I have a number of friends and family members fast approaching the birth of their first child - in one case, children (twin nephews for me!) - and have been looking back a lot on those last days of my first pregnancy and first months with Nolan. Not in a nostalgic, awwww I miss having a baby sort of way. More in the, what do I wish someone had told me before I went in to give birth sort of way.
So having thought on in quite a bit, I have decided to put together my highly opinionated Concise List of Things You Should Know Prior to Giving Birth. I believe this will put the What to Expect people out of business. Ok, probably not, but here it is anyway.
1. Birth plans are more like guidelines. There's a whole lot of talk about birth plans these days. You're supposed to write down how you want everything to go when you show up to pop that kid out. You know, so the doctors won't give you an epidural, episiotomy, or shot of vodka against your wishes. This is all built on the premise that you are in any way running the show when you give birth. You are not. You will never, ever run the show again. That little person you are about to give birth to is promoted to CEO pretty much from the first contraction. I'm not saying you shouldn't have a birth plan, just be prepared to toss it out the window at a moment's notice. A whole lot of stuff can go wrong and the plan will change on the fly. So just don't get too attached to it. Remember that getting the baby here safe and sound is the real birth plan, and the rest is peripheral.
2. Your doctor has nothing to do with it. The L&D nurses are, second only to the baby, running the show. They will be the ones getting you through labor and most of the delivery process. The doctor will show up at the last minute, catch the baby and leave an invoice on the way out 2 minutes later. Seriously, no one told me this. Of course, some of you may have birth plans in which your husband, midwife, or fairy godmother catches the baby. Refer to #1.
3. They are going to let you take that baby home. No, really. Just like that. They're going to trust you with a newborn. Now on the surface I knew this. But the reality of going home with this helpless little person who is totally unable to communicate and is totally dependent on you, you who are in this mess because of the jello shots 9 months ago and are now being trusted to keep a baby alive, is different. Seriously, just think about it for a minute.
4. Your baby will not sleep. Oh, I know, everyone has a tale of a perfect baby who sleeps through the night right away. But the vast majority of babies are not like this. They have no concept of night and do not care that you don't find 4 am an appropriate time to be up for the day. Oh yes, you're all thinking you already know babies don't sleep. But you really don't get it. You will be up every single night, usually several times a night, for a very, very long time. You will learn the real meaning of the word tired. I emphasize this because while people will joke about it, new moms are rarely told just how much this really sucks. It really, really sucks. Really. Sucks.
5. Breastfeeding is hard, and it hurts. You are probably looking forward to that sweet moment when you feed your beautiful newborn for the first time by that wonderful natural process of nursing. Now, let me be clear that I am a major proponent of breastfeeding. You absolutely positively should breastfeed your baby if you can. The medical evidence is very clear on this. What is not made clear is that although it is natural, it is not easy. Your boobs will feel like coconuts when they get engorged and any sort of movement will hurt like hell. Your baby will need to figure out how to latch on and will do this inappropriately and incredibly painfully until he or she gets it right. Your nipples will get irritated. You will leak at random inappropriate times. You will feel like a dairy cow. Oh, it will be worth it, but it might be an uphill battle. Get a good lactation consultant and be ready. And if it doesn't work out, don't punish yourself.
6. Men do not hear babies crying. This is a scientific fact. There is something wrong with their ears that blocks out this sound. You believe that you and he will be equal partners in the night waking nightmare, but unless you kick him hard, he won't hear the baby. He will wake up refreshed in the morning and say to you "Wow, the baby slept all night, huh?" You will want to punch him.
7. You will wonder what you were thinking. It's hard to believe now, as you anxiously await this little miracle, that you could doubt whether or not it was a good idea. But at some point, when you are covered in baby spit-up, haven't slept or showered in days and have just been peed on for the fifth time that day, you will think to yourself "I can't do this. What on earth was I thinking?" Don't feel guilty for thinking this. It doesn't mean you don't love your baby, just that you are beyond tired and nobody told you how insanely hard it was going to be. Nobody but me, that is. You're welcome.
8. You will do things you said you never would. Remember that birth plan? You probably have something far more elaborate for the actual raising of the baby. All kinds of ideas about what you will and won't do. You'll never let the baby cry. You'll never use a pacifier. You'll never use disposable diapers. You'll never fall asleep while holding the baby, you'll never fall asleep without the baby, you'll keep the baby in your room, you'll keep the baby in the nursery. You'll never take the baby to the bar. Ok, maybe that last one you won't do. But I promise you there is something you will do that you never thought you would. And that's ok...let it go. Your baby will be fine. Seriously. I promise. Well, do be careful on the falling asleep holding the baby, but if it happens, don't freak out. The best laid plans of moms and dads are shattered in the face of the sleep deprivation and general confusion of parenting. Learn as you go and let the "rules" slide when necessary.
9. Your sex life is over. Ok, not totally over, but it will never be what it was. First of all, it takes a while for the nethers to get back to normal, and it will probably hurt at first making you want to do it even less than you already did. You will feel disgusting, you will be exhausted, and you will be leaking milk. Your husband or partner's advances will annoy you. And on the rare occasions when you do get in the mood, the baby will immediately wake up and start crying. This will go on for a long time.
10. You will survive. There will be moments when you are absolutely sure you will not survive. But you will. And one day, you will listen to a pregnant mom expecting her first child gush about how wonderful it will be, and you will chuckle. You will try to warn her. She won't listen. Direct her to this blog.
Good luck ladies. Go forth and lactate.