There’s a pretty good amount of fear that comes along with a first pregnancy, no matter who you are or how calm you usually are about major life changes. For a Grade-A Worrier such as myself, that fear (of the unknown, of the what-if’s, of the crap that people scared me about) was something I wrestled with at times throughout my pregnancy. Now that I’m here and have almost two months of parenting under my belt I can see exactly what a colossal waste of time all that worrying was. (Hindsight, yo.) But in my defense, I just really didn’t know at the time. And when you have so many sources telling you to basically just brace yourself for the storm that is childbirth and newborn parenting, it’s easy to get scared. That’s why I decided to write this…for anyone who might be scared right now and anyone who might be scared in the future. My main theme: whatever you’re worrying about will probably not be anywhere near as bad as you’re imagining it to be, and – in fact – will probably pleasantly surprise you. So here we go. Things I wish I had known when I was pregnant…
#1. Giving birth to your first baby won’t necessarily be a long and terribly painful experience. I was all ready to be in blinding, horrifying pain for like 30 hours straight and fully expected to be begging for the epidural the second we reached the hospital. This was because of the countless horrible, scary things I had heard/seen/read about childbirth (especially concerning your first time with labor). Well guess what. You are stronger than you think and God can totally surprise you. Your body is capable of so much more than you realize and it’s actually (*gasp!*) designed to do this. Yes it hurts and yes it might take longer than you want it to, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Your mindset is your biggest tool with which to battle the pain. If you go in determined to have the kind of birth you want (particularly those who want to do it completely naturally like I did), the pain won’t be the thing to stop you (obviously some things are outside your control, but pain is totally manageable). Plus, labor is just exciting! You get to meet your baby at the end and you know the end is coming soon. No one told me how excited I’d feel, even during the hardest parts.
#2. Your body will be different after giving birth but you won’t care nearly as much about it as you thought you would. Seriously. You won’t. I spent so much time freaking out about what I would do to lose the baby weight, get rid of stretch marks, fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, etc. etc. And yeah, some things about your body will be different but you’ll be so surprised by how much you literally don’t even care once you have your baby. You know what I care about now? Making sure my son is healthy and safe and taken care of. The amount of time I spend thinking about my appearance is drastically less than it ever has been in my life (which is actually an enormous blessing that I’m so thankful to God for). And actually, you’ll be surprised by how resilient your body is. Most things really do go right back to normal within a matter of weeks.
#3. Your relationship with your husband will change, but it’ll be better. Whaaaat?? Are you kidding me? No, it’s true. I can’t even tell you how many times I was warned (while I was pregnant) to enjoy the time I had with my husband while I still could because we’d never have time for each other after the baby. That, my friends, is a load of garbage. Alex works full-time and goes to school online full-time and we still have no problem making time for each other. Yes, Jameson is always with us too but that makes it better, not worse like so many people make it seem. No one told me that we’d have all these inside jokes about our son and crack ourselves up about them all the time. No one told me that I’d fall more in love with my husband as I watched him fall in love with my baby and that this new love would be so much deeper and richer than the way it was before. No one told me that I wouldn’t want to be apart from Jameson and that Alex wouldn’t either…that we’d be happiest when we were all together. If you don’t have a baby yet, absolutely enjoy this season of your lives together. But don’t be afraid that you’ll have to “give it up” because really, it feels like you’re gaining so much more. (You are.)
#4. You won’t be anywhere near as sleep-deprived as everyone seems to think you will be. This was something I was dreading about the newborn phase because, once again, I was warned countless times to “enjoy sleep while I can” since those late night wake-up calls were apparently going to ruin everything good about sleep. Not true. Not every newborn is a crappy sleeper. Jameson was giving us three hour stretches from the very beginning and would wake up 2-3 times a night to eat for ten minutes and go right back to sleep on his own. Totally manageable. I understand that it’s not that way for everyone but I was made to believe that I would basically be a zombie during the day because my baby would be keeping me up for hours and hours at night. It just wasn’t true and I was worried for nothing. Plus, I’ve never minded waking up to care for him. Even his little cries don’t bother me at all. I actually love that he still needs me so much…someday he won’t. And for the days where it is harder than usual (because sometimes it is)… coffee. Problem solved.
#5. Breastfeeding is probably going to be hard (and quite possibly painful) at first and then it’s going to get ten million times better. Just hang in there. I knew that it might be tricky at first (after all, it’s a brand new skill that you and your baby both have to learn) but I think I was kind of hoping I’d be the exception. Well I wasn’t. It hurt really bad at the beginning because I didn’t know how to position Jameson very well and he didn’t know how to latch on very well. But then all of the sudden, it was SO MUCH BETTER and I felt like a new woman! I was so excited every time he wanted to eat because I was just so proud of us for figuring it out. The bonding is amazing and then when you go to the pediatrician for that first check-up and you see all the weight your baby has gained entirely because of you, there is no greater pride. Seriously, if you just go in expecting that it’s going to take practice but determined to stick it out, it’s really one of the best parts about motherhood.
#6. You will know what to do. Maybe not at first, though, and that can be so frustrating. Having a baby flips everything about your world upside down. Suddenly you meet this new person who is completely dependent on you and you really have no idea how to help them at first because you literally just met them. There’s a lot of trial and error at the beginning and you’re probably going to guess wrong a few times before you figure out your baby’s cues (example: the first night we had Jameson home he was crying and crying and I kept trying to feed him when all he really wanted was to be snuggled up to sleep. I could have saved us both a whole lot of tears if I had just been calm and patiently tried other things. But, like I said, I had barely met him and I just didn’t know). You’ll quickly pick up on things (you probably won’t even realize how much you’re learning so fast) and then it’s really easy.
#7. You won’t miss the way it was before. This is something I think every parent-to-be worries about at times (I definitely did). Having a baby absolutely changes every last thing about your life…physically, mentally, emotionally, everything. But you won’t ever wish it could go back to how it was before. I think back to what things were like before I had Jameson and I don’t even remember who I was. Now I know that God designed me to be Jameson’s mommy all along and that this is who I’m supposed to be. I am exactly the kind of mother he needs, and the things I thought were important before seem so insignificant now. I actually feel sorry for the old me because I didn’t know him yet. You won’t miss your “old life” one little bit because your new life will be filled with more love and surprises and reward than you can even imagine.