Mommy’s Corner is a weekly series exploring our journey in becoming parents, our love for our ShuGar baby, and general topics related to mommyhood.
Sweet New Mommies & Mommies-to-be:
This is my love post to you. A Top 10 list of what you should really expect when you are expecting. I have so much to say on this topic that this is Part 1 in a two-part series; for Part 2 click here.
Of course, we are all too familiar with that infamous book by now. Truth be told: That book was so overwhelming for me and stressed me out. I also think it focused too much on the “what if’s”, and not so much on the “probably’s” and definitely didn’t give enough attention to the real struggle: the first year of motherhood. Below is a cliff notes version of what to consider pre-baby when you actually have time to reflect and study these things (this list may take on a new meaning when you are sleep deprived). I compiled this list not only from my own experience, but anecdotal information from my mommy friends and a wonderful support group of mommies I am a part of. They are my tribe and I thank you all for being a constant in my life as a first-time mommy.
This list is not to diminish the research you should be doing on labor and delivery, your birth plan, or how to create a gallery wall for your baby’s nursery. All those things are definitely important; this list is to help guide you in the blur of the first year as you try to navigate motherhood. Keep this in your back pocket and read it when you are feeling lost at 3:00 a.m. when your baby won’t take to the bottle or won’t latch on.
You are not alone. Please remember that. Many mommies have come before you and have survived. You too can do it.
Disclaimer: If you prefer the “ignorance is bliss” approach, then stop reading here. This list is for those moms who prefer to know the truth, the whole truth, and be as informed as possible about the world they are about to enter.
(1) Labor Sucks, but the Aftermath Can Be Even Worse
We all will or have read extensively about how painful labor can be. We get it. It’s generally not a pleasurable event. Do you want to hear the good news? It doesn’t last forever! But, guess what? The first year of motherhood can seem to last an eternity. Yet, not much is talked about after you deliver your baby. Will you feel back to your old self the next day? Probably not. For many moms, you will feel like you got hit by a truck and now are expected to be all cheery and lovey dovey with your new bundle of joy. Oh, and don’t forget you are supposed to naturally know how to feed your child with your breasts (insert sarcasm). Keep in mind, whether you deliver vaginally or through a c-section, the pain in the weeks following will, at times, be unbearable. Personally, I had to sit on a doughnut for an entire month. Ouch!
One thing I was shocked about was the bleeding – the incessant amount of blood for weeks post-delivery. How can one person bleed so much? On top of that, you may suffer from some sort of tear if you delivered vaginally. Then, of course there are the hemorrhoids, the nightsweats, the pain after major surgery (c-section), and swelling all over your body. I couldn’t even get any shoes on because my feet were so puffy. Finally, the days after you deliver will leave your body pretty restricted. You may need help just going to the restroom, using the squirt bottle, and putting on those super sexy pantyhose underwear they give you. Please allow me to give a little shout out to my dear hubs, Mr. ShuGar, here. He held my hand (and the squirt bottle!) while I went to the bathroom and helped give me my first shower. Bless his heart. Ladies – this is what love really looks like.
Oh, and that dreaded first poop you are instructed to do before you leave the hospital. No pressure! I share this not to scare you, but to educate you. This will empower you to understand what your body is going through without fear. Remember, this is all temporary. If you are lucky, you may be one of those women who bounces right back.
(2) You can’t control your birth plan. Let it go
Sweet mommies, how many times have I heard the story of moms crying during their labor because they pushed for hours, sometimes days, then ultimately had a c-section? Or they felt so guilty for giving in and getting that epidural (lifesaver!!!) or felt horrible about being induced to speed up the dilation process. It’s okay. Just be flexible and know that some things are out of your control. You may spend so much time devising this detailed birth plan, but ultimately the delivery process is unpredictable and you have to trust the medical professionals that are guiding you. Read up on IVs, head probes on the baby, anti-nausea meds, and labor-inducing medication because one of them (or all) might be part of your alternative birth plan. Don’t attempt to avoid modern medicine altogether; in many cases it may save your life and that of your soon-to-be-born child.
If you don’t feel comfortable with a nurse/doctor, speak up. This is one of my regrets. I didn’t have the friendliest nurse for the first 15 hours and I wish I would have said I wanted someone else. I felt awkward and powerless. Take note – your voice matters so express yourself or have someone on your behalf do it for you. If you want skin-to-skin even though you had a c-section, then demand it. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
We need to stop putting so much pressure on each other to have the perfect birth sans medicine. High fives all around if you are super woman and can do it all naturale. But, for some of us, we feel relieved to be given some respite with the meds. That doesn’t make you less of a mom. Of course, any medication has its risks; educate yourself on what they are. For me, when the time comes for the next baby I’m going to have them hook me up to the epidural as soon as possible! Why try to be this hero for the first 15 hours (my labor was 22 hours) when I could be more present during the process without the excruciating pain? Let’s stop this mom-shaming because ultimately the thing that matters most is whether mommy and baby are healthy and not if you completed step #7 in your birth plan. Life doesn’t go according to any plan.
(3) You Need to Take a Vaccine Stance
Sooner than you think, you will be put in the position of deciding if, when, and how often to vaccinate your child. In fact, mere seconds after your child is born you will be asked whether or not you will be vaccinating your baby. I am not here to begin the infamous vaccine debate; there are plenty of places to troll arund the internet to do that. I am sharing this to prepare you to educate yourself before your baby is born. When you are exhausted, trying to recover from your delivery, you may not feel all excited to research vaccines. Gone are those days when we trusted our doctors 100% to make these decisions. As parents, we have to empower ourselves to know what is best for our babies and prepare to have a constructive convo with your doctor.
I didn’t realize I needed to know so much about the vaccine schedule until we were already doing them. I felt so lost and it weighed so heavily on me to be asked what my thoughts were on our baby’s vaccine schedule. I had to allot a lot of time to researching each vaccine with the pros and cons. Do this beforehand; it will save you a lot of unnecessary stress when you are in your pediatrician’s waiting room.
Oh, and word of advice: Be careful when you bring this topic up in the online mommy boards. It guarantees you 200+ comments about this contentious topic which makes most mommies’ blood boil.
(4) Yes, Breastfeeding is Best and It Can Also Kick Your Ass
From the moment you find out you’re pregnant, you will be told to breastfeed your baby. At one point, it may even seem like everyone is ramming this message down your throat. You diligently read the necessary books and take the breastfeeding class; I know I did. Guess what? Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for the reality of feeding your baby. I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble here, but it’s really going to kick your ass in the beginning. I might even go as far as to say it’s going to suck. Why?
Quite simply put, your breasts will be hazed by your babies sucking every two hours. Think about it – have your boobies ever gone through that sort of treatment over extended periods of time? Nope! It’s only natural for them to then hurt as they build up resistance to feeding your babe. It wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t sleep deprived, in physical pain, and experiencing an emotional roller coaster all rolled into one.
Many of us worry if our milk will come in after the colostrom and I am happy to share that it most likely will. Don’t fret, mommies. Just don’t give up. Even if you bleed and are chaffed, don’t despair. The likelihood of producing milk is high and even if you can’t, it’s all good. There are plenty of other options for you. Formula is not the devil. People need to chill out with this whole anti-formula movement. I was fed from formula and I can promise you I am a happy and healthy female.
The message I want to convey is for you to realize that when you begin breastfeeding, you may struggle. For example, cluster feeding (your baby just feeds and feeds non-stop) is awful and can really wear you down. When your baby is a newborn, s/he will want to feed every two hours – feeding usually takes 20 minutes. Do the math! That means you are on boobie duty around the clock – night and day. I can reassure you it gets easier and you eventually will probably love it. Crazy, huh? I know I looked forward to feeding sweet boy every time. It was our special bonding time and it was something that no one else could do for him. Be proud that you tried, regardless of the result. Feeding your baby is a beautiful thing, whether it’s from a bottle or with your own body.
(5) Your Marriage Will Take a Major Hit
Where do I begin with this one? This is so important that I will dedicate several posts to this topic. Frankly, it deserves its own mini-series. Pre-baby Mr. ShuGar and I rarely fought. We were that annoying couple that held hands in the restaurant, kissed and hugged in public, and said “I love you” a million times a day. Fast forward to life post-baby and all of this has faded away rather quickly.
The dirty secret that no one wants to share about bringing a baby into this world is that it can wreak havoc on your relationship, temporarily or permanently. No longer is it just the two of you really ever in the first year. It is 100% baby time and this leaves little or no time for you and your man. On top of that, the time you do have together is probably spent arguing about the most ridiculous things during the wee hours of the night. I dare say you may even begin to resent each other and the feelings of hate may pop up. Don’t worry! This is all perfectly normal.
I read somewhere that for the first 3 years of a baby’s life, your marriage will be on the back burner. Why did nobody tell me this? It would have saved me tons of therapy sessions. Actually, someone did mention this. A random stranger came up to us when I was 6 months pregnant and started sharing tidbits about life after baby is born. She said, “Don’t be scared if for the first time you contemplate divorce. It will pass and you will find each other again.” Of course, I brushed her off at the time because I thought it could never happen to us. Well, I stand corrected. It has and it is still going on. I am not afraid to admit that.
How can your marriage survive this? By asking someone you trust to take care of baby so you and the hubs can have date nights. So valuable! Even if you are dead tired and all you want to do is sleep, still go out. Your marriage and your entire family depends on it. Find a mommy friend to confide in about the marriage turmoil you are going through. Don’t keep it inside because it just eats at you and then you just lash out at your partner. To be perfectly honest, some marriages don’t survive; they become casualties of life post-baby. However, most do and they thrive and are closer because of the bumps they’re survived. I know that will be us one day – we will find the new “us” and kiss and hug in public again. I will not allow our love to die and neither should you.
I hope you have found a sense of relief and also feel like you have learned about what motherhood can really be like. It goes without saying that being a mother is incredible; it’s the absolute best thing in the universe. But, with it comes the other side; nothing is perfect.
To read about the next 5 things to expect when you’re expecting and part 2 of this post, click here.
Mommies: What other things would you like to share about the truth of motherhood in the first year? What do you want future mommies to know about this time?
Non-Mommies: Was this information helpful? Do you have anything you want to know about pregnancy, labor & delivery, or post-birth?