When I got pregnant over a year ago, I obviously knew my life would never be the same when our little baby was born. Knowing that fact in my head was a heck of a lot different than actually experiencing it. I did all the typical things one does to prepare: researched baby gear, read blogs, asked questions, attended birth and baby care classes. However, there’s only so much you can do to really prepare yourself to bring that first little baby home. And when you do bring that baby home, you might forget everything you learned anyway. I felt like I was doing so many things wrong at first. I felt guilty for not knowing what I was doing. I asked my friends, family and pediatrician for help and advice constantly. I wasn’t confident I’d ever get the hang of things.
Turns out, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. In fact, my story is much the same as any other new mother’s. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve learned a lot in the last several months. So, for those who have been there, and for those who might get there soon, here are some things I wish I’d known:
You might not feel an instant bond with your baby.
I remember just minutes after my daughter was born, holding her on my chest for the first time and looking into her little swollen face, thinking, “Well. There she is!” It was a bit anti-climactic. I didn’t hear an angel chorus. I didn’t feel some indescribable magic bond. Then, I looked over at my husband who was standing beside my bed with this look on his face that was a mix of awe and complete fascination. I could tell immediately: he was in love. Certainly, I loved her then too, but it wasn’t in that magical, wondrous new-mom way. It was more matter-of-fact. I think the trauma of birth and the months of anticipation made it hard for me to wrap my head around everything. It was a few weeks before I felt that mother-baby bond. But when I did, oh let me tell you. It was magic. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have that mystical maternal bond with your baby at first. Just get to know your baby. It will happen.
You probably won’t like breastfeeding at first.
Before I had my daughter I knew I was going to give breastfeeding a shot. If it worked, great. If not, I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. Lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates will tell you it’s such a bonding experience and so empowering. While that might be true for some people, it was not for me. At least not at first. Breastfeeding was uncomfortable and it was hard to get her into the right position and latched. It put the sole responsibility of feeding her on me, and that was overwhelming and exhausting. I had planned to take it in two week spurts. Just give it two weeks, I told myself. At the end of the first two weeks, I figured I would transition her to formula. But then, I decided to give it two more weeks because trying to figure out how to transition was more than I wanted to deal with at the time. To be honest, I felt guilty for not wanting to do it, too, and I pressed on. So, a month went by. Then six weeks. Then, suddenly, there I was feeding my baby like a boss. No big deal. I’m not sure when exactly the turning point was, but it happened. I’m a little surprised at myself about how unembarrassed I am about feeding her in front of others or in public. As long as I can cover up, I could care less. I also planned to pump at work until I could no longer stand it. I’m over two months in and, while pumping is not in any way fun, it’s working, so I’m keeping at it. Breastfeeding does get easier, I promise. But it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay too.
You might feel trapped.
I was petrified to take the baby anywhere the first three or four weeks. I was still learning how to calm her down when she cried. I was still learning how to feed her. I was still learning everything. I did not want to be learning it outside of the comfort of my own home. Plus, I didn’t want her to get sick by being out in public too soon. So, I just stayed home. And then I began to feel trapped because of my self-imposed seclusion. I felt a sense of dread every Sunday evening knowing that my husband would be going back to work the next day, leaving me home with this terrifying baby. Slowly, I began to go on little trips with her to get coffee or buy stamps to get out of the house more. I went to lunch a couple of times and took the baby. Then I got brave and went to Target with her by myself. And you know what? We survived. In fact, she just slept most of the time on those outings. But if she had gotten upset? We would have survived that too. It’s okay to be a hermit for a while, but don’t be afraid to get out and about with your baby. You’ll survive.
You might mourn your old life sometimes.
Everyone knows life changes significantly when you add a child to it. I went into parenthood knowing this full well. But during the first several weeks of parenthood, I found myself thinking back on our “old life” rather nostalgically. I missed being able to just go to the store at the drop of a hat. I missed going out to eat and sleeping in. I missed being able to get things done around the house. I went through a sort of “mourning” period, where I had to get used to our new normal and let our old way of life go. I felt guilty for feeling that way because, again, I knew what I was getting into when I got pregnant. It kind of surprised me that I struggled a bit to adjust. I asked my husband if he felt like I did, and he said he didn’t, that he was completely comfortable with our new normal. That made me feel guiltier. But when I thought more about it, his life hadn’t really changed as much as mine had. I had a new body, new schedule (or lack thereof) and massive hormonal changes that accompany post-pregnancy. He was back at work doing the same things he did every day after a week. Eventually, those feelings faded, and now, I’d much rather be home playing with my baby and soaking up every moment with her than living my old life any day. I’ve also realized it’s not a bad thing to mourn your old life. It doesn’t make you a bad parent or indicate regret. It’s just a part of the whole transition to parenthood.
Now, I’ve got a healthy, happy five month old. She brings me so much joy, and I finally feel like I have the hang of things. Of course, There are days where I still feel like I’m clueless, but I’ve realized that I’m not “doing it wrong.” We are all just figuring it out as we go.