Monday, July 28, 2014

Things I wish I'd known before I had a child



I'm a little swamped at the moment by new babies and pregnant ladies and people asking when we're going to have another. To be honest, I'm still recovering from the first one, and I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to do it again. Pregnancy was relatively easy and enjoyable for me, despite my pelvis falling apart on me around the 25 week mark, some crazy intense night-time leg cramps and an aversion to salad. I'm not sure how well I'd handle doing it all again, though, with a toddler in tow. How would I cope not being able to lever myself down onto the couch and zonk out with an episode of Time Team after work? I looked forward to that couch time all day. 

In the spirit of all these babies and fertilised eggs and questions about number baby two, I'm looking back and offering up a list of all the things I wish I'd known about having kids before I committed to parenthood myself. Because being forewarned and forearmed might have made it all just that little bit easier.

Nothing is quite what you expect. Pretty much everything you read about signs, symptoms and labour will be slightly or completely different for you. My baby's first movements didn't feel like bubbles popping; I didn't feel a single braxton hicks; giving up my underwire bras was not a joyous moment.

Things can start leaking months before birth. And by things I mean just about everything that can, may.

There are more options for a baby's head/body position than just posterior and anterior. I should, of course, have realised this given I was supposedly born arm first. Dear Boy's not-so-little head was sideways. Awkward much.

There are no prizes for giving birth one way or another. Although I think this is usually said by women who've dealt with an intervention of some kind, the women who do it sans drugs or intervention don't have a clubhouse or secret society.

The aftermath of birth is beyond anything you imagined. The leaking fluids, the discomfort, the hormones, the fear of the first poo, the proportions of the maternity pads, the gratitude when a widwife offers you an icepack (or even a finger snapped off a medical glove filled with frozen water).

Labour and birth is the easy part (relatively speaking). I'd rather go through labour once a month for a year than live through the first three months of Dear Boy's life again. The rawness and turmoil of that time have left scars I don't think will ever fade. I wish I'd focused more on preparing for breastfeeding and coping in the first few months than I did on the birth. For months and months I prepared my mind and body for one marathon day of labouring. I didn't prepare it to keep running after that. 

Not breastfeeding is just as hard as breastfeeding. Pulling the pin on breastfeeding is both emotionally and physically painful. It still hurts.

Breastmilk is awesome but, ultimately, a happy, less stressed or coping mother is more important for a baby's wellbeing. Babies can thrive on formula; mothers can't thrive on pain, stress and anxiety. I wish I'd been brave enough to let go of it sooner rather than punishing myself as much as I did for my failure.

Babies don't need stuff. Love, adequate coverage and nutrition - the rest is all for your benefit, not theirs. Buying stuff won't solve most baby issues, although in your sleep-deprived haze you'll try just about anything to settle or soothe them. 

Nothing is a problem until it becomes a problem. Rock your baby to sleep; give them a dummy; co-sleep; sleep separately... it's all fine, until the baby becomes so heavy you can't rock it anymore; or they lose the dummy 20 times during the night and need your help to find it. If you're prepared to pay the piper, parent in whatever way you need to to survive and thrive. 

Each phase is the hardest and the best. In hindsight, I look back at the first few weeks of Dear Boy's life and wonder what the hell I was complaining about. He slept almost constantly, awake for only 15 minutes at a time before he conked again. At the time, it felt like a hellish fog of the unknown. In hindsight, we were incredibly lucky.

Just when you get a handle on this baby gig, it changes. They're finally sleeping well and then you get hit with a classic sleep regression; they're feeding great and then they go on a hunger strike; their favourite song sends them into hysterics; they poo with great regularity and then don't... for almost two weeks.

Forewarned is not always forearmed. Okay I lied. I don't actually think knowing any of these things would have made it any easier. Knowing all of it probably wouldn't have stopped me from barreling on in anyway - somethings you really don't know something until you experience it yourself. The big question is - does the experience stop you from doing it again?

What do you wish you'd known before you had kids? Did you go into parenthood blind or did you study up? 

5 comments :

  1. omg yes amen to ALL of the above. I wish I had known just how much kids eat - I would have stockpiled ;) xx

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    1. I waiting for Dear Boy to start eating us out of house and home. He's never been a big eater (which was part of the problem, really). I remember my teenage brothers moving through the kitchen like a plague of locusts - might have to start buying tinned goods for those teen years :)

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  2. I was unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster - each day that my husband left the house to go to work, I imagined him dying in a flaming car wreck and subsequently not getting to watch our baby grow up. I cried every day of the first couple of months.

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    1. Solidarity, sister. I cried every day for so long it was a shock when one day I realised it was bed time and I hadn't cried. It so easily becomes the new normal. Hormones really do a number on new mums. Big love xx

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  3. Yes, yes, yes! I was crazy unprepared for any of it really, still am, and my daughter is nearly 4 ;)

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