The 8 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Giving Birth
I did read a fair amount of books before giving birth, but I still got to motherhood somewhat unprepared. I was so focused on my pregnancy and giving birth more than anything else.
And then birth happened, so quickly, so out of the blue, so different from what I had expected.
I knew which kind of mother I wanted to be, and everything until that point had always been under some sort of control. What I didn’t know, was that my baby didn’t plan to let me keep that (perceived) control.
We all approach motherhood with enthusiasm and some level of expectations, and I invite you to let go of that control as soon as you can.
The first years of a baby’s life are on their terms, not on yours.
If I had known the following things, I wouldn’t have felt so guilty and ashamed for handling motherhood is such a different way from what I had dreamed of:
The birthing process lasts only 2 days TOP
But the baby remains with you for the rest of your life. It sounds like common sense, but I remember giving so much thought to my birth plan, the hospital suitcase, and to the message I was going to send everyone after my little joy was born. Reality struck me few hours after giving birth when the midwives had left the room, and I was all cleaned up, rocking my baby alone for the very first time; my baby was going to stay with me, day and night, without a break. That thought dawned on me heavily, as I wanted so desperately to sleep and be the perfect mother at the same time.
I had never felt that sense of responsibility and lack of freedom before, and I felt so ashamed for thinking that way.
I realised pretty quickly that I spent too many hours focusing on the birth plan, while it took me only 3 hours to give birth…
The Baby Blues are very real
I read about it, heard about it, but I had no clue. For the first couple of weeks of motherhood, I wondered if I had turned into a psychopath, or if I was simply depressed. I remember crying one moment and laughing with pure joy the next. My husband didn’t know how to behave and support me, and I didn’t have any direction to give him, as I felt like a basket case. I wish I had known how to take care of myself during those moments, how to accept the tears and let them caress my checks and end up on my lips, without being wiped away with shame and guilt. I wish I had known it was completely normal to feel that way, and it would get better in a short period of time.
We all need help, also if we have never reached out before in life
I was so proud of doing motherhood alone; no help from family, siblings, friends; I was a rock, and all the people complaining about it were just weak, or they didn’t know how to parent. How long did it take me to change my mind on this? Possibly the first 2 teary weeks, stuck in my oven-like apartment, half-naked, raw with bursting painful boobs and an ever crying little baby. From the beginning of time mothers have gathered together to support each other during the birthing and postpartum process. We are wired to receive help and be part of a community; only when I let that resistance go, I started enjoying motherhood entirely.
They told me that breastfeeding could be complicated and very unnatural for some mums, but no one really mentioned how painful it could be, and I’m not discussing blocked ducts or mastitis, but the simple act of latching your baby on your raw, untrained nipples…every 2 hours. It was atrocious before it became natural; I simply wished I had all the tools in place to be relieved from the pain, instead of spending time wondering if I was the only freak hating the one thing that should be completely “natural”.
Babies cry-A LOT
I knew that crying was the only way for a baby to communicate, but I really had no idea how much they could cry. My bundle of joy has always been vocal, but during the first 4 months of her life, she would average 8 hours of crying…a day. I remember staring at her while she was peacefully sleeping, thinking that she was the most angelical creature I had ever seen while being utterly terrified at the idea of waking her up. I was not prepared for all that biblical crying, and I struggled immensely with it, as I thought it was all my fault; not enough milk? Not enough cuddles? My diet? The temperature of the room?
She grew up and the tears dried up somewhere in between, but those anxious ridden moments will be imprinted in my brain forever.
Babies don’t sleep BUT need to sleep
Because of the saying “you sleep like a baby”, I somewhat expected my baby to sleep a lot; well, she didn’t. Some nights she still doesn’t. What she did at night was feeding, playing, and crying again. Some nights were merciless, and we ended up calling a sleep consultant, as exhaustion and desperation made me feel like a zombie.
She taught me that babies need to sleep, a lot, during the day; for the very first months of their lives, they need to nap every 45–90 minutes, to avoid overwhelm. A quality napping time leads to better night sleep. I wasn’t aware of that, and until I got told what to do, I felt incapable.
What I eat and how I exercise matter
I somewhat had the idea that I could go back to my exercise routine a few days after giving birth, whereas the reality is that our postpartum body needs rest, healing, and nourishing food more than anything else.
Raw juices, too much caffeine, quick sushi on the go and plenty of sugar weren’t supporting my body’s healing process, and it was hindering the breastfeeding journey.
Only when I prioritised my body’s real needs, my mood improved dramatically, and my body kicked into gear with renewed energy and willingness to give a go to this motherhood thing.
People judge, no matter what you do
You leave your house on time, your baby is looking super cutesy in a new pink outfit, and is sleeping like an angel in a brand new pram; you have washed your hair and changed your t-shirt, you had a decent night sleep and feel on top of the world. You go to the grocery and BAM; someone drops an unwanted comment on your belly, on how hot/cold is for a baby to leave the house at that time of the day, on how you managed to find the time to wash your hair (you must have received help). Comments are never-ending and keep coming at you like icy droplets of water on a cold rainy day. I highly invite you to let them go, as people outside your household have no idea what is going on in your world.
I once stepped outside the house and my little one took the I phone from my hand; that was the first time she did that, and as I took it away, she started crying inconsolably. An elderly man walked past and said: “Isn’t too early to give her an I-phone to calm her down?”; I felt my heart crashing down, and I couldn’t find the strength to reply. That was the last time I took a comment at heart. If you have constructive feedback, please share. If not, thanks for your concern, but step out of my private life.
Most of all, I wish I had known I didn’t have to be a perfect mother, it was enough to be a good enough mother. And I’m now so ok with that.