10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had a Baby

Guest Blogger Briony Goodsell of The Nesting Place
Like many women, during my first pregnancy I spent a LOT of time preparing myself for my labour and birth. I read endless books, hundreds of birth stories, watched as many birth DVDs as I could get my hands on and became obsessed with all of the birth documentaries and shows. I did prenatal yoga, got regular massages, drank copious cups of raspberry leaf tea, attended private birth classes and took a hypno-birthing course.
I went on to have an amazing labour and birth with my daughter, I was totally blissed out and felt stronger and prouder of myself than I’d ever felt before, I thought if I could do this, I could do anything! And then I entered the world of postpartum.
Why didn’t anyone tell me about this part? Or maybe they did, but being in my blissed out, birth focused state I didn’t want to listen. I fell to earth with a thud in those early weeks postpartum. I was totally unprepared, I had no confidence in my own abilities to care for this new little person and I felt completely overwhelmed.
After my first initiation into new motherhood, I went on to experience another two postpartum periods with my sons, each time being less shocking than the first, but certainly still bringing new challenges with each different baby and my own personal circumstances.
Birth is only just the beginning! Being a Mother is a lifelong experience.
Here are 10 things that I wish I had known before I had a baby (and listened to!):
You will be sore – whether you have a vaginal or caesarean birth your body will hurt. If you have a vaginal birth, you will hurt in places you never even imagined you would! And I mean your bottom, it hurts A LOT. So be prepared for this part. You will also feel tender, sore and stretched in the more obvious area, plus the muscles in your back, arms and legs – or even your forehead if you are leaning on the side of a bath (personal experience with this one).
Postpartum is messy and unglamourous – birth is arguably the most primal experience a woman can have, its also messy and raw. One might view it as a bit of a prelude to what comes next, because there’s nothing glamourous about your postpartum period. You will be leaking fluids from all sorts of places – breastmilk from engorged breasts and your lochia (bleeding) following birth. You will more than likely be spending a majority of your time in a state of undress whilst you are learning to breastfeed and a lot of time doing so (up to 8 hrs per day is an average for new babies).
Breastfeeding can be hard – no matter how much you read or prepare before your babies arrival, there are some things that you can’t truly prepare for. Breastfeeding is beautiful and it is one of the most natural things we can do as new mothers, but that doesn’t mean it is easy, it can be damn hard and painful work. I struggled with breastfeeding issues each time I had a new baby, from cracked and bleeding nipples, to mastitis and low milk supply. It’s not always an easy road, but there are people there to support you along the way so make sure you ask for help. And in the end, if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you and your baby, that’s ok too.
Babies don’t always sleep – regardless of what other new mothers may say, babies don’t just sleep all of the time! And every baby is different, what one baby does is not going to be the same for another. Yes, some babies are cruisy when it comes to getting off to sleep whilst others are a lot more challenging, but this does NOT make you a bad mother and things will get better.
You will experience a rollercoaster of emotions – around day 4 postpartum you will usually feel pretty teary, this is when your hormone levels drop and is also known as ‘the baby blues’ (if feelings of sadness and not enjoying your new baby persist please seek help). But I’m not just talking about the feelings around this time, I mean your brain changes once you become a mum! It rewires and you become more sensitive than you were before you had a baby. Becoming a mum also brings about many highs and lows so be prepared to experience some strong emotions. Remember it’s normal to have a hightened sensitivity at this time and be sure to share your feelings with those close to you,
Trust your own intuition – so here’s what I learned after spending day after day on the phone to new mum support lines and asking everyone else I knew with a baby what to do after my first baby was born, please oh please TRUST YOURSELF! I’m not saying don’t ask for help sometimes, but I want you to know that your baby is unique and that YOU will know your baby better than anyone else or any baby expert tells you in a book. Here’s a secret, we all wing it in new motherhood, in fact I’m still winging it and I’ve been a mum for 12 years now!
Your relationship with your partner will change – becoming parents is HUGE, bigger than anything else you will ever experience together. It’s important to be aware of the impact having a baby has on a relationship (1 in 5 marriages end in divorce in the first 5 years after having a baby), and keep the lines of communication open between you and your partner.
Having a shower is the best thing ever – Never before has the simple act of having a hot shower felt soooo good! Trust me, you’ll understand this one once you have your baby (closely followed by someone making you a cup tea).
Create a postpartum plan – we’ve all heard of birth plans (which I think are a fantastic tool also), but like most things postpartum we don’t stop to think about what will happen after our baby is born. Creating a postpartum plan will allow you and your partner to discuss changes that will occur once you become new parents, and it will give you the opportunity to put plans into place to make your transition into new motherhood much smoother. I chat about how you can plan for postpartum in my free workshop for pregnant couples (you can find our more about this here).
It gets easier – motherhood is amazing, but it can also be exhausting, overwhelming and at times lonely. Just know that you are not alone and that the sleep-deprived haze of the early weeks quickly fade and before you know it you are feeling more human again. There are good days and not-so-good days in motherhood and this doesn’t change along the way. But I can tell you, the first 6 weeks of new motherhood are intense as you find your feet and get to know your baby, and it does get easier.
If you’d like support as you transition into new motherhood, learn more about how I can help here.
Briony is a Pre & Postnatal Specialist offering premium postpartum care services to mothers in the Illawarra.
Visit www.thenestingplace.com.au for information relating to Briony’s free parent workshops.
Briony also runs FREE workshops for pregnant couples to learn more about how you can prepare for a smooth transition into new motherhood.
At Briony’s workshop you will learn:
How you can have a smooth transition into new motherhood and manage feelings of anxiety, stress or being overwhelmed with a new baby
What you can do to feel confident, supported and loved as a newborn Mother
The benefits of ‘baby brain’ and your body’s natural love hormones
The importance of the ‘fourth trimester’ and how being looked after will benefit the wellbeing of your whole family
This workshop is ideal for both parent’s-to-be to attend so that you both learn how you can experience happiness and peace in new motherhood.
Briony was invited to share her blog as a guest of What’s On in Wollongong.