It's the first time you're doing this, isn't it? It's exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Up until this point being pregnant and becoming a mother have all been but a dream; a dream you had as a little girl as you played house with your friends. Here and now; the time has come. You are pregnant. You may be days away from the life changing event, you may be at the beginning of your pregnancy; one thing is certain and that's that your life will radically change. It'll change in a way you cannot even fathom. Don't worry though, I'm going to let you in on a few little secrets.
1. All those projects and all that time you think you're going to have while you're on maternity leave... yeah, they're not going to happen. You'll be lucky enough to shower daily amidst the feedings and sleep deprivation.
2. Labor hurts when it's over. Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, you need to let your body heal, so don't be shocked if getting in and out of bed or up from a chair is a major feat of accomplishment.
3. If you deliver in the hospital, I highly recommend sending the baby to the nursery for at least one night. This will be your last night without a baby solely in your care, so besides the wake up calls to come and feed baby, you're pretty much allowed to relax.
4. It's okay if you're sad or scared about leaving the hospital. The maternity nurses are great, and it's so nice to have someone take care of you and help you with baby. When I left the hospital with my first, I remember my husband and I feeling like they were crazy for letting us leave!
5. Pooping for the first time after you've delivered will be quite terrifying. You might not know this yet, but the same pushing you do for pooping is basically what you do when you deliver. After you've delivered and especially if you had any tearing, it'll feel like everything is going to rip out. It won't though. (And FYI, pooping will never be the same for you again. Let's just say that for whatever the reason I now understand why they sell wet wipes for adults. No, I'm not the only one; I have girlfriends who have experienced the same thing.)
6. Oh yeah, the tearing... if you had any tearing, the mental hurdle that'll come six weeks after the baby is born is letting yourself relax enough to have sex again and enjoy it. Deep breaths, Mama, it's going to be okay and it is something you should do.
7. Nothing goes "as planned." It doesn't and it never will. That detailed birth plan you're currently putting together is a good idea, but you must not place all of your expectations on the plan. I'm sure that if an emergency c-section was needed for the health and safety of you and the baby, you would do it without hesitating. Just be prepared to not be prepared. Both of my children were jaundiced and my daughter (baby #2) had to spend the first five days of her life in the special care nursery. These things were not situations that I had ever thought would happen to my children. I actually saw my daughter aspirate on the examination table before she was admitted to the special care nursery. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
8. Breastfeeding may not be as easy as the class made it look. This was probably the most difficult thing for me to learn with my first child. I took the breastfeeding class, I paid attention and was actually excited to experience this part of motherhood. Well, my son was born and it did not go as I had planned. He just couldn't do it and that made me feel like a failure. After one or two days at home, a home healthcare nurse coming to visit and one bilibed later to get rid of jaundice, I made the appointment to see a lactation consultant. It was the best decision I ever made. She was an angel; so kind and gentle with me. I learned that my son was a disorganized eater; he had difficulty coordinating sucking, swallowing and breathing. With the help of a nipple shield for the first 12 weeks and a few calls to that amazing lactation consultant, we made it to one year of breastfeeding.
9. FYI: Some babies don't sleep! Sleep is actually a very developmental thing and the first six week of a child's life can either go smoothly with no bumps in the road at all... or it can be like the rest of us with quite a few bumps in the road. I highly, highly recommend Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Get the book before you have the baby and read up on sleep development and what to expect in the first four months.
10. If the "baby blues" last longer than two weeks, talk with your doctor. The fluctuation of hormones after delivery are crazy, but they should be evened out after the first two weeks. If you are feeling not connected to your baby at all, please speak with your doctor or another trusted medical person.
11. It's okay if you get frustrated with your baby in the middle of the night when he or she won't go back to sleep. This doesn't mean that you don't love your baby or that you are a terrible mother. One thing needs to be clear: Don't act on that frustration and if need be, wake your partner up to take over. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture in some prisoner of war scenarios.
12. Get out of the house as often as you can with that newborn! You'll be amazed by how portable newborns are. They can pretty much sleep anywhere and at any time. Go out on a date. Go and see a movie. I promise once the baby gets to three months, you'll begin to be tied to a nap schedule.
13. Life will seem overwhelming but honestly, you will look back on this time when you have other children and realize how special it really was. It's so hard as a first time mom to keep things in perspective; you feel like a novice and there really isn't a clear cut instruction manual that comes with your baby. You will never have a time where you can focus on only one baby without being distracted. You won't have another time when you will feel like you aren't constantly trying to juggle everyone. You will miss the afternoons spent holding your child as he sleeps on your lap. You will miss the simplicity that only one child brings into your life. Of course you won't realize this at the time which is why I'm telling you: Cherish this time and understand that it is as easy as it's going to get.
14. Get connected to other moms who are in the same stage of life as you. I can't tell you how many times I'd call my mom in a panic and she would explain to me that it had been 28 years since she had a baby and she just couldn't remember. Whether it's a moms group that you can find online or a group that meets in a church, it is imperative that you meet women who are in the same place as you.
15. Even with all of these annoying body changes, emotional stresses, and unplanned situations you will never regret the decision you made to have this child. You may even want to do it again! I mean look at me...I'm on my third pregnancy which means I'm going to go through this infant stage for the third time. How crazy is that?!
Chin up and remember to laugh as often as you can, let yourself cry when you really need it and don't be afraid to ask for help. No one expects you to be perfect, none of us are, and the sooner you realize that perfection isn't what makes someone a good mother, the sooner you'll be able to experience your full potential. You can do this and you will do it. You are the best mother your child will ever have and no trying situation or unplanned event can take that away from you. Ever.
Bert, a now veteran mom, who vividly remembers being a first time mom.
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