In lieu of Athena’s 6 month birthday, I thought I’d share 10 things I wish someone would have told me when I was pregnant. There are many, MANY, more things I wish I’d been told but the clock reads 2:50am as I type this and I just can’t remember it all right now.
1. When it comes to the actual birth, expect the unexpected.
I heard it all and I still wasn’t prepared. I must have listened to 50+ labor and delivery stories on The Birth Hour alone. I heard it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There were experiences with 20-hour labors, emergency c-sections, giving birth with 2-broken legs, etc. But none of these stories prepared me for the birth of my baby. I planned for a home birth and everything did start at home but after 30-some hours of labor, we ended up in the hospital—per my midwife’s recommendation. I didn’t plan for a hospital birth so I wasn’t prepared for that AT ALL. I didn’t even pack a bag incase this scenario played out, so we were kind of scrambling last minute to get things together.
2. Don’t buy all the things
Ok well, someone did tell me this. Six months into my pregnancy, Marc and I took a newborn care class. The class opened with a discussion about essential items needed to take care of newborn baby. The teacher, who would later become my doula, said you don’t need a single thing. Sure, there are a variety of items that can make welcoming your little bundle a bit easier but you already have everything you already need.
My advice, wait until you need it and then order it on Amazon Prime. This works really well because you won’t have to go to the store (also, you won’t be able to/want to). Also, waiting until you need it allows you to determine if you really need the item in question. If you buy everything you think you’ll need right away, you’ll end up shoving it all in a linen closet or giving most of it away, like I did. Buy the absolute essentials, like diapers and a crib. The rest, can wait.
3. Let your partner help
I’m kind of a control freak and I like to keep my house clean and organized. This is not a good combination when you’ve just given birth. I was cleaning my house right up until the day I gave birth. In fact, I was cleaning during labor. After my daughter was born it was tough to physically move around. So the dishes started to pile up and dust bunnies moved in. If you want to keep your sanity, it’s important to remember to let your partner help. I used to be very much of the it’s-easier-and-faster-if-I-just-do-it mentality. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t do it all after giving birth so Marc started helping more around the house. Your partner may not do things the way you like them to be done but they’ll get done and that’s what matters. So what if they don’t match the tupperware lids to the bottoms before putting them away, even if it’s all shoved into the cabinet, at least it will be put away and not lingering in the dishwasher for a week. While they do that, you can have a rest, which you’ll definitely want/need.
Also, let them help with the baby, everyone benefits from this. Again, they may not change diapers, swaddle them, or coordinate their outfits like you do but it’s all going to be fine. Dad needs to bond with baby too and these are the perfect opportunities. I’ll never forget one of the times I asked Marc to dress Athena while I finished getting ready. I was putting on my shoes and I look up to see Marc walking down the stairs holding Athena in a Batman onesie with matching hat and bib. He was so proud. Lol.
4. If you’re planning to give breastmilk exclusively, buy extra equipment.
Breastfeeding is a beast of a task. Women that are able to breastfeed (even a little bit) should be given a medal. It’s so freaking tough. Pumping is a whole other game. These two challenges combined, well, prepare to want to rip your hair out. You will want to pump though; and when you do, it’s a bit easier if you have extra bottles and breast shields. Most pumps come with 4 bottles and 2 breast shields; you’re going to need more.
I spent the first 3 months after my daughter’s birth endlessly washing and sanitizing pumping equipment. You’ll need 2 breast shields and 2 bottles per pumping session, you’ll probably want to pump about 6 times a day so buy at least 3 more sets of shields and bottles. This way, you’ll only wash everything once or twice per day. Trust me, having to wash and sanitize everything after every single pumping session is unnecessary torture. Now, at the end of the day, I just throw all the pumping equipment into the right side of the sink with really hot water and lots of soap. I let it soak for 15-20 min before quickly scrubbing everything. Washing 6 sets of breast shields, bottles, lids, valves, and membranes, takes about 15 minutes.
5. You’re going to be you but you’re not going to be you
Your life has just changed in in the blink of an eye. You’re now responsible for this tiny human that you have to feed, clothe, and raise into a model citizen—shit. By nature, you now come second and this can be a bit disconcerting. You’ve spent your entire life, until now, taking care of mostly just yourself but now you have to do everything you’ve done for yourself for another human first. Then, if you have time leftover, you can bathe, get dressed, and have a meal.
Every little thing will be different. You won’t be able to shower or do your makeup like you used to, because you won’t have the time. None of your clothes will fit for a good while and once they do you can’t just wear that cute top that you love so much. No, forget fashionable, you’re now all about functional. You’ll need to wear something that’s conducive to breastfeeding (if you plan on breastfeeding). And I sincerely wish you the best of luck with breastfeeding. I thought this would be one of the easy parts. Nope. I didn’t know what my body was doing, at times it really felt like my body was betraying me.
You’re basically going to turn into another person, the person your baby needs you to be; and you may have to go through all of this while dealing with postpartum depression. You may not feel like yourself (six months in, I still don’t), for days, weeks, months, or even years. But as awful as this all sounds, it’s so rewarding. You’ll have some epically blissful moments that won’t compare to anything else you’ve ever experienced in life and it’ll all be worth it.
6. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on a new stage of baby’s behavior, everything will change again.
You’ll want to pull out all your hair and you may start to lose hope— but this is all perfectly normal. It’s a steep learning curve but you can do it. It may seem like you can’t keep up but you can.
7. Don’t buy all the cute onesies.
Unless you really want to. Ok, I’m split on this one, here’s why. I was repeatedly told by friends, family, and strangers alike, not to buy a lot of baby clothes because they grow so quickly that they won’t even get to wear it all. I got the same advice from all these people because they too, purchased way to many cute outfits that their baby never got wear. And you’ll do it too, as you should. Athena has some outfits she outgrew before wearing but I don’t regret buying them. Shopping for baby clothes while I was pregnant was one of the most enjoyable moments of my pregnancy. So my advice is, if it makes you happy, buy all the onesies!
8. Be in the pictures!
You may not feel or look your best after giving birth (or for several months after) but don’t let that discourage you from getting in the picture with your baby. I have only a handful of pictures with Athena from birth until 4 months. Partly because I typically looked like something the cat dragged in and I didn’t want photographic proof of that; and partly because I was always the one taking the picture. It was only recently that I made a conscious effort to be in the photos because even if I look like crap, I know in the future I’ll regret not having pictures with her. I also came to the conclusion that being photographed with frizzy hair, no makeup, and spit-up-laden sweat pants will help us better recall these grueling but oh-so-rewarding first few months of parenting.
9. Your mother, aunts, and other older females will try to roast your baby.
Keep an eye on them. The older female relatives, that is. The first time my mother visited, after Athena was born, she spent a good part of each day telling me to bundle up my baby because she must be cold. I heard this a lot from my aunts and Athena’s paternal grandmother as well. My mother even took it upon herself to cover Athena up whenever she had the chance. You may have been told that babies have trouble regulating their temperature and while that’s true, it’s doesn’t mean that they are cold. In fact, in most cases, babies run hot. Because of this and per the suggestion of our midwife, we keep the house pretty cool, especially at night. Our midwife told us it’s better for baby to be a bit cold then to run the risk of overheating them. My room is oftentimes freezing while Athena is still perfectly warm when I pull her out of the crib every morning.
9. Going out will never be the same
Rather, running errands (because this is the only going out you’ll be able to do), will never be the same. What used to be a quick, 10 minute pop into the grocery store is now a 2 hour mission. The amount of gear your have to take along is unreal. But should you choose to leave it behind one day, that will be the day your baby has a poop explosion, then spits-up exorcist-style as you try to wrangle her diaper. And yes, I speak from personal experience.
10. Remember to take care of yourself
As soon as you give birth everything revolves around your baby. By nature, you will obsess over her so much that you may forget to do even basic things for yourself, such as brush your teeth or shower. But it’s important to set aside time to do something nice for yourself. These little breaks will help you keep your sanity, be a better mother, and an overall better person.