Photo by Sinead Jenkins
I got all sorts of advice when I was pregnant. Much of it was advice I sought, some of it offered, most of it helpful. Much of it not, which I only realised after I had my baby. Amidst the advice I got, there were a few things that I felt got left out (with the benefit of hindsight), so I share them here. This is based on my experience, and in sharing my experience and story I am in no way invalidating or discrediting anyone else’s experience. Anytime you talk about parenting, it’s easy to offend people, I hope this post can be taken in the spirit in which it is written. A first time mumma sharing what she wished she had known, but didn’t. It’s written in the spirit of community and compassion.
1. That labour and birth might not be drawn out. That it is entirely possible that your water would break the way it does in the movies (luckily, this happened to me at home and not at a cafe, like I was convinced it would – but was continuously consoled that your waters only break in that stand-up-waters-come-gushing-out-sense in the movies). That it might not take a three days of contractions for your baby to be born. Essentially, that while some labours are long and drawn out others are not. And that with the birth stories that instill a sense of desperation and fear in unknowing first time mothers, that there are stories of relative calm and peace. I would have loved to have been comforted in the fact that my labour could have gone both ways. I was only ready for long and scary, rather that fast and relatively calm.
2. Post-natal recovery might be a B*&$%. Why after sharing so many stories about difficult deliveries did no one care to mention the post-natal recovery? I was convinced I would never walk again. Ever. I was literally scared that I would have to do physiotherapy for months to learn how to walk. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. Those 4 inch heeled boots I packed to come home in? Huh! Jokes on me baby. I came home in flip-flops, crutches and tears. I had no tearing, no stitches, no intervention and took no pain relief but my goodness was post-natal recovery a B&%$&! I wish someone had flagged it as something that might possibly happen (and everyone saying, oh yes I remember that, afterwards, not as helpful, though perhaps a little comforting).
3. Most babies need to learn to sleep. What the F%$&! Neither Patrick nor I were prepared for this one. All the babies we’ve encountered were always asleep. What do you mean they need to learn to sleep or to stay asleep? You’d think any child of Patrick and mine would innately be able to do this. Now, if I had to buy a first time mumma anything, it would be a consultation with a baby sleep consultant. There are lots of thoughts about them but the consultant we worked with just before the four month sleep regression made a huge difference. I wish I had her help in those early weeks (not to ensure my child slept, because apparently they need to feed for hours, four hundred times a night) to help establish healthier sleeping patterns from the beginning.
4. They might not like the pram, or specifically the pram you bought them. Again. What? But apparently, this is normal. I wish I had known. Some babies take to the pram straight away, others don’t like it, others don’t like the one you have. I’ve come to appreciate this about babies. Rafa tolerates his pram now (it still takes coaxing). Actually, this point should really have been, babies might not like the things you’ve bought them. I’m glad we waited to meet Rafa before buying things. They might not like the cot, or the mosses basket, or the pacifier, or the baby carrier. Maybe they just need time. It isn’t guaranteed that your baby will take to all the things you’ve bought.
5. That you might not find the first few weeks magical, and that’s okay. I didn’t suffer from post-natal depression, but I certainly didn’t find anything magical about those first few weeks. I’m glad I had the confidence to say so instead of pretending. Which is why I say it here. If you find/found those weeks magical, that is amazing and absolutely beautiful. If you didn’t, that’s okay too. I was annoyed. I was giving so much to this child. I loved him dearly and all he did was scream when my boob wasn’t in his mouth or when he wasn’t on me. It wasn’t until Rafa started smiling at me that I started seeing the magic. Until then, I just got on with it. The magic came later and that’s okay.
The most unhelpful advice I ever received. Sleep when they sleep. I still want to scream when I hear that. At night yes, sleep when they sleep. During the day? This was unhelpful and stressed me out so much that even when I tried to sleep, I couldn’t because I was so busy thinking about how I needed to be sleeping.
Are there some things you wish you knew about pregnancy, birth or parenthood? Things that truly surprised you, or drove you bat-shit-crazy?