You often get told when you’re about to have a baby that nothing can prepare you for whats to come. This is the understatement of the century. As first time mums we are very naive about what it will be like. We know it will be hard and that everything will change, but we don’t really know how much. I wish I had known more so I could have been better prepared. Ante-natal classes, while good for meeting other pregnant couples and learning the basics, don’t go very far towards preparing you for those first few weeks, or telling you what to really expect. And I think other mums tend to shy away from telling the truth as they don’t want to put you off.
I’m not afraid to say I struggled in the first few weeks (actually, the first year!). I was exhausted, had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t bond with the baby straight away, had a lot of issues breastfeeding, cried all the time, and was mourning the loss of my old life and how my relationship with my husband used to be. It was an emotional time, and I really wondered what I had gotten myself into! But all of this was completely normal. It’s OK to feel these things.
Part of my motivation for starting this website was really to just tell it like it is and be honest about what to expect. While I don’t want to put women off or scare them, I think its important to know what’s coming so we can better prepare ourselves. The danger in not doing so is women feeling like failures, or feeling completely overwhelmed in a time of already great emotional and physical turmoil. At least if we know what to expect we can have some comfort in knowing we are not alone and what is happening is normal, and it will pass. In my experience we often get told the best case scenario, but this is usually the exception and not the norm!
So yes, it’s a difficult, emotional, sleep deprived time. You will feel exhaustion, failure, pain, sadness, terror, and feel completely out of your depth. But to balance this off, you will look at your wee baby, hold him in your arms, and also feel amazement, awe, joy and wonderment at this tiny person, that you made and who grew inside you (wierd and wow!), and who is completely and utterly dependent on you. And at some stage, whether its straight away, or 6 weeks later, you will feel a love like no other. When they smile and giggle at you, it makes it all seem worthwhile.
I came across this article recently which claims that becoming a parent has a very strong negative impact on our happiness levels, even more so than divorce, death and unemployment. This is a pretty bold statement, but it does provide an eye opening and fairly accurate picture of how stressful and emotional becoming a parent can be. This is why I feel that being better mentally prepared before bubs comes along could make things a little easier on our emotional state post baby.
Here are a few of the things I wish I’d known:
- Sleeping through the night is the exception, not the rule. The majority of babies don’t sleep through the night until between 6-12 months, and some after a year old. And even if they do sleep through, one thing you can bank on is it will soon change!
- Breastfeeding is not easy, and takes work, and can take weeks/months to get established and be pain free. We are led to believe that while it may be uncomfortable or painful at first, after a week or two it will all be fine and dandy. Sadly this is often not the case.
- You might not bond with your baby straight away, and that’s ok.
- You will feel extremely emotional after having the baby, and cry every day, and this is OK and normal.
- Babies need help sleeping.
- Newborns need like 16-20 hours sleep a day, and can only stay awake for 45 mins to an hour at a time, and you have to watch out for their tired signs so they don’t get over tired.
- Babies feed constantly, and it will feel like all you are doing is feeding, or putting your baby to sleep.
- Cluster feeding in the evening makes it seem like they are not getting enough milk, but it is COMPLETELY NORMAL, and can last for a few months.
- Babies cry a lot, and for more reasons than we’re lead to believe!
- For the first 6 months it’s pretty difficult to go anywhere or do anything, fitting in around feed and nap times.
- You are so bone tired and emotional it’s pretty hard to be happy or really enjoy it some days.
- Being tired makes everything seem 100% worse.
- It might be hard to believe, but what you’re experiencing will pass. It’s the one constant you can be sure of when having a baby – things will change, and this too will pass.