things i didn’t understand before i had a baby

I purposefully didn’t title this, “things i wish i knew before i had a baby” because I’m not sure that even if I knew them it would have made a difference in what I did when the time came. Part of parenting is just learning as you go along, and no amount of advice is going to help you with that. But, it’s always good to pretend to be prepared, yeah?

So, here are some things I didn’t understand before I had a baby.

The first few weeks were going to be hell.

Amazing. Life-changing. Some of the best moments of my life. Like I had finally seen the reason for it all. But also…HELL. This one I actually wish someone had told me. Like really told me. Like scared the pee out of me so it turned out to be better than my expectations. Of course you get the same old, “Get your sleep now, you’ll never sleep again!” (a completely useless thing to say to a sleepless pregnant woman by the way). But that somehow doesn’t do it justice.

Those first few weeks (or months, depending on your baby), are…tough. Really tough. Everything was new, I was exhausted to a point I didn’t think was possible (see next point), I felt completely unprepared even though I did months of what I thought was preparation, and I felt like the most inadequate mother on the planet, like all the time. That was on top of the crazy going-away party my hormones were throwing, which caused me to cry for no reason at all at any moment. Oh, and then the sheer physical pain I was in after pushing that baby out of me. If you’re planning on giving birth, some variation of this is unavoidable.

Here’s the good news. It DOES get better. Billions of people before you have made it out alive. And they even forgot about it and willingly did it all over again.

You will sleep again. But not in the same way. And not at first.

That first night we brought her home, I remember holding her in the corner of our sectional couch for hours in the middle of the night because she wouldn’t let me put her down. My eyes leaked panic-stricken tears as I registered what I had done by getting myself knocked up with this little screamer (I cried a lot back then). I remember moaning miserably to myself out loud like an insane person, “They said I wouldn’t… hiccup… sleep… hiccup… but I didn’t think they meant… hiccup… LITERALLY.”

In the beginning, there is no night and there is no day. There is only time. It was 8 1/2 months before my daughter finally slept through the night. And she still wakes up once or twice when she’s sick, cold, hot, learning a new skill, didn’t get enough sleep the day before, got too much sleep the day before, or for no effing reason at all. Some considerate babies sleep through within the first couple of months, but I was surprised to learn that that is not the norm.

The (sort of) good news? Your body will adjust to your new sleep needs. It’s one of those things you just learn to live with. It’s a biological imperative.

Breastfeeding isn’t necessarily intuitive.

Ahhh breastfeeding. Nature’s way of nourishing your perfect new baby. Somewhere along the line I developed the impression that within minutes of her arrival, I would put her to the breast and she would suck contentedly until she was satisfied, securing the bond between mother and child. That I would intuitively know how to breastfeed and so would my baby. It is the natural way after all, right? I do know some moms that had good eaters from the word go, but this is very often not the case.  Breastfeeding can be hard, and it’s not always intuitive. It has a lot to do with the shape and size of your nipple, whether your baby is eager or lazy, or maybe a little jaundice and hard to wake up. It could be that sometimes your supply is just lower for a whole slew of reasons, or sometimes it’s so high it makes your baby choke and cry, but you can’t talk about that because it’s like saying you’re too skinny for your pre-pregnancy jeans. Breastfeeding is complicated and can take some time to get used to. That’s totally normal.

The good news?  Once you get the hang of it, it’s so awesome. I can still picture my baby girl falling asleep while feeding in the middle of the night and how I just soaked in the beauty of each of those moments.

You won’t always “just know” what to do when the time comes.

Before I had a baby, somehow I got the message that I would “just know” when it came down to what the right thing would be for my baby. I’m sure that those who told me this had good intentions. Once I got to know my baby, I did develop what I guess you would call a “mother’s intuition.” But until then, this little person was a stranger to me, and getting to know her took some time. Months. Not to mention the fact that she was (and is) always changing.

The good news? If you don’t find yourself an expert on your baby immediately, that does not make you a bad mom. It makes you like everyone else.

But none of it matters.

The shock, the tears, the sleep deprivation, the uncertainty, the worry, etc., etc., etc…

None of it matters.

I love her more than I could ever attempt to describe.

The love I feel for this little human isn’t a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. There is no way to compare the deep love I have for my husband to the love I have for my daughter. It’s unmatchable, because it’s not like anything else.

No amount of preparation could have helped me understand that.


photo credit: Cry baby via photopin (license)

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