From a young age, many of us know whether or not we want to have children. We sometimes have ideas about what their names will be, how many children we want and even a well thought-out birth plan already scheduled in our heads. Many parents begin planning for a family long before the day of delivery arrives and do everything they can to be fully prepared. The hard truth is that no one is fully prepared for that baby.
Once they hand you that warm, bundled-up little boy or girl, your mind is already washing away many of the expectations and beliefs you had leading up to that moment. All those things you thought you knew or pushed to the side really become the truths you wish you’d kept in the front of your mind. Those end up being the points you wish you had focused on, not the unrealistic ones you more-than-likely held onto.
“Breastfeeding is the best way to feed and bond with your baby.” “You’re really going to swaddle your baby?” “I wouldn’t use binkies if I were you.”
Before you become pregnant, you know people who have dealt with these kinds of comments first-hand. You probably also told yourself that once you became a mom, you would not let these kinds of comments get to you and that you wouldn’t become one of those kinds of people. Now that you’re a mom, you probably have unintentionally made and heard a comment like one of the comments above (more-than-likely behind someone’s back).
It is human nature to have opinions – especially when it comes to something as important as bringing up a child. However, many new moms are surprised by how blunt and forward people can get when it comes to parenthood beliefs. They expect these kinds of situations to happen, but don’t realize how hurtful and frustrating they can be once officially stepping foot into the parenting world. It’s important to watch your actions and watch what you say to other parents – be kind and supportive, not petty and distant.
Many people expect c-sections to be the “easy way out” when it comes to having a baby. No labor, no contractions, no pushing. Just a simple procedure where the baby is pulled from your belly and voila – he or she is placed into your arms on the other side of a tarp.
The hard truth that people need to take more seriously is this: There is nothing easy about major abdominal surgery.
Whether it is a c-section or a “natural” delivery – there is no easy way to have a baby. People immediately dread the idea of having to push or feel the pain of contractions. Even after hearing horror stories from other moms, first-time-moms still often expect c-sections to be the easiest solution when it comes to delivery when, really, there isn’t one. It’s important to seriously realize that both methods are often painful and uncomfortable in their own ways, but both result in something beautiful and absolutely worth it.
Moms often expect an immediate connection with their child. They expect some overwhelming, out-of-body experience to occur when they set their eyes on their little one for the first time. They want tears to fall and their cheeks to go numb from smiling. They want their baby to look up at them and for that eye-contact to be the most beautiful connection they have ever felt.
Even though this kind of bond does happen for some people, it does not happen for everyone – and that is okay.
William Sears, M.D., told Parenting that “bonding is not an instant glue. Just because you didn’t hold your babies for an hour after they were born doesn’t mean it’s all over. It’s never too late to start bonding.” This is especially true during the chaos that delivery throws at a mom. During labor or a c-section, a woman’s focus is on her baby, but her mind is also mentally and emotionally all over the place. When they hand you your baby, you may not know exactly how to react – and that makes absolute sense. Connections take time to build and making that connection with your child will happen – even if it takes some time.
You’re told that once you have a baby, your bedtime becomes their bedtime. Parents often hope that once their little one goes down for that two-to-three-hour span, they can spend time with their significant other – catching up on TV shows, watching movies, or finally finding time to just talk.
Those ideas all seem nice, but the reality is this: You’re tired. More times than not, all those people who told you to sleep when the baby does at night were right. It can be hard listening to other parents, especially right when you become one because you want to show control over your own life as a new mom. The thing is, sleep is critical to healthy functioning. If you are not healthy, you are not in control and your baby will suffer because of it.
Sleep. No matter how early - just sleep.
There are so many great classes out there to help prepare couples and women for pregnancy, childbirth, and those initial weeks after. If you go through classes with a significant other, it can be a great way to support one another during an exciting and overwhelming time. You will also learn a lot about each other during the process.
However, when those contractions kick in or they hand you your baby for the first time – you often forget absolutely everything you learned.
Even those who go to college specifically for early education or psychology think they will remember every milestone because they read about it in textbooks or were tested on the content. Even if you ace those exams, you will never ace being a parent – it’s a sad, harsh reality. Parenthood is the hardest test there is and no class or book can really prepare you fully because no one child is exactly the same.
As a new mom, your focus is always on your baby. You are constantly focusing on your baby’s feeding schedule, pooping schedule, sleeping schedule and playing schedule (even though newborns don’t really play all that much). You’re also focusing on entertaining those around you who have probably overwhelmed your household with love towards your little one.
The thing is – you probably have not focused one bit on yourself.
People often tell new parents they will forget to eat and shower and do those necessary, daily activities that can easily be forgotten when a new baby is in the picture. Those people are often right. New moms will look down at their feet and see a sad, confused little dog who thinks he or she is being replaced. New moms will take a quick moment to look at their phone to see a zillion unanswered text messages – messages that, before baby, would have been answered instantly.
It’s important to step back, during those rare, quiet moments, and think: What can be done for YOUR personal well-being? Especially when there are visitors around the home, take advantage of their support and take a shower or a long bath. Leave the house for a few minutes to walk the dog. Lay on the bed (yes, it’s okay to do this) and take a quick nap.
Even though the thought of naps can be laughable, naps are running through the minds of new moms just as often as newborns close their eyes. If you are someone who was a napper before the baby made their grand arrival, you have probably already convinced yourself that napping will not happen – ever again.
That doesn’t always have to be the case.
Some babies, especially newborns, sleep pretty well. Unfortunately, babies do get reputations for constantly waking up their parents at night, being colicky and needing constant soothing. Though this can be the case, it isn’t the case for many babies. Also, you will discover quickly that if you have a few minutes to shut your eyes, you will be able to fall asleep for those ten to fifteen minutes – even if you were never a ‘quick napper’ before. Babies change a lot about a new mama and those magical napping abilities are one of those changes.
New moms want to be as independent as possible when officially stepping foot into their parenting journey. They want to have every answer at the tip of their tongue and prepare their life as much as they can for the transition. Even though support is often offered from friends and family, new moms will take the support, but often still take initiative. And even though friends and family will constantly tell you to take the support that is offered – you probably will smile and do your best not to.
Stop being so stubborn and take the help. Just call your mom.
If you grew up close to your own mom, you will probably find the newly titled grandma to be by your side for much of your parenting adventure. You will also probably find yourself pushing aside support from others, but still nonchalantly taking the support and advice from your mom. When you’re in tears, you probably will call your mom before you talk to your significant other. When your baby hits a major milestone, you also may find your mom being the one you are texting. Even when your baby is sick, you will probably call your mom before calling the pediatrician. The new grandma not only probably loves having their little baby reaching out to them, but also probably loves knowing you are willing to take their advice and help.
Parents often expect their new baby to bring lots of spit-up, laundry, dishes and dirty diapers into the mix when they make their debut. Fellow moms may mention how poop is often a major topic of discussion, but as a first-time mom, you may laugh off that gross tidbit of information and move onto something else.
Well, you should have taken those other parents seriously because discussions involving number-two really becomes a main focus throughout the day. You will wait for it to arrive, discuss the color and consistency with your significant other, and probably call the doctor if the baby hasn’t gone in over 24 hours (even though newborns can go up to seven days without pooping – which is a shocker for new parents).
Since this becomes such a daily conversation, there are websites that can help provide new parents with some information before reaching out to the professionals. Checking out Mama Natural gives new parents a color-coded look into the dirty world of doo-doo so if there is a need to be concerned, they may have a better idea.
Parenthood is a huge transition. This is a clear, known fact. However, the reality of the truth doesn’t tend to set in until a few days into being home with a newborn. It is then when a new mom will look at their little one, look around them, and think: This is it – I’m an adult.
Being a new parent means you officially are a role model.
Even if your little one isn’t old enough to really look up to you yet, they are still relying on you for all of their functioning needs. They need you to feed them, bathe them, soothe them, carry them, and love them unconditionally. This is a huge change from when you and your needs were top priorities.
Now, you have to see yourself as a real-life grownup, not a twenty-something or thirty-something (maybe even a forty-something) who can be spontaneous all the time. Though spontaneity is great, it’s time to put that on the backburner until you are able to occasionally fit that back into your routine.
According to Very Well Family, the top reasons women decide to go the exclusive breast pumping route can be due to premature babies having difficulty breastfeeding, latching issues, low milk supply, pain and clotting, and the simplest one: You just didn’t want to (which is absolutely fine). Going into this decision, women often think they’ll be able to just hook themselves up to the pump all day, every day and get all the milk they need to keep their little one healthy and fed. They hope to freeze bags upon bags of breastmilk so when the time comes, they will have more than enough in storage.
It is much easier said than done.
Breast pumping is time-consuming and usually, insurance only provides a pump that plugs into the wall. This means a busybody mama can’t run around the home when her baby is napping and get things done while simultaneously pumping. Many women may not get a strong flow of milk until three or five days after delivery, making pumping an even more frustrating situation. Though exclusively breast pumping is a good way to give your baby with the nutrients breastmilk provides, it is also important to remember that it isn’t always an easy process for all moms.
Typically, couples discuss the number of children they may want to have before they move forward and decide to get pregnant (even though, of course, sometimes pregnancies aren’t planned). Just like talking about starting a family is an important conversation to have as a couple, it’s a good idea to be on the same page when it comes to the number of children you also want to have. However, once a baby is born, those pre-conceived notions can get sometimes a little fuzzy.
If a mom has an incredibly difficult, painful pregnancy – they may never, ever want to carry another child again. Ever. Though they loved the end product of their pregnancy, they may not totally be on the same page with their significant other like they had been months prior. Many people often tell new moms who change their tune that once their little one is older, they will hit a phase where a new baby sounds like a good idea again. Though this may be true for some, others sometimes become extremely stuck in their new ways and this can cause a little tension in their relationship.
When a new mom looks at their calendar, it often is filled with pediatric appointments, WIC appointments, family visits, and sometimes the occasional visit to a Breast Feeding Café (if that’s something you take part in). On top of calling doctors and scheduling other appointments that may be needed for their little one, new moms are likely trying to juggle food shopping, breast pumping, doing laundry, and making sure their house is clean and safe for when their baby starts making those big moves.
What you will not see are appointments for Mom herself.
Many moms forget about themselves and their personal well-being once their little one is officially in the picture. The health of the mother impacts the health of the child almost directly.
If Mom is unwell, the child will often thrive off of that energy.
It’s important for moms to remember to schedule appointments for themselves to be seen by their own primary care physician, OBGYN, and other specialists to maintain their health and wellness.
Moms know that mistakes will be made on their parenthood adventure, but they often do not want to take that truth seriously. They want to make their motherhood experience as flawless and perfect as they can - even though there is no such thing as a flawless and perfect mom. Though it’s a good thing to bring your child up in a positive environment, you also don’t want them to live in a bubble.
Facing the little mistakes you make on a daily basis helps you become a more well-rounded mother and human being. If you accidentally go to the store and forget the diaper bag – you learn from it. If you put the onesie on the wrong way again, you always have the next time to get it right. If the beloved binky falls in the parking lot and you forgot to bring another, learn from the situation and move forward.
Moving forward from that, however, may mean leaving the parking lot altogether if your child is having a meltdown.
If the mistake is small, make it a learning experience. If the mistakes are continuous and causing actual harm to your child, that’s really when you should worry. Remember that every new mom makes little mistakes and that no one (absolutely no one) is the perfect parent.
Whoever invented the idea of the Baby Shower was a complete genius. That isn’t a statement that should sound selfish: Every new mom deserves to be showered in love and support. Financial support is something that more Moms than not need when it comes to starting their family. Even someone who has a great-paying career and believes they are fully prepared for parenthood often discovers that financially and mentally they aren’t really as prepared as they thought.
Gift cards are often the main gift that is given at showers and when a shower has ended, moms tend to go out and buy what was missed on their registry with those gift cards. For the most part, this is a great idea. However, once that baby comes and you get to know him or her on a more personal level, you may realize that the brand of bottles you got don’t work well for baby or one brand of diapers works better than another when handling those nasty blow-outs.
Sometimes it’s better to put a few gift cards to the side and wait it out for a little bit.
Yes, get those big-ticket items that weren’t gifted to you, but maybe wait a little bit and get to know your little one. Your baby will help you with your shopping more than you expected.
It’s a known fact that babies need their diapers changed a lot. This is something that is not a huge surprise for first-time parents and can sometimes not be taken seriously. Moms may see the pile of wipes and diapers gifted to them from their shower and think, “Wow, that will get us through the first few months!”
Wrong – maybe the first few weeks (and if you have twins – forget about it).
According to The Atlantic, “Infants use about 240 diapers per month and a year’s supply of diapers costs $936. A team of researchers found that needing diapers and not being able to buy them was a leading cause of mental health problems among new moms.” Creating a solid budgeting plan when purchasing diapers and wipes (as well as all of the other necessary baby items) can help with mental and physical organization and cause less stress on an already stressed mom.
New parents hear it all the time: You guys won’t be the same after baby. Many couples laugh it off, give each other a kiss, and promise each other than their baby will only strengthen their bond. Though many relationships do get strengthened after the baby officially arrives, other couples may feel more tension than anything else.
No matter what, the relationship will change. However, the change shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing.
It should be seen as a transition you are both taking on together during an exciting new milestone in your lives. Since all couples and human beings are different, this viewpoint may not be easy for everyone to grasp. Some couples may start taking out their daily stressors on one another. Sometimes, instead of cuddling like you may have before, sleep becomes a little more important. And, whether or not new moms want to believe it, many new parents just aren’t as intimate as they were during those feisty pre-baby days.
By knowing that there will be a change and facing that change with a positive, realistic attitude, you can work on moving forward together in the best way possible.
Body positivity is a huge issue for most postpartum mamas. Looking down and not seeing a pregnant belly is one thing, but seeing a flabby, wrinkly, funny looking flap is definitely a look no one really understands until it’s on your own body. With social media being the huge presence it is today, seeing celebrities looking the way they do just days after popping out a baby can make any new mother want to hide under their covers in embarrassment and fear.
Even the most positive person in the world probably had some difficult moments when it came to accepting their new body after having a baby. Moms soon realize how hard they were on themselves before they got pregnant and wish they had been kinder to their bodies then. It’s truly unfortunate that it often takes having a complete mind and body transformation (like pregnancy and childbirth) for women to appreciate the body they once had.
“Times of transition are when negative feelings about your body tend to bubble up,” states Margo Maine, Ph. D. in Parenting. Instead of focusing on the body you once had, focus on the remarkable body you now have. You can’t go back in time and appreciate your pre-pregnancy body – that’s the honest truth. What you can do now is appreciate the tiger stripes and wrinkles and pudge you now have because they did something remarkable that your old body didn’t.
Before you had your little one, you probably quietly got annoyed when all you saw on your Facebook or Instagram timelines were albums upon albums of baby pictures. Though you truly love the babies your friends and family have, you may have often thought to yourself, “When I have my kids, I will only post pictures here and there – never this many.”
If you kept that promise to yourself, you are a strong, strong person.
Many moms can’t help but bombard social media with photographs, statuses, and stories involving their little ones. Why? Because they are just too darn proud of them not to share their little face or triumphs with loved ones (and the rest of the world). Some people have very strict rules when it comes to posting their babies pictures and information on social media. Though this is a smart decision, these families are often the minority.
Just remember, if you were someone who, before getting pregnant, would scroll quickly through all of the baby pictures you were quietly sick of seeing – just remember: There is probably someone on the other end who may be feeling the same way about your posts as you used to.
But will that stop you? Not a chance.
You cried because of the Charley Horses that attacked you in the middle of the night, every night, during your third trimester. You cried because your doctor told you that you could only eat ice chips right after your c-section. You cried when your baby wouldn’t latch and all you wanted was to be a breastfeeding mom.
But one thing is usually certain for all new moms: You will cry out of pure joy when looking down at that little baby of yours.
Some people tell themselves they aren’t the crying type; that they probably won’t shed a tear when they meet their little one for the first time (but that doesn’t mean they love them any less). Even if you aren’t an emotional person, your racing hormones and beautiful bundle of joy often changes all of that – along with your perspective.
Babies really do magical, crazy things to people. Seeing those little features and hearing those little sounds for the first time can bring forward a hidden personality in people they never expected would surface. Sometimes, the only reason the tears are falling is because you finally are holding that little baby after months of patiently (or impatiently) waiting. There aren’t always answers for the way the human body works. But for how the heart works – a baby can really pull at those heartstrings and never let go.
References: Parenting (William Sears M.D. and Margo Maine Ph. D.), Mama Natural, Very Well Family, The Atlantic