When I had my first little baby in my arms, I was absolutely terrified about what to do and how to keep this thing alive and happy. Apparently I cant stop having them, I am going through it all again for the 4th time! (yes you read that right) It has made me think back to those early days and what I wish I had known. This post is a longer one, but I promise you worth it if you are expecting...and I have updated it after each baby I have had because apparently even the 4th time around there are still SO many learning curves and things you dont know.
Most books and resources get you ready for how many diapers to buy and what to put in the nursery but they don’t prepare you for the emotional side of things, and the less fun things about parenting. I hope this blog can be helpful for anyone embarking on this new adventure of parenting!
So today that's what I want to look at:
The things people DON'T want to tell you.
The first 2 weeks-3 months are pure survival.
Put all the rules, expectations, and schedules away. This is survival of the fittest and you need to have your only goal of keeping you all alive. Schedules, sleep routines, when to eat etc will all come, but this is the adjustment period for all of you. The baby is new to this world and it takes TIME to adjust to that. You are now a family of 3 (or more) and that can be a really hard adjustment! All of a sudden you can’t do all the luxurious things you wanted on a whim anymore. Allow all of you, especially yourself to adjust to this. It can be hard on both moms and dads, especially because the dad cannot give the baby the same things mom can, but their lives have also just been flipped upside down as well. We feed them, comfort them, get to know them on such a deeper level that the dad often feels a little lost these first few months until he finds his place. The first few weeks are an adrenaline based emotional roller coaster with hormones acting crazy-please hear me when I say: this will end. Dont try and sleep train, teach them how to self-sooth or get on a feeding schedule right away- it will exhaust you and likely ruin this bonding time you need to be having. Like I said, that stuff will all come, You will find your groove and things start to become manageable, so don’t freak out if the first weeks get a little crazy!
When we were leaving the hospital with our first baby, I literally cried for hours. I was so overwhelmed leaving the nurses and 'experts' who had been helping me for days (I also spent longer in the hospital than most women these days so I became very attached to this help)
As we were walking out, the nurses pulled my husband aside and said 'Watch out for DAY 3. She will be crying FOR NO REASON, she will be an emotional roller coaster and your job is to just assure her shes okay, not going crazy and it will be better tomorrow. Sure enough day 3, he came upstairs from fixing something in the basement and there I was balling my eyes out and unsettled because I felt like there was no reason why.
I am now a week and a half into my 4th baby and apparently this didnt stick with me from doing this how many times before? Because on Day 3, oh boy I lost it. The next day, a lightbulb went off when I realized I wasnt going crazy, it was just Day 3! I even had a friend message me the next day saying, hey I was thinking about how many days post partum you were when you were struggling and realized it was the 3rd day after, that day sucks. So there you have it folks, Watch out and beware of Day 3.
Advil, Adult Diapers and After Labour
K so AFTER labour is something I was not prepared for AT ALL for my first baby. And now that I have been through it 4 times now, there are some things I learned that literally made a huge difference in the recovery stage, that I want to shout on the roof top for any mom who doesnt know.
Adult Diapers; yes you read that correctly. Look, not trying to get too in depth into the awfulness that happens to your body the weeks after you shot a watermelon sized very dependent human out of your body. But its gross and doesnt just go away quickly and yes we make jokes about the hospital underwear and huge pad's (side note tip: Padsicles - look them up...awesome recovery must you should do) but seriously once you go home, they dont give you enough supplies to last how long it all lasts. Plus its not a normal amount of anything going on that your typical pad from the grocery store with suffice, and as you move around it affects the amount of stuff you are dealing with down there...and then you are constantly worried about leaking, getting up and sitting down and what will happen especially when you have everyone and their grandma (literally) coming over to see this new little miracle you just birthed.
This time around, I was like Im going to get me some Adult Diapers. I was joking but then was like no but seriously thats kind of a good idea. Let me tell you, for that first week, I was feeling great not having another thing to worry about. I also got the most giant, longest and most absorbent pads to put in them because I think diapers are mainly to absorb liquid like pee so I wanted something with a bit more to handle all that was being thrown at it. Gross I know, but literally no one made it abundantly clear to me what to expect the first days and sometimes weeks (depending on what # baby you are on and what the labour was like) and I remember being almost offended and mad after my first, like no one could have prepared me better for this? Im sure someone told me something, but I glossed over it. So thats why Im including it here and trust me you will thank me.
Also even better, when someone asks you if they can bring you anything when they want to come meet the baby; tell them adult diapers and pads and let them go to the store to buy them hahaha! It was not intentional but I had a friend who offered to go get me stuff from the store, and I threw these on the list. My baby was born on thanksgiving so there was only 1 store in town open, and everyone who forgot anything they needed on a holiday was there. So my poor friend had to go and buy adult diapers which were apparently at the front of the store and impossible to hide and go through the check out seeing everyone possible she knew just for me. Thats a real friend. (Also see next point below about accepting help when someone offers....my poor friend will likely never offer anything to me again)
Advil; literally live on this for the first days or week (s) Never let it run out of your system, get those bad boys into your system right on schedule and the pain and cramping will be manageable. Which brings me into my next tip about
After Labour. First did you know such a thing existed? Did you know that your uterus contracts back to its size and that FEELS LIKE CONTRACTIONS. Not the incredible painful ones you are trying to forget from real active labour, but enough that you literally tremble in fear that you remember them from labour and cant figure out why women willingly do this. AND did you know that they get worse, more painful and stick around longer each pregnancy and delivery you have? Like WHY WAS I NOT TAUGHT THIS? THIS IS USEFUL INFORMATION TO TEACH PEOPLE rather than the useless stuff taught to kids in health class that I cant even remember!!
Accept the Freaking Help
This aint no time to be a super hero. There are no awards or rewards for doing it all yourself. The only outcome is burnout, exhaustion and lots and lots of meltdowns. People generally mean it when they say they want to help. People also like tangiable ways to help. So when someone offers to bring you a meal, take your other children if you have them, or even help around the house --> SAY YES!
After my 4th labour and delivery, I was wrecked and exhausted and the transition took its toll on each of us in the family. I had friends taking my laundry home to do, washing my dishes, taking my kids for days. My 3 babies before, I would have NEVER allowed to accepted that, the most I did was accept dinners after. But I also learned in those 3 babies; that I do have a limited source of energy and sleep deprivation is an evil thing that makes you feel, act and talk in evil ways. I learned that the more off my plate meant I could stay out of that place. I learned that people truly WANT to help in these ways...ESPECIALLY if they are a mom and have been exactly where you are sitting. So get over your pride and stubborness and let them help. Save your energy for area's you really need it for, and especially if you have other kids other than this new little baby who takes so much out of you, give that time and attention you would have been doing whatever task someone has taken over for you. Dont let guilt or expectation win, and Accept the freakin help!!
Prepare for moments you don’t know what to do
There will be moments, where you have fed them, changed them, bounced them, rocked them and they are STILL uncontrollably crying (chances are its also 3a.m.) Sometimes you won’t find the real reason, sometimes you will. These moments bring a feeling of defeat and its not the best feeling in the world. We all have these moments, and then they pass and it is all okay. You are allowed to cry with them if need be. Even more frustrating sometimes you’ll find somewhat that works, and then the next time it doesn’t work! These moments can also turn into funny stories later (like way later when you have forgotten the feelings that were involved) With my first baby, I had all these things I was going to do and not do. I wasnt going to use a soother, was going to teach my baby to self soothe, to be on a feeding schedule from the get go, and to adapt to my life rather than them ruling my life. My family flew out to visit and were there for the first night home from the hospital. My step dad still laughs at this story because he walked in the door the morning after night #1 and I walked down exhausted and said 'I broke every rule I set' I tried 5 soothers, fed her a million times...at one point both my husband and I were convinced she was not getting enough food so we were spoon feeding her formula. It is all so comical thinking back to that night, but in the midst of it my only thought was 'how could they have let us leave the hospital?! How is their not a manual for this thing!'
Once you feel like you've got something figured out, Everything will immediately change
It's like babies know when you are feeling like you've got this parenting thing and want to immediately remind you: you don't. Once they start sleeping well, they go through a sleep regression. Once you've can get them comfortable with tummy gas, they will start teething! It's not your fault, its that babies! haha kidding. Its just a constant on your toes, ever changing place, especially in the first year. Keep this in the back of your head because it can be very discouraging and frustrating because you are trying all. the. time. and the second you feel successful, the rug gets swept from under your feet. But as time goes on, the 'figured out time' lasts longer and if you can be gracious to yourself, you will get through it all in one piece.
Practice your Smile and Nod
For some reason, everyone will feel the need to share their opinion with you about what is wrong with the baby when they cry, or tell you how they are feeling (because apparently they speak baby and you don’t) I so clearly remember my grandmother telling me ‘Madison is cold’ over SKYPE when she was like a week old. (love you grandma) I have tried to avoid getting these comments, but I have found a better course of action is just to smile, nod and decide if I will take their advice on my own. You are the parent, and you get to decide what to do! I actually had a onsie that said 'My mom doesnt want your advice' and it was the best!!
Comparing to other moms or comparing the babes
This is so hard. Comparing to other moms bodies after you had babies, how they play more with their kids than you, how they are more patient etc etc the list could go on and on. Then its easy to get caught up in comparing the development of your baby compared to others. I remember being stressed because my friends child could sit in a bumbo and mine couldn’t. (yes really) Its easy, especially in the developmental area, to compare the kids. This thinking can really take a toll on you. Here's the truth, my kids all did things at different developmental times; some later than the average and some earlier and believe me when I say; it makes NO difference in the big picture. When they are in kindergarten, you cant tell which kid walked first or which one took longer to sleep through the night. So do your best to not waste your time and energy focusing on these things, easier said than done I get that...especially if you have mom friends in your life who constantly brag about their kids development, like calm down kathy your kid doesnt speak fluent french at 1 1/2 years old and even if they do there is no parenting prize so relax yourself.
Just say goodbye to it. Just kidding-sort of-yeah sorry not really kidding. There is nothing that can prepare you for the feeling of sleep deprivation and utter exhautedness (Im aware thats not a word, but Im on day 10 with a newborn and I have created the word. Dont like it? Too bad. Oh yeah, sleep deprivation makes you grumpy too) that comes with being woken multiple times a night to feed and try and get back to sleep a baby who has NO schedule or idea us humans sleep at night.
I remember thinking when I was pregnant, oh I get up to pee a million times a night, I already dont get a full nights sleep. And even going into this 4th newborn, I was thinking oh my kids wake me up all the time for random things like nightmares, their blanket fell off the bed, to ask me if a potato is a vegetable... you know normal things. I already dont get a full nights sleep.
NO, if you are thinking like that, let me stop you right in your tracks. NO. There is no equivalent to waking every 2 hours to nurse a baby and then sometimes stay up with a baby cuz now they have decided its party time. Nothing prepares you to deal with the times your holding a baby and literally falling asleep sitting up because you are so tired. Nothing prepares you for being worried your going to fall asleep holding them and then drop them, or roll onto them because those are legit fears moms have, and the level of exhaustion you are experiencing cant compare to how light or deep you slept before a newborn. You cant train for this part of parenting (and would you if you could?) The ONLY saving grace is to continuously tell yourself THIS IS A PHASE, A PHASE THAT DOES NOT LAST FOREVER. And that barely gets you by. I sit with my 4th newborn, feeling almost physically sick from being so deliriously tired, looking at my other 3 kids who are sleeping soundly through the night (unless you know, they get the urge to understand their fruits and vegetables) and telling myself over and over, this wont last....this won't last.
And like I said, that is hardly enough but then your baby randomly gives you a 3 hour stretch and your like I feel human again for a moment. And then they give you a 5 hour stretch, oh a glorious 5 hour stretch, and your like should I sign up for a marathon? and then one day, they dont wake up in the night....and then you panic, run in their room to check if they are alive and wake them up and then you become your own worst enemy haha.
In my first few days of being a first time mom, a friend offered to take my newborn so I could nap, and I declined because I felt fine. They took my baby out of my hands and said "your not napping for how you feel right now, your napping for your future self in 3 weeks when the adrenaline has faded and the multiple nights of no sleep have caught up to you and you crash and burn instantly. Give me your baby and go nap for that girl" Now on my 4th newborn, my friend offered to take the baby so I could nap and before she finished her sentence, I was in my bed asleep.
Sleep when you can, if you have no other kids and it seems hard to 'sleep when the baby sleeps' because you still have a house that doesn't clean itself, laundry that doesnt wash itself and dishes that dont load themselves into the dishwasher (which is horrible and Im sorry, dont get me started on how I am okay if robots took over the world....like robots are seriously helpful--you should come meet my 5th child; roomba. Robots would be so much better than aliens, like what do they do? From what I can tell just attack us. Robots help us. Okay rabbit trail ended.) Anyways you probably forget what I was saying so if you dont have a self cleaning robot house, and cant just sleep every time the baby sleeps because of this sad fact, what I do is pick 1 nap the baby has to sleep and 1 do accomplish something productive. And in those first weeks, dont try and accomplish more that 1 thing a day. Dont clean your entire house in that time but like throw some wash in, or prep dinner but only one thing. (If you have other kids already, your screwed sorry. haha not totally true. Depending on ages you could get a miracle and get them to nap once a day at the same time. If your child is not napping, they are older so quiet time, tv time, do whatever you want time just dont burn down the house time, sometimes depending on the child can get few a few moments of shut eye)
The first few weeks and even months newborns sleep a LOT, especially during the day. You actually feel like ‘what is everyone complaining about?’ then they hit a new milestone, especially around 4 months, they all of a sudden change their sleeping habits and sometimes for the worst. Just be prepared that if your baby DOES sleep well, that it could change (it might not though!) New milestones like sitting up, eating solids, crawling and walking etc all can mess up their sleep schedule so just be prepared that once you feel like you have got it nailed down- it could change. We did a sleep training program with our kids, which was probably the best thing we have ever done in our parenting and saved many lives.
If this is your first baby, and your other friends don’t have babies yet, it can feel a little different all of a sudden. You are in this crazy new chapter of your life and people don’t want to talk about that all the time when they aren’t there. Find your own mom tribe. Most towns have great places that have big playrooms for the kids, and coffee for the moms (in ontario its called early years, alberta its parent link but each province/state has their own) They are ways to connect with other moms in the same boat as you. You can complain to each other about how little sleep your getting, or when your baby is doing something you can’t figure out. It also turns into playdates as your kids get older. Mom friends are something really special, don’t miss out on this!
Another thing; dont throw out your non-mom friends!!! It's great to spend time with people and NOT talk about your kids! That is only one aspect of your life, granted yes its a huge one but you are also a person beyond a mother and you cant forget that person either.
Don’t Forget your Spouse
This is so important. I remember my mom telling me the day I got home with our first baby. You will spend your entire day cuddling, feeding, holding this tiny baby. By the time your hubby gets home from work, you are EXHAUSTED and seriously don’t even want to be touched, your tank for touch and love is full-but his isn’t! Your husband has been working all day, and hasn’t gotten that time and closeness with you. It is SO easy to forget them, because they can take care of themselves and you have this little tiny baby who needs you for everything but this is the biggest way to affect your marriage with a new baby being added to the picture. Also be prepared to think very bad thoughts when its 2 a.m. and you’ve been up with a screaming baby for an hour and your husband has slept SOUNDLY the entire time.
You won’t enjoy every season
There is this expectation that you will love every moment of raising a child. I am going to tell you the truth, its a LIE. You will not enjoy every moment, there will even be SEASONS you don’t like—AND THATS OKAY. Our culture and society make this hard to talk about but after being a parent for almost 7 years now, I know this is true with many many mothers. When my kids were 1 and 3, I will admit there were many many seasons that were so tough I was really struggling. My kids are 6, 4 and 20 months now and I still have many moments that just plain suck! Temper tantrums and battling of wills and constant crying and fighting about simple things takes a toll on you. With babies, some are colicky (mine were and man oh man that can break you down FAST) If you have moments, or seasons where you are like ‘k I’m not enjoying this’ please please remember you are normal. This has NOTHING to do with how much you love your child. This has to do with the exhaustion and struggle you are going through trying to raise another human being!!! Everyone says 'oh you will miss this' Well no susan, I dont think I will miss my toddler throwing his entire dinner on the floor I just spent hours cooking, or miss carrying a kid football style out of a store because of the tantrum they are having. Sure I will miss the good times, but Im seriously good when a phase or season ends that I dont enjoy.
Prepare for Intense Emotions
You will love hard, cry harder, be hopelessly frustration and more angry than you knew you could get. Kids push our buttons in ways we didn’t know possible, they love so strong they will melt your heart. You will go through so many roller coasters of emotions in one day but also in the big picture of their life. Some days you will be so amazed you created this perfect little creation, other days you will wonder if they are even your child at all.
Lastly, now that I have a little army I created myself, I can assure you that the more kids you have--the more you lower your expectations and tolerance for all the things you are 'supposed' to do. And Never forget #thestruggleisreal