Everywhere you turn there are resources to help expecting parents plan for their soon-to-be bundle of joy. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mom. Hands down, bringing two lives into this world have been my biggest accomplishments. H O W E V E R, there are some things that I wasn’t prepared for that I wish I knew beforehand.
There will be no sugar coating here. So, grab your favorite notepad because I’m sharing the raw and uncut version of what to really expect from parenthood.
- Time is No Longer Your Friend
One of the things that I was advised when I was pregnant with my first child was, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This little bit of cliche was lost on me. I didn’t take it in and really understand what veteran parents were trying to tell me. Let me explain….
Right now, if you’re either expecting your first child or thinking about having a baby then you’re allowed to be selfish. Time is yours. You likely sleep in, go to brunch, allow yourself to get lost in time at your favorite makeup counter and you’re enjoying every moment of it. Even if you don’t take full advantage of the time you’re afforded, you could because it’s there for the taking.
If you’re already pregnant and still in your first trimester, you might find yourself uncontrollably tired. I slept from 3-6:30 p.m. every day from weeks five through about thirteen and couldn’t help it. I wish I appreciated having the ability to sleep comfortably back then because one’s ability to sleep well changes tremendously as the pregnancy progresses. Once the baby is born, your sleep pattern will likely be in spurts, depending on the baby’s sleep pattern. Once you become a parent, you’ll get to know the good old foot-in-the-face of cosleeping with your child. Don’t worry, it’ll be hard for the first few years but when they’re teenagers, you’ll miss waking up to their little feet in your mouth.
- Relationships Redefined.
We all go through different stages of life. Sometimes our current stage matches up with the current stage of our loved ones. We tend to talk about our experiences in real time, so college students are talking about all things college. Conversely, most parents, I’m sure we can agree, are in a completely different stage of life, are talking about all things parenting. Maintaining good relationships require us to constantly nurture and attend to them. With that said, you must come to the realization that you may be too busy with your little ones to spend the time you use to maintaining relationships with some of your loved ones. The good news is that most people will be supportive of your need to transition into being an actively engaged parent.
I recall having so many questions about parenting while pregnant. I eventually found myself spending more time with expecting moms and veteran parents. It certainly wasn’t intentional but our stages just seemed to line up. After having my daughters, I found solace in having other sleep-deprived adults in my inner circle. They “got” my current life. With significantly less free time on my hands than in my pre-parent life, I found it counterproductive to spend time explaining why my life had changed so drastically.
What I had not anticipated was how quickly my relationship with my husband would change and ultimately need to be redefined. When you’ve developed a relationship with a significant other long before you decide to have children, you fall into a routine. You establish who does the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. You have your standing date nights and favorite places to frequent. Life is busy, yet manageable. Stepping into the first few months, some would argue years, of parenthood can be described as overwhelming at best.
It’s important to have ongoing conversations with your significant other about how you’ll adjust as a couple to your new routine. Once baby arrives, your chores at least double. Something has to give, as we all have the same 24 hours. In defense of parents to be everywhere, you don’t know what you don’t know. At the same time, having kids teaches you that plan all you want, parent life will throw a monkey wrench at you each and every time. You won’t be able to talk through everything but engage in dialogue and craft a loose plan around how you’ll continue to nurture your relationship, carve out me time as individuals and grow as a family unit simultaneously.
- Modesty. Just Throw it All Away.
Veteran parents everywhere are chuckling as they read this. We’re not laughing at you. Misery loves company so we’re tickled by your naivete. Long gone are the days of private time in the bathroom. While pregnant, I was completely obsessed with shows featuring pregnancy stories. What those tend it edit out is that the hospital room can feel more like a train station with the constant flow of people moving in and out of the room. When first admitted to the room, although in a hospital gown, mom-to-be is usually fully covered by blankets while waiting to dilate enough to begin pushing. Once it’s show time, all promises of modesty are off. Between the nurses, anesthesiologist and your selected support team are in position the room already seems full. Add in a team of neonatologists if your midwife or doctor suspects that the baby may need extra care in the first few moments after birth.
Immediately after a vaginal birth, the gynecologist or midwife focuses on helping mom deliver the afterbirth and repair any vaginal tearing that has occurred during the birthing process. At the same time, mom is likely experiencing a mix of emotions. Let’s rewind that. I promised you earlier that I wouldn’t sugar coat the reality and I just lied to you. I’m sorry. Mix is the wrong word. Blizzard is better. A blizzard of emotions because they all hit at once. Can you picture having your legs straddled, having your vagina sewn up while peering over as best you can to a team of doctors in yellow coats trying to make sure your baby, the one you’ve been carrying for almost ten months but haven’t fully seen yet, is breathing properly? I don’t care how conservative you were while watching someone else’s birthing story. At that moment, modesty will be the last thing on your mind.
The whole no modesty thing doesn’t end after giving birth. That’s just the beginning. I had the help of a lactation consultant while in the hospital so nursing was easy peasy. Since I’m telling it all, let’s not stop here. What is a lactation consultant you ask? Hospitals have professionals available to help nursing mothers with the breastfeeding process. I nursed each of my daughters for 15 months respectively. It is a process. Be prepared for a stranger to come into your room while you’re nursing and help you guide your baby to latch on to your breast.
Fast forward to when I got that little girl home by myself. It was time for her first at home feeding. Did you know that newborns eat about every two hours? I didn’t either. That was barely enough time to load her and her things into the car, drive home and get settled before she became impatient with my ignorance and started wailing. It was time for me to breastfeed her on my own. You want to talk about nervous? I thought I was doing everything I was taught by the lactation consultant but it wasn’t working. She wouldn’t latch on and I began to anxiously doubt myself as a new mom. There was a moment when she abruptly stopped crying, we locked eyes as if to say in unison, you don’t know what you’re doing either? And, we both began crying uncontrollably. Mind you that my breasts are now filled with milk and I’m still trying to put one in her mouth while it’s open. Thankfully, my friend, Catina who is a veteran mother of four came to visit at that very moment. To this day, I still believe her perfect timing was due more to her mother’s intuition than coincidence. She calmly came in, although she was unable to hold back a chuckle at the look of despair on my face, she guided me to properly hold my newborn in the football position with one hand and helped me properly place my breast in my baby’s mouth with the other hand. My baby gave me some serious side-eye and nursed away. Once you need help getting your baby to nurse or your breastfeeding baby pulls off your cover and exposes your boob while nursing, you too will throw all hope of modesty out of the window.
- Be Prepared for Constant Contact.
The final reality of parenthood that I think is too often sugarcoated is how much young children touch their parents. Let’s say the blanket disclaimer together, I love my children BUT…. They constantly touch you. No one ever told me that and I wish they did. Do you still sleep in on a lazy Sunday? Kiss those days goodbye. Your children will find a way to put at least one of their body parts on you at all times. It doesn’t matter if they are awake or asleep, someone will be touching you. If you have the nerve to try to use the bathroom alone, they will hunt you down, bang on the door and call your name over and over and over and over again.
You will feel like you’re losing your mind and you’re not alone. We’re all in the same boat. We’re insanely in love with our little ones and can’t imagine life without them. They love us too and their love is reciprocated in the form of constant contact. Do we occasionally envy adults who partake in lazy Sunday’s? Yes! Would we trade our touchy-feely parent life for anything in the world? No!
So, instead of telling you to sleep when the baby sleeps, I’m telling you to enjoy your impromptu brunches, lazy Sunday Funday’s and your quiet time in the bathroom before your bundle of joy arrives. It is true that, in theory, you would benefit from sleeping when your baby sleeps. You must prioritize what you will be able to accomplish in your free time, day by day. Childhood doesn’t last forever and either does the feeling of being an overwhelmed parent. Unapologetically steal moments for yourself that are reminiscent of pre-baby you. You may need to redefine how you view time, relationships and what was once ideal. However, life after baby is about balancing your new normal. Now that you really know what to expect… carpe diem.