Motherhood is the only thing in my life that I've really known for sure is something I wanted to do.
So here they are...
15 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me Before I Gave Birth
Maybe it's because I loved being pregnant so much but I wish I would have kept better track of all the little changes and feelings I went through. Not to mention all the special moments that my husband and I shared in our last 9 months as just husband and wife. I thought I'd remember more but apparently labor and the first few months of sleep deprivation obliterate your pre-baby memories. If it weren't for those great maternity photos we had taken, the stretch marks, and the baby asleep in my lap, I might think my pregnancy was just a dream I vaguely remember.
2. Leave As Many Baby Gifts In The Box As Possible and Keep All Receipts
This is a big one. Being first time parents we really didn't know what we "had to have" for the baby and what we could live without. I read a hundred blog posts aimed at giving the reader the perfect must have list. Each one was different of course, but there were some overlapping items too. Being that I was out of work for the majority of my pregnancy and money was tight I registered for everything I could think of... Including curtains for the nursery. After two showers we had received just over half of the things we had registered for, which was a staggering amount of baby stuff. We were very fortunate to have a large and very generous family. We were like kids at Christmas. No package was left unopened and everything was washed, arranged, and stored well before the first contraction. By the end of the first month we hadn't used even a third of all those "necessities". On the other hand we found out we needed a few things we had never anticipated needing. So here's some free advice. Keep everything in the box, or keep the box and the receipt. See what you use and what you don't, what your baby likes and what they don't and take the rest back. Save a few gift cards or use the money and credit from taking things back to buy those unexpected necessities or better yet, save them for 6 months down the road when you find yourself running out of clothes for your little one who is growing so fast you can practically see it in real time. I'll be posting my essential baby list, in case your interested, and it will be available here.
If you read my last post you know that I neglected possibly the most important subject while doing my pre-baby research. Let me tell you from experience it's better to read all this before hand when you can think clearly and you have time to read more than a paragraph at a time. You can find my recommended reading list here.
4. Build A Solid And Sizable Support Group
This is another thing I regret terribly. Unfortunately I do not have many friends that live close by, even fewer are mothers or have had children recently. I have several friends from college that I kept in touch with on Facebook but I didn't really connect with them until well after my son was born. I cannot stress enough the importance of female friendship and guidance and support, especially in those early months. I was fortunate to find a few lovely ladies while trying to get support for my breastfeeding issues that have given me support in all areas of my life. I have also reconnected with some of my old friends from college. They live out of state so I can't go meet them for a girl's day out, but they are just a phone call away when I need to vent or I need some advice. Your support group should also include a good lactation consultant or five (really), a supportive ob/gyn and pediatrician, and spouse/ parenting partner/ or whatever you kids are calling each other these days.
To some this may sound bad. I mean of course you'll love your baby, right?! You've been dreaming of this day for ages. You've spent the last 9 (really 10) months preparing and fantasizing about your sweet baby. You talk to your protruding stomach everyday and say "I love you little one," and on some level you do. What I didn't realize until after my son was born was that all those times I felt love for my unborn child, I was in love with the idea of him. I was in love with the feel of a new life wriggling inside me. After 33 hours of labor and my last big push, the doctor handed me a very slippery, pink, and dare I say it, kind of homely, baby (my husband disagrees). My immediate feelings were more along the lines of shock and relief than overwhelming joy and love. Don't get me wrong I was happy, happy it was over and happy to meet my new baby, but I was also exhausted and in pain. I didn't have long to contemplate my reaction because unfortunately my son was born with a fluid in his lungs and he was quickly whisked away so they could clear his air passages while I was tended to. After that I felt nothing but concern and pain for several agonizing minutes. Everything turned out okay, my son was given a clean bill of health, we had a wonderful solid hour plus of skin to skin contact and we initiated breastfeeding immediately. It took several days for me to wrap my head around what had just happened and to come to terms with the reality that our baby was actually here. Everyday my son got a little cuter and I fell in love with him in tiny imperceptible increments that are continuing to accumulate to this day. I love my son more than life itself. So it's okay if you don't find love at first sight with your baby, you are not a bad mother, you do not love your child any less than any other mother, you'll come to it in your own time. Not everyone gets the fairytale moments in life so don't fret and don't feel guilty, let your baby woo you.
By the way that look on my face... That's shock, and awe, a little bit of love.
6. Limit Hospital Visitors and Any Visitors For the First Week
This one surprised me. There was a lot of debate throughout my pregnancy on who would be at the hospital and when they would be notified. I was adamant from the start that I only wanted my husband and any necessary medical staff in the delivery room. I was okay with visitors coming after I had recovered a little and looked somewhat presentable. In all honesty I had imagined a steady stream of well wishers bearing gifts and flowers (and yes an edible arrangement). The reality was much different. My parents insisted on being at the hospital while I was in labor. My mother was so worried she wouldn't be the first one to see the baby she left the house before I even knew if I was going to be admitted to labor and delivery. This resulted in my parents spending close to 15 hours in a cold and uncomfortable hospital waiting room. They were the first to see the baby though and in the end I don't think they minded the wait. They left the hospital and returned later with dinner and flowers which were both greatly appreciated. We only had one other set of visitors while in the hospital. One of my husband's aunts and her two daughters came bearing gifts and showering compliments on the new baby and his exhausted mother. It was nice to have a few friendly faces, even if I was to tired to be much of a conversationalist. Then there was no one... At first I was disappointed by the lack of fanfare. This was by far the biggest and best thing that had ever happened to us. We had a few more visitors come in the days after we got home from the hospital and then everything died down. It wasn't until then that I realized our mistake. Those precious few days in the hospital should have been spent trying to catch up on sleep (I certainly hadn't slept much in the 33 hours of labor). Likewise the days following would have gone a little smoother had we relaxed and got acquainted with our baby instead of trying to entertain guests. If you want lots of visitors by all means invite the whole neighborhood, but if you need some time that's okay too. Shut off the phone, lock the door and put your husband on guard duty. That first week is best left for you to get to know your baby and for lots of skin to skin, which is hard to do with company. There will be plenty of time for your families to meet the new addition in the weeks to come.