30 things no one tells you about being a first-time parent
Motherhood is one of the most wonderful clubs you will ever join, but like any good secret club, there are things you only learn once crossing over the threshold from pledge to fully-fledged member.
Well, we’re here to break down the barriers and give you a little warning on what life will be like when you’re holding your newborn, some things we wish someone had told us!
1. You leave your dignity at the door. Yep if you’re one of the lucky ones you might even experience a glimpse of this during pregnancy, but if not you definitely will during the birth. Whether you give birth naturally or via caesarean your body will become fodder for dozens of folk in that room (granted they’re medical professionals but still) as they monitor you and your baby. But the beauty of this is that it really helps you let go of any vanity and focus on getting that little babe out. It’s amazing how the experience can stay with you well beyond and help you stop sweating the small stuff – good for when you accidentally forget to put your boob away after breastfeeding when you’re out at a coffee shop.
2. Despite your best intentions and planning, you can never be fully prepared for the birth – as your baby will ultimately decide how he or she will arrive. So just relax, trust in the medical professionals you have chosen to have around you and let it happen. It doesn’t hurt to have a rough plan for things like pain relief but also don’t be afraid to change your mind on the day – childbirth is probably the hardest thing you will ever go through so don’t be ashamed to accept help.
3. You don’t need all the bells and whistles – nothing helps you put into perspective how ridiculous all that baby stuff you bought before they arrived and demanded be in their nursery was, like having the actual baby. Don’t stress over getting the nursery up to Instagram-standards, having all the fancy gadgets or having those 150 newborn outfits perfectly ironed because chances are you’ll grab the same old zip-up onesies day-in-day out because they’re quick and easy and you’re tired – and ain’t no one got time for press studs at 3am!
4. You will feel like your body does not belong to you anymore – you might have started to feel like this in pregnancy, but then with the birth and breastfeeding it can feel overwhelming and like you are just a vessel and a milk machine but it will get better and it will become yours again – we promise!
5. After birth pains are real and can take you by surprise – so accept pain relief if you need it and make sure your partner knows all about them too so they can help you with the baby.
6. You might think you don’t need those granny panties and big pads but forget your vanity and pack them – and the bigger the better! You will bleed heavily for at least a few days and it can last anywhere up to six weeks. You will also still recovering down there so it’s not the time to slip back into your sexy lace knickers, give your vagina some well-deserved time off and embrace the comfort for a little while at least.
7. Hair loss is one of the big things that takes new mums by surprise, probably because it doesn’t usually strike until a couple of months down the track when you least expect it. But all the extra hair you gained during the pregnancy falls out once your hormones go back to normal and you may find yourself standing in the shower holding clumps of hair or looking at the sink wondering if there’s a rodent stuck in there… It is completely normal and will stop eventually – but if you are concerned, it’s best to speak with your doctor.
8. You’ll probably pee when you laugh/cough/sneeze/run – or do anything now – which is why it’s so important to start doing your kegels during pregnancy! If you’re particularly concerned speak with your doctor or a physio about specific exercises you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor.
9. Doing that first poo after giving birth can feel even scarier than the birth itself – but try not to get too stressed out about it. The doctors and midwives will check in to see when you have your first bowel movement and give you medication if they feel that it’s needed.
10. Speaking of bodily fluids, between the poo, the bleeding and your milk coming in (baby’s poo and wee included) – you will never think or talk about bodily fluids more in your life and even cheering over them at times! ‘
11. Breastfeeding hurts like a motherf**ker and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. It’s also really tough emotionally, it can feel isolating, stressful, pressure, exhausting and that’s on top of the physical pain – you’ll never hate a word so much as ‘latch’. It’s beautiful once it “clicks” but it can be a tough road to get there, so go easy on yourself and hang in there.
12. You might not ‘bond’ with your baby immediately and that’s ok – sometimes it takes time despite what you see in movies or on Instagram, don’t think there’s something wrong with you, you have been through a marathon, give yourself time.
13. Your body will never be the same and that’s ok – wonderful even – you are a superhero now FYI.
14. A few days into it things can seem worse – but then it will get better, then about three months in the sleep deprivation really sets in and it seems like you’re in the pitts of hell. And then it gets better again. Parenting is all about ‘ups and downs’, so enjoy the ups and ride out the downs – think to yourself “this too shall pass” and arm yourself with the right information on your baby’s developmental needs (sleep, feeding, awake times) as this can help.
15. Cry if you feel like you want to cry. It’s ok to not feel like you have your shit together and sometimes a good cry is exactly what you need.
16. That said (and it’s probably only something you can say with hindsight) but enjoy those early days – soak in the endless cuddles, drink in their sweet newborn smell and don’t be annoyed at yourself for watching them sleep instead of doing the laundry. It doesn’t seem like it now but it really does go so quick and before you know it they will be running around, covered in mud and not want to cuddle you anymore!
17. Baby’s skin isn’t perfect like you think it’s going to be – they can be covered in vernix (the white protective layer from the womb) and hair when they come out and then pimples and blotches can start to appear. This is totally normal and usually clears up in time.
18. Their genitals might come out swollen – but don’t freak out, they will go down it’s just the hormones due to the birth.
19. You will google like you have never googled before. Try not too because it usually only freaks you out more – but we know you’re going to anyway.
20. You will come to appreciate the little things in life like never before – going to the grocery store on your own becomes a luxury.
21. You’ll yearn for your old carefree life – that’s ok and normal but don’t get held up on it, you’ll get (some) freedom back eventually – you’ll be in the trenches and think things will never get better and secretly think ‘what have I gotten myself into’, but it does and it will.
22. You’ll suddenly have so much appreciation for your parents (and guilt for everything you put them through) – sorry guys!
23. Your relationship with your partner will change. You will probably fight even if you’ve never been fighters before, it is tough and you are both sleep deprived and in uncharted waters, don’t hold onto things talk them out or let them go – one team one dream.
24. And also, don’t assume they can read your mind – if you need help with something or want them to pull their weight more – tell them! Don’t stew on it, it will only make you feel worse. Remember you are both just figuring this out as you go and they might need a little guidance.
25. Accept help! No matter how independent you are and want to be, it takes a village and you don’t understand the power of a simple gesture like unpacking the dishwasher or a home cooked meal – or a hot shower – until you become a mum.
26. Don’t pull away from your friends/family if you are struggling – your support network will help you get through, other mum friends know what you are going through and nothing breaks down the walls of friendship like bonding over the trials and tribulations of motherhood.
27. That said – don’t waste time with toxic people in your life who don’t add value. Your time is so precious now and make sure you are only spending it with people who lift you up and make you feel good when you see them.
28. The thought of having sex (let alone another child ever again) is the worst possible thought right now – but the body is an amazing thing and it will heal and you will enjoy sex and feel sexy again (the granny panties aren’t forever we promise!) and somehow the brain evolves to make you want to go through it all over again despite everything you know on the other side.
29. Motherhood is the most difficult, stressful and testing thing you will ever do but it also the most wonderful and amazing thing too – trust us, even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet! Just wait for the first smile, first giggle, first word, first steps – it doesn’t get much better than that!
30. And just remember when the going gets tough, you are doing an amazing job – hang in there mumma!