9 things I wish I'd known about having a baby
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
Ten weeks ago I gave birth to a happy, healthy baby girl. It was a planned pregnancy and my partner and I felt more than ready to begin the adventure that is parenthood. We are both in our early 30s, we have a mortgage, stable jobs and a high maintenance dog (our parenting practice run, if you will). The logical next step was to add a bouncing baby to the mix. Only I’ve now realised that it is virtually impossible to be ready to be a parent. Sure, you can stock up on dummies and cute onesies and prepare an insta-worthy nursery but nothing and no-one can prepare you for the highs, lows and overwhelming emotions that you experience throughout pregnancy and beyond. During this journey there has been one recurring thought that I just keep having: why did no one tell me about that?! Here are some of the things that I wish I’d been told before falling pregnant.
1. Morning sickness is all consuming, debilitating and constant - and it is not limited to just mornings!
I admit, I didn’t have it as bad as the likes of Kate Middleton who had to be admitted to hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum… but damn, it felt like I was suffering from the hangover of my nightmares for about four months straight. The smell of dishwashing liquid made me vomit, as did dry dog food and my new rose scented body wash. The only thing I wanted to eat was 2-minute noodles, which are now forever ruined for me. For me, the days spent feeling nauseous and exhausted from vomiting were comparable to the pain of the actual childbirth part. Luckily it all stopped at about 20 weeks and then I felt fabulous… for a couple of days.
2. You will regularly eat things that have been declared ‘unsafe’ by your doctor and be wracked with guilt.
One of the few things I craved during my pregnancy was yum cha. However, imagine my panic when, halfway through a delicious pork born, I looked down and noticed that the meat wasn’t cooked all the way through. Such events continued to happen for the whole nine months. I accidentally ate a vege burger full of alfalfa sprouts before realising my mistake. I ate most of an undercooked chicken wing. There was a bowl of laksa topped with bean sprouts, a runny egg at a cafe and many pre-made salads. Blame it on baby brain, but the meals were often half consumed before I remembered that pregnant people are basically not allowed to eat anything even remotely flavoursome.
3. The last few weeks of pregnancy will make you go insane, especially if you’re not a particularly patient person.
I’d always thought that I was a pretty patient person. It wasn’t until I was the size of a house feeling the constant burn of indigestion, wracked with anxiety about giving birth and over a week overdue that I realised patience is not always my strong suit. I tried everything to induce labour - eating chilli and dates, drinking raspberry leaf tea, yoga positions, long walks, sex, pregnancy massage, acupressure. She finally made an appearance ten days after my due date. All I can say is that they will come out on their own when they are good and ready.
4. Contractions do not feel like period pain.
Granted, I’m one of the lucky women who rarely experiences anything other than very, very mild period pain. But let me tell you, you can NOT compare period pain with the intensity of contractions. For me, all the contraction pain was in my lower back and it kind of radiated throughout my torso, leaving me breathless and on all fours each time. I’ve never felt that kind of ferocity in my body. I really became an animal during that time. But it’s definitely given me the greatest level of respect for all mums. Us women are strong humans!
5. You will probably forget nearly everything you’d planned for the birth once you’re in labour.
In the lead up to my delivery I’d been listening to calm birth podcasts, practising deep breathing techniques and visualisation and preparing the essential oils and Bach Rescue Remedy lollies that I thought would get me through the birth. I was definitely not opposed to having an epidural, but I was hoping to at least give a natural birth a try. Once I got to the hospital, I didn’t end up inhaling even one sniff of essential oil. Instead, I was calling out for the epidural within seconds of my arrival. All I wanted was to make it through the contractions and for the pain to be done with. Childbirth is such an instinctual, animalistic process that you really aren’t thinking rationally about any of those techniques or considering your pre-thought-out birth plan. At least, I wasn’t. Respect to the strong women who get through childbirth without pain relief. Wow, you are insanely brave.
6. You will fall so much more in love with your partner after he or she supports you through the birth and recovery.
This was such an unexpected feeling. I’d watched so many movies depicting a birth where the mother is screaming profanities and threats at her cowering husband, like, “You did this to me! You’re never touching me again!”. In my case, all I could think was how lucky I was to have him there getting me through it all. He really was my rock during the whole thing. He shielded me from panic when things took a scary turn, he cleaned me up when I was covered in blood (and other bodily excretions), he fed me sips of water when my mouth was dry, he whispered words of encouragement and positivity when I thought I couldn’t handle anymore. I’d never been more grateful to have him.
7. The first few weeks of motherhood could really drive you insane.
I think it was the combination of hormones, the residual pain of the birth, the lack of sleep and this sudden new sense of responsibility, but starting about a week after my daughter was born, all the previously felt adrenaline seemed to drain from my body and I was left feeling empty, anxious and exhausted. I cried at the drop of a hat and I didn’t feel like myself anymore. Nights were the worst - every evening I’d start to panic in anticipation of a long, dark stretch of time of the couch, where my daughter would be on a feeding frenzy and refusing to sleep. There was many a night where I found myself sobbing to my husband, worried that I wouldn’t be able to be the mum that my baby needed me to be. Luckily, for me and everyone around me, I started to feel normal again after a couple of weeks.
8. You will regularly feel like the worst Mum in the world.
I’m pretty sure that guilt is one of the worst feelings you can experience and unfortunately, being a Mum means feeling it very, very often. I am constantly worrying that something I have done has or will damage my daughter in some way (physically or emotionally). When she cries because she’s hungry I feel like the worst human on earth - how could I possibly let her get that hungry?! I should be able to anticipate when she will want to eat before she cries! What if she starves?! Of course, I realise these feelings are irrational and she is relatively unlikely to suffer from abandonment issues because I occasionally have to put her down in the baby swing so I can use the toilet, but motherhood has a way of making you abandon all sense of rationality.
9. You won’t necessarily fall instantly in love with your new baby - bonding can take time.
When the midwives first handed me my daughter, all I felt was relief that the stress of childbirth was over and we had both gotten through it alive. I was running completely on adrenaline, having not slept or eaten in a long time. My mood at that point can only be described as manic. When I looked at my baby, she felt like a stranger to me. I felt a new sense of responsibility towards her but I wouldn’t describe it as a feeling of love. It took me a solid couple of weeks of bonding to really experience that all-consuming, crazy tenderness that I’d heard parents speak about. Ten weeks on, I can honestly say that there is no other feeling in the world that even comes close to the pure love I have for her. I can understand why so many parents sacrifice everything about their lives for their kids, as I feel like I’d happily do anything in the world to make sure she grows up healthy, safe and cared for. When she smiles at me, my heart absolutely melts. I go to bed impatient for the next morning so I can cuddle her more. Motherhood so far has been the most amazing adventure I’ve ever entered into.
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