the newborn. All at the same time. I declined most meal plan suggestions (BAD idea), and the people that DID bring something… I am ever so grateful for them! I think if my mom was here, or perhaps a sister who has been through this before, I would probably have her stay for a few days for assistance. I know that if one of my sisters here has a baby, I will have much more perspective: don’t overstay a visit, bring lots of foods, insist on helping!
5. Lowering standards about house cleanliness. Yes, I’ve read lots about taking it easy and not doing too much around the house in the beginning. Well, I’m sorry, but it bugs me to have dirty laundry piled up, sink full of dirty dishes, messy countertops, stuff laying around, etc. It is OK. PERFECTLY OK to take it easy. My husband kept insisting for me to stay in bed or sit and not do anything housework related. People who visited us and have had kids know what this journey is all about. Yet there I was, “quickly” going through the dishes, picking up stuff laying around because “it was on the way to the room”, “being bored”. I repeat, it’s OK, let it be. It isn’t the end of the world. As long as it won’t be like that forever, it doesn’t need to be done immediately. For future note: don’t use dishes, buy one-time use plates, forks, cups.
6. Rest. Because of the post #4, I wasn’t doing too much resting. Which didn’t help me with my recovery. Even though I was on painkillers and didn’t feel too much pain, as soon as I started easing off them, I realized I couldn’t yet. I felt worse later on than I did right after delivery. Recovery takes much longer in this case. For future note to self: Absolutely stay in pajamas for the first week or even two, this will discourage any “work” that needs to be done. Stay off the feet unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY (example: restroom, refill water bottle, get a snack). Husband will help, trust me.
7. Pregnancy is much easier compared to what’s coming. The time is also known as “the 4th trimester”. Baby is an angel, very calm and peaceful, however, an infant. Which means lots of care: the diapers, feedings and changing takes up so much time that whatever time is spent sleeping isn’t much at all. Sleep deprivation is an understatement.
8. Breastfeeding is a sharp learning curve. You don’t master it in a day or even a week. Not even a month in my case. Yep I cried sometimes. By the second month it finally got easier. Pumping helped. Definitely not easy going places (plan where to pump, or feed, change of clothes, cloths, etc.) Better to stay home for 2 months to get all this stuff down, THEN start going places where I’ll be for a few hours.
9. It IS possible to go places with a newborn. We went to 5 Guys Burgers as a first “restaurant outing” at about 2 weeks of baby’s age. After that every week or so we’d go out and eat. Baby is sleeping, pumped milk is in a bottle, so 1-2 hour outings totally worked out and helped my sanity level.
10. Baby blues are real. Managing it: recognizing signs, being self-aware, going outside for at least a 10 minute walk daily, putting on some makeup, reading some encouraging bible verses, communicating about it to spouse. Thank God it didn’t move on to the next level.
11. I’m completely clueless about babies. I read lots about pregnancy and delivery. I cannot say the same about newborn baby. Without a doubt several gray hairs claimed my head in the first month of baby’s life. If baby cries: needs food, diaper change, comfort, or sleep. What if none of the above? It could be gas. Or maybe something hurts? What if she’s hot? Or too cold? What if she ate too much? What if the milk doesn’t taste good because I ate something weird? Why isn’t baby falling asleep? Why is baby spitting up? Is that normal? Is that too much spit up? Why is baby choking? What is reflux? How can I manage it? What if she chokes in her sleep? Are wipes too cold for her bum? Is she going through too many diapers? Why is each diaper poopy? Why is she sleeping so much? What is a feeding schedule? When can baby be “trained” to sleep through the night? Why did she catch a cold? What are home remedies for infants? Why isn’t there medicine for newborns? Can she sleep on her tummy, or in our bed, or only in crib? And so on and so forth. Lots and lots of information is available, much of it contradicts itself, people are full of advice, often contradicting what others say. Future note to self: Do research but do not obsess about it and if it sounds too funky, ignore it. People will offer lots of advice, even more so than during pregnancy. Accept it graciously! Doesn’t mean you’ll use it. To answer some of my questions above: reflux management- smaller feedings more frequently, keep elevated during and after feedings, elevated during sleep. This means feeding schedule is somewhat on demand as apposed to very much structured. Sleeping was a struggle for a while: she slept in crib, she slept very much propped up with blankets in a Boppy, slept in our bed, slept in carseat, slept on stomach, slept unswaddled, slept swaddled. Yes, it’s quite the variety but when baby isn’t falling asleep, you try anything to get them to sleep. Now she’s becoming more regular with sleeping on her stomach in the crib. Establishing a light routine of changing, feeding, reading, and placing her in crib so she can have a good night’s sleep. Last few days (at 11 weeks) she is sleeping for 6 hours, has a quick feeding and sleeps for about another 3, then the day begins.
12. Don’t take on too much. I used to think stay at home moms, especially with one baby, have it super easy. This is the time to catch up on projects, continue being involved in church, etc. NOT TRUE. It takes all day long (24 hours) to care for a newborn. They say sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s easier said than done because by the time you quickly brush your teeth or prepare some food and eat it and go to lay down, baby is up for the next cycle of changing, burping, feedings. Note to self: Now isn’t the time to have people count on you. Your baby needs you more, so focus on that. Take on projects after baby is older. You will drive yourself crazy otherwise.
13. How much I missed my own mother. I didn’t expect that one. It’s been so many years I thought I really got over it. It’s not like I’m unable to do things around the house or cannot get answers or don’t have friends; I do have all of that. It just seems that nobody except one’s mother will truly comfort you when you’re beginning the journey to motherhood. One who will take care of you, care for baby, tell you to take it easy, and provide sympathy in the first month or two after baby arrives. The takeaway from this: when my other sisters will be having babies, it is my job to take my mother’s role and do what she would do.
14. What a mother’s love is. I have entered this chapter in my life that is incredibly amazing and fulfilling. One of the best feelings in the world 🙂