You’re expecting a baby? Congratulations!
You’ve stocked up on prenatal vitamins and downloaded three pregnancy apps. You know exactly where your little one is from a gestational development perspective — this week she’s the size of a guava and her little features are growing — and you’re planning the nursery where she’ll sleep when she comes home. You’ve been reading so much and collecting tons of advice from friends and family that you feel you’ve covered all the bases and learned about nearly every scenario.
And then you actually have the baby. You immediately realize that there are some really important things that no one told you about and that you are completely unprepared to handle.
Here are some of biggest things you’ll face that no one tells you about.
1. When you’re pregnant, everyone dotes on you, but the minute the baby is born you’re an old sack of potatoes
It’s not that no one cares about you anymore, but when you were pregnant, people held the door for you and asked how you were feeling and brought you chocolate ice cream and pickles at 3 in the morning. Now, it’s all about the baby. Everyone, including your partner, is obsessed with the baby and all eyes and hands are on her. Meanwhile, you will feel like an injured, emotional mess and it might appear like no one cares. Don’t worry. It’s an adjustment period, and it will level out. People won’t necessarily give you more attention and the baby less, but you’ll feel better about it all with time, and it’s quite possible you’ll end up ogling over the baby more than anyone else.
2. You will cry incessantly at first, & it doesn’t mean you have postpartum depression
There is a lot of talk about postpartum depression, and more recently postpartum anxiety. Article after article asks, “Do you have the symptoms?” But what no one tells you is that even if you’re a perfectly normal new mom with no thoughts of suicide or infanticide or depression, you will still be an emotional roller coaster the first few days or weeks because you just had a baby. Your hormones are all over the place, and you’re now responsible for another life, albeit a tiny beautiful little human who bears your genetic code. You will have little to no sleep. You are going to cry. It doesn’t mean you are depressed and need meds or counseling. It means you’re a new parent, and it’s all perfectly normal. Of course, if those feelings continue to be overwhelming after several weeks or if they are coupled with an intense sadness that won’t lift, do seek help.
3. Breastfeeding is hard & might not work (& that’s OK)
There is so much advice about pregnancy and birth and even caring for a newborn, but so little preparation about how breastfeeding actually works and how to get started. In fact, most people aren’t told that your supply doesn’t automatically start to flow like the Nile River the moment the baby is born, but rather takes anywhere from days to weeks to come in (longer if you have a C-section).
And babies don’t magically latch and suckle all the time. Often, it takes time for Baby to learn how to feed and for mom to learn how to navigate it all. Sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. Either mom’s supply doesn’t come in enough or at all, the baby can’t latch for any number of reasons, including a tongue tie or the baby’s underdeveloped digestive system just doesn’t agree with the breast milk and thrives on formula, contrary to popular wisdom. The advice that breast is best often glosses over just how hard the process can be, and most new moms are ill-equipped starting out. Take what comes with a grain of salt and a bucket of forgiveness and don’t feel pressured to do what others say. Do what works best for you and your baby.
4. You might not fall in love with your baby right away, & it doesn’t mean you don’t care
There’s nothing worse than looking at your newborn and feeling like you are more terrified than in love and that society is judging you for not loving your baby more. You are dealing with a barrage of challenges with a brand-new baby, including hormones, expectations, societal pressure, lack of sleep and an endless stream of varying degrees of helpful (or not) advice from friends and family and the internet. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to look at your new baby like it’s a monster of your own creation and you’re not sure what to do with it. You might even vacillate between feeling head over heels and resentful, and it’s all perfectly acceptable. Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions, and try to give yourself a break from judgment. With time (and sleep!), you will become more confident in your abilities as a parent and be able to enjoy your little miracle more and more.
5. You will struggle to grasp your sense of self, even if you were the most confident person in the world before the baby
You love a cool glass of pinot and the Sunday paper, catching the latest play and keeping up with your favorite TV shows. Your friends would call you sophisticated, cultured, caring. And now it’s a miracle if you remember to look in the mirror before leaving the house to make sure you don’t have visible spit up on your shirt (because whether you can see it or not, it’s definitely there). You don’t have time for your favorite TV shows, and how can you possibly ever read the paper with a baby on your hip 24/7? Who have you become?
Your sense of self is completely gone. You feel like a human milk machine and bouncy chair for a demanding demon baby who just cries and poops and sleeps in short enough stints to leave you completely drained. Don’t worry! What you’re feeling is completely normal, and you will get your sense of self (and your body) back. The more your baby grows (and sleeps), the more you will feel whole again, and you’ll be able to weave some of your favorite activities back into your life. You’ll also learn how to lean into your new identity as a parent and find new things you enjoy doing with your little one without losing your sense of self.