Several of my friends recently had babies, which got me reminiscing. I remember the new mom excitement and anticipation I felt. The nine months it took me to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting was paying off as I was at the final chapter. We attended the birthing classes, received advice from friends, and I was beyond done being pregnant. I think that is why we are pregnant for nine months. At that point, you don’t care how much it is going to hurt… you just want that baby out of your belly and into your arms. I was feeling ready. I quickly learned that there are some things they don’t tell you about having a baby.
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I had my first child in my 30’s, and I thought I was prepared. More mature than I was in my 20’s, I had been both an infant/toddler teacher and a part-time nanny. I prepared myself to be the best stinking mom ever; pretty much a professional mom at this point! And then reality hit. Being a mom is much different than watching someone else’s child. And the things that come with childbirth are pretty exciting (and by exciting, I mean not exciting at all). Here are things I wish I knew about having a baby, the things they don’t tell you.
1. They Don’t Tell You That You’re Not Done Once The Baby Comes Out
Okay, maybe they did tell me, but I definitely wasn’t ready for it.
My babies were both born only after a couple of pushes, and I had two pretty short labors. Both were born naturally because I have scoliosis, and the doctor wasn’t sure if I could get an epidural, so I am grateful that my labor was quick. However, nobody prepared me for the contractions that came AFTER I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE!!! Come on; I did the work, now give me some orange juice (which I craved my entire pregnancy but couldn’t have due to gestational diabetes), and let’s celebrate this beautiful life.
Next comes the afterbirth. You still need to deliver the placenta. Once you deliver the placenta, the nurse continues to push on your stomach to get any blood clots out make sure your uterus is contracting. That hurts like the dickens. (I don’t know what the dickens is, but it was the worst description my grandma used, so it’s definitely bad) And then there are more contractions and I’ll tell you that those contractions after the baby came out were legit!
Maybe it’s because there is no payoff since the baby was already here or because I wasn’t expecting it, but they were the worst! I thought I was done with the breathing, for Pete’s sake! The situation was made worse for me when my baby was rushed out of the room. My husband went with him while I was left in the room, still feeling like I was in labor. That sucked.
2. Nobody tells you that tons of different people see and touch all of your parts
This sounds a little silly, but I’ve never had so many strangers looking at all the places I usually try hard to cover up. I had my doctor and numerous nurses constantly checking all of my “parts.” Former Carrie was pretty self-conscious, but after the first few, I didn’t even care anymore. They are medical professionals doing their job.
Oh… hey there, my new male nurse who just started your shift, do you want to check my vagina?… Have at it!
What is one more stranger squeezing my boob like a hamburger so my baby would latch on?
Okay… so I was still a little bit uncomfortable, but I have no shame anymore after that experience. Clearly…
3. Nobody tells you that you will wear pads that are larger than you ever dreamed
After giving birth, you continue to bleed. This is not a normal period level blood; this is king size. They provide you with monster pads that wrap practically from your belly button to the middle of your back at the hospital. They are HUGE! The biggest, most uncomfortable overnight pads I have ever seen… but they are necessary. You might want to get some more comfortable pads for when you go home, but they will need to be pretty large for the first few days!
Oh… and it’s not just the pads. You will be given a handy little water bottle that looks like it is for condiments for a ballpark hot dog. Perineal Bottle is the technical name, I guess. Going to the bathroom is quite the event after delivering a baby vaginally. During a vaginal delivery, you might tear and/or wind up with stitches. Peeing stings like crazy. So they give you this magical little bottle that you fill with warm water. Squirt it on yourself while you urinate to lessen the sting. It’s actually quite magical.
You can also use it to clean your nether regions after you go to the bathroom. It’s basically a portable bidet. Just pat yourself dry with toilet paper after, but be warned… that stuff might hurt like crazy. Your lady parts have just been through some serious trauma. I’ve heard of people using a hairdryer to dry off down there, but I went with more of the “wave my hand back and forth at my crotch there like a lunatic” method. The “worst-case scenario” girl in me imagines that I would accidentally electrocute myself with the hairdryer and then if I survive, would have to explain it to the ER doctor. How embarrassing! I don’t want that for me.
Now that I think about it… why am I not still using my little portable bidet? Why are we all not using these? It’s probably more sanitary than just using toilet paper.
4. They don’t tell you that you go home still looking pregnant
One of the worst things they don’t tell you is that you might come home from the hospital still looking six months pregnant. I have known women who bounce back quickly, but that was NOT me. Don’t be so quick to give away the maternity clothes. Part of it may have been that I was in my 30’s and my body wasn’t so springy, but it took a while to get back to my pre-baby belly even though I weighed less after he was born than when I got pregnant. I had gestational diabetes and was very careful with my diet. I lost weight during pregnancy… still, my belly looked pregnant.
The truth is I never really got my belly back. My youngest baby is 12, and I currently look six months pregnant, but I am in my 40’s and eat way too many cookies. Watch for my “Quit Eating Crap All Day” diet coming soon. Also… cardigans are my best friend!
5. Nobody tells you that your baby might not sleep and you might not sleep either… ever again.
The first week, I was on adrenaline. My first baby had to stay in the hospital because of an infection. I would come and nurse him every couple of hours. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in the hospital the entire time. They kicked me out after a couple of days, so I would drive back and forth at night for feedings. We spent as much time as we could there, but I needed a little bit of sleep. Luckily we lived close by.
Upon arriving at home, my first thought was always that you are not supposed to go home without your baby. It was devastating and felt wrong. The good news is that the nurses took terrific care of him, and he quickly fell into an eat, wake, sleep routine.
Before we even brought him home from the hospital, I knew pretty well when he would need to eat. My first baby was always very scheduled and a great sleeper…even if it was only a few hours at first. My second baby didn’t follow that pattern at all.
After the first, I was ready to advise on how to sleep train your baby. I had it down. It was sinchy. You simply put him on a schedule. You are the mom. Train him how to do it.
6. Nobody tells you that your second baby might be the exact opposite of the first!
I had finally started to get this baby thing down! And then came baby number 2… He was a whole different story. None of those tricks that I used with the first one worked! The first baby would fuss for a few minutes and then fall to sleep by himself. Not the second one…That kid would cry for hours if I didn’t soothe him to sleep. My heart couldn’t take it. I thought I had figured this out, but it turns out that all kids don’t fit the mold.
My second baby didn’t follow the rules!
My first baby would stay in his bed until I permitted him to get up… until he was in preschool. He responded well to rules and structure… not number two! Number two was crawling out of his crib before he could walk! The two boys couldn’t be more different, so I had to figure out new ways to help them learn.
A video monitor would have saved me a million trips to check on the baby in the night. I was constantly worried. If they were sleeping soundly, I was constantly afraid that they weren’t breathing and would get up and check every hour.
Consequently, I do sleep now that my kids are teenagers, but my son still doesn’t… and I still check on them in the night.
7. Nobody tells you that you really can call your pediatrician when you have questions… so many questions.
When they released my first baby from the hospital, I remember walking to the car with him in his car seat, thinking, “They just send us off? Is someone coming with me to show me what to do?” I was terrified to bring this beautiful, new baby boy home from the hospital.
All the new decisions I made were stressful. I had no idea if I was doing things right and spent way too much time googling things. I pretty much never showered and cried for no reason at all. Hormones mixed with sleep deprivation is a bad combo. As the adrenaline wore off, I realized that this is nothing like being a nanny.
I wish I would have utilized my pediatrician more. I spent too much time on Google, and that never ended well. You can find ridiculous amounts of scary information online. Then I would finally, in desperation, call my son’s doctor.
It turns out that pediatricians know stuff, and they actually know your baby. They also talk to lots of first time moms who are just as freaked out as you. I’d rather be the mom who calls all the time than the mom who is in a panic because the internet told me my son has some rare disease. Call the doctor!
8. Nobody tells you that you might pee your pants if you go to a trampoline park for your kid’s 4th birthday.
The peeing thing was (and still is) really difficult for me. Doing Kegels, like the books said to do, did not fix this. I mean… I don’t just randomly pee my pants, but if my bladder is full and I have a big sneeze coming… look out. You will definitely see me cross my legs.
When I’m participating in a gym class, you will not see me with a jump rope. I learned this one the hard way. I was part of a boot camp with several of my girlfriends, and the trainer was like a brother to me… so he didn’t let me get away with anything.
We were doing some cardio with the jump rope, and I started full-on peeing my pants. Not like a little drip here and there, we’re talking full stream with every bounce. I couldn’t stop, or he would yell at me (as any good trainer would). So I just started screaming.
“I’m peeing my pants! Like, full on peeing my pants! Can I please go to the bathroom?”
I’m pretty sure he just rolled his eyes and pointed toward the restroom.
Now, I am always prepared with a pad when I do any cardio, just in case. Always makes some thin ones that will help you not smell like urine if you have a little accident. However, I would not recommend eating asparagus anytime before a bouncy activity. You will thank me later… trust me!
If peeing your pants is more than on trampolines and while jumping rope, talk to your doctor. Some things can be done. If you’d like to learn a little more, This article from Very Well Family explains Postpartum Incontinence Causes and Treatment.
9. They don’t tell you that you might get peed on
The pee was a shock to me. I was prepared for the projectile spit-up… which my kids both excelled at, but I was not ready for the pee that would shoot up at my face the second I took the diaper off. That thing shoots far… it’s like a tiny hose. I can still remember the smile on his face every time my son would do it!
I became a pro at the “unhook the diaper, cover the pee-pee” move. Then I discovered that they make a Pee-pee Teepee that keeps that urine contained. You stick the teepee right on top of the pee-pee, and no more urine squirts in your face! It’s fabulous! They have tons of different characters on them. I like the sock monkey design myself.
I have boys, but I have changed girls’ diapers and had urine go all over the table. The magical teepee doesn’t work as well for them… If you have any tips for girls, let me know in the comments.
10. Nobody tells you that baby stage feels like an eternity but is gone in a flash!
Many people talk about the baby stage as if it is magical… and for some, I believe that it really is for them. In contrast, for me, it was exhausting and overwhelming. I adored my babies, but I sucked at the baby and toddler stage. After they turned four, things just went much more smoothly. I felt guilty about not loving the infant stage, and I often felt like a failure.
The good news is that even though this phase feels like an eternity, it really will be gone in a flash. Now I miss the smell of my babies lying on my chest. I miss their sweet, soft little faces against mine, and I even miss the feel of their little diapered bottoms. My fourteen-year-old doesn’t appreciate it when I try to force him to snuggle up like a baby in the rocking chair with me anymore. Those days are long gone.
11. Nobody tells you that it’s okay not to cherish EVERY moment
I remember all of the grandmas telling me to cherish every moment because it goes by so fast… but it didn’t feel fast at all. Some things about being a new mom are just really stinking hard! I did not cherish every moment, and I don’t regret it.
On the other hand, the amount of love that I feel for these small humans is hard to explain. While I didn’t soak in every moment of motherhood, I will forever be grateful for the blessing of being these sweet (and sometimes crazy) boys’ mom.
The poopy diapers, sleepless nights, pee shot at me, and tantrums over the green cup instead of the blue have all become fond memories as my boys have entered the teenage years. It has been an honor to guide them, worry about them, and help them become functioning adults who will hopefully change the world one day. I’m just now starting to see the fruit of my labor! The most important thing they don’t tell you about having a baby is that all the hard stuff is worth it.