I’d done quite a lot of research about babies and how to care for them whilst I was pregnant, and felt quite prepared for the transition (sometimes).
However, there’s a few things that I wish people had told me the truth about, and not sugar coated so I knew what to expect, rather than being faced with difficult situations that I didn’t know how to handle.
Especially when it came to how I would feel, physically and emotionally. It’s almost as though people forgot to tell me how to look after myself, as well as the baby!
And just before you start reading, I’ll warn you now that there may be a little bit of TMI dotted around in here …
Here’s my top ten things I wish I knew before I had a baby:
1. The birth you’ve dreamed about may not go as you planned.
You’re told to write a birth plan about what you would like to happen during the birth of your baby, which seems like a good idea. However in my experience, I think it’s a waste of time.
I wrote in my birth plan that I wanted to move around freely, have gas and air and pethidine, and didn’t want an epidural.
I’d thought for a considerable amount of time about having a water birth, but wasn’t really sure if that’s what I wanted. It sounded amazing though!
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan, and what happened was the opposite of what I’d written in my birth plan! Which brings me on to my next point …
2. Labour pains KILL!
I was always told that contractions ‘hurt’, or ‘You’ll know when you’re having a contraction’. For days, I was wasn’t sure whether or not I was having contractions or Braxton Hicks. They were hurting, and I didn’t know if it was the early onset of labour or not.
Turns out, when people say ‘You’ll know’, they’re right, but they didn’t exactly tell you how.
My waters started leaking two days before the birth, and broke before labour started. There was also meconium in my waters (baby’s first poo).
Because of these two factors, Esme’s heart beat had to be monitored constantly rather than intermittently, and I was unable to move around freely.
I was also given a hormone drip to bring on the contractions, which I was told, brings on stronger contractions in the early stages.
I’ve never felt pain like it before, and probably never will again unless we have another baby. There was nothing I could do except scream my way through the contractions, which were absolutely excruciating.
I ended up screaming for an epidural with tears streaming down my face (which I was embarrassed about – why couldn’t I be the ‘strong independent woman’ I thought I was), and could barely sit up to swing my legs over the bed to have the needle placed in my back.
I remember one of the midwives coming in after I’d asked for an epidural, who said: “It says in her birth plan she doesn’t want one.”
To which I replied: “I WANT AN EPIDURAL NOW!”
3. Your belly won’t go back straight away.
I always thought that my belly would go down pretty quickly and I would soon be back with a normal belly, but maybe just a little bit fatter.
I was sad to see that I still looked pregnant after Esme was born. And I felt strange. It felt as though my empty, swollen belly was filled with air, and that if you pushed down on me, I’d deflate through my belly button like a balloon.
It takes a long time to get back to normal, and even ten months on, I still occasionally wear sucky-in pants, as I call them.
Others may refer to them as Bridget Jones underwear.
4. Your waters don’t stop leaking.
I thought that when your waters broke, there would just be one gush and that would be it.
Hell, was I wrong!? My waters broke at 2am, and I swear I heard it pop, as well as felt it.
It reminded me of when you pop a crisp packet, crossed between an elastic band snapping.
It wasn’t long after they broke that we left for the hospital.
Now, ladies will know from our time of the month what it’s like when we stand up having been sitting down for a long time.
Try that, times 100.
Having been sat in a car for 45 minutes while we drove for the hospital, I thought I was done with the whole waters breaking malarkey.
However, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I was saturated with what felt like the Niagra Falls running down my legs, with my jeans stained a yellow-green colour thanks to the meconium.
I’d brought a giant hoodie with me to wrap around my waist to hide it, but considering the constant leakage and being soaked from my thighs down to my socks, I didn’t bother and decided to instead leave a trail behind me like Hansel and Grettel.
Once lying on the bed I would later give birth on, a massive square sanitary towel type thing was placed under me to catch the waters, which had to be changed constantly.
5. You will be sore.
I didn’t realise at all how much you would hurt afterwards. Having been numbed by an epidural, my first wee wasn’t so bad.
But Jesus. Once it wore off, going for a wee took me around half an hour. I would try to numb myself with an ice cold flannel first, and then try to go for a wee. I would have to stop and start all the time, because it would feel like acid was being poured all over me, burning my skin.
After you give birth, the midwives ask if you’ve ’emptied your bowels’. Now, I have to admit, I was bloody worried about that bit, and it was three days before I plucked up the courage.
I was afraid to drive for fear of being too sore, and when I sat down, I would have to lean to the side and balance on my hip.
Otherwise, it would feel like I was being stabbed by tiny shards of glass, everywhere.
Just a little tip for mums to be: Don’t feel around after, and certainly, DO NOT get a mirror.
6. Breastfeeding is HARD!
You’re always told that breast is best, and it’s the most natural thing you can do, which is correct.
But just because it’s ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it will come naturally. Esme was tongue tied when she was born, which we didn’t find out until she was a day old.
Because of this, she couldn’t latch and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I tried my hardest to breast feed, but it really wasn’t working for me.
Admittedly, I gave up a bit too soon, and a part of me wonders whether I would have been alright with it had I stuck with it.
In the end, I opted for the bottle, and I felt much more reassured that she was getting what she needed.
I also didn’t feel comfortable either. I felt silly, and I couldn’t imagine myself breastfeeding in public, or enjoying it at all.
I just thought to myself, surely it’s better feeling relaxed when you’re trying to feed your baby? So I went with what I felt most comfortable with.
7. Your milk doesn’t come in straight away.
For some reason, I thought that once you have your baby, your milk comes in and your baby will have a great big meal from your boobies.
But for me, my colostrum, which I had to hand pump for Esme, was hardly there at all, and it was around five or six days before my milk came in, by which time Esme was established on the bottle.
Now, I could have pumped breast milk, and I’m not entirely sure as to why I didn’t. But I remember feeling better about feeding Esme, because she was doing really well with formula, and I was happy with her progress.
8. Your boobs become solid rocks
Once I’d decided I wasn’t going to breast feed, I just let my milk supply go.
But oh my God, did it hurt or what!? I had the best looking breasts in the universe: I felt ike Wonder Woman. But they were like solid rock, unmoving.
I couldn’t wear a bra for the pain, and just brushing the side of them hurt so much, that one day I cried.
It didn’t take that long for it to go, but I remember resorting to Google and asking how long it normally takes for the pain to go.
9. You will cope with the sleepless nights better than you think
I always dreaded the thought of having to get up numerous times in the night. But I’d already got used to it, having not had a good night’s sleep in months thanks to aching hips that kept me awake, weird dreams that startled me, and a baby kicking me in my bladder.
I don’t know how I managed it, and I can’t imagine doing it now, but it was like my body went into autopilot, and getting up in the night was easy.
Exhausting – terribly exhausting. But there was never a moment were I was sleeping so solidly from exhaustion that I didn’t hear Esme cry, which is something I worried about.
10. It’s okay to not be okay.
As I’ve said in a recent blog post, parenting is hard, and although you might think you’re prepared, the transition might catch you by surprise.
It’s okay to feel like things are all a bit much, and to struggle. But know that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
There will be bad days, and there will be good. And there will be days where you feel so happy that you could burst. Parenting is a fantastic experience, even if we do put ourselves through hell! Just remember to look after yourselves, as well as your little ones.
It’s easy to forget about yourself when all you can think about is your little bundle of joy!