I’d also love to hear from the other parents who might be reading. What is something you wish you would’ve known before your little one arrived? I’m considering rounding up your comments in a follow-up blog post, so please share away!
What I Wish I Knew Before My Baby Was Born
- Stock Up On Self Care Items
Bless my mom and my sister for assembling a basket of self care items for me because if it weren’t for them, I would’ve arrived home from the hospital in dire need of some essentials to make myself feel clean and comfortable(ish). I was so wrapped up in having everything I needed for my baby boy that I didn’t even think about what I might need for myself after birth.
My self care essentials: Tucks Witch Hazel Pads, Perineal Irrigation Bottle, Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray, Extra Heavy Pads
I actually had two of everything so I had a little basket of these essentials ready for me both in our master bathroom and in our downstairs bathroom. I highly recommend duplicates if you live in a house with two stories!
(Note: I had a vaginal delivery but would absolutely encourage expectant mothers to research self-care items they might need after a c-section as well, as you never know what will happen when it’s time for your baby to make their debut!)
- Your Baby Will Smile At You For The First Time Right When You Need It Most
For the first few weeks of a newborn’s life, all they seem to do is eat, sleep and cry. When they are awake you feel like your only job is to love on them and do anything possible to keep them from crying but the only feedback you get from your baby is them NOT crying. I guess you could say a baby not crying is positive feedback but it sure feels pretty darn neutral. When you’re singing, rocking, making silly faces and doing everything you can to make your baby happy and the best you get is Stone Cold Baby Face, it can be a little rough.
And then, one day, right when you need it most, your baby will smile at you. And that smile will let you know you are doing just fine.
- The Joy Is In The Moments Not The Milestones
Before I gave birth, I noticed that a lot of things new parents highlight in conversations about their babies centered around baby milestones. “Charlie is officially crawling!” “Sophie sat up all by herself today!” I assumed these moments were where the biggest amount of joy came for a parent but I was very wrong. My biggest joys have come in in the quiet of the night when Chase is cuddled close to me as he nurses after a long day. They’ve come during the craziness of everyday life when Chase lets out a loud pterodactyl squeal that makes me laugh which sets off his big gummy baby smile. Joy comes when we watch Chase kick his legs as fast as he can the minute we strip him down before bath time because being naked, in Chase’s mind, is the best. The joy bubbles up when Chase stares at Sadie, absolutely transfixed on our magical dog creature.
While there is absolutely joy in the big milestones, the greater joy for me has been in the seemingly small moments of simply spending time with my baby and watching him grow, change and observe new things every day.
A bunch of you guys recommended this app to me after Chase was born and it truly helped me feel 10,000x better many, many times. If Chase was particularly cranky, I would check the app (and still do reference it regularly!) and it would almost always tell me we were in the middle of a new developmental leap. After reading this, I felt like I could exhale again, knowing this fussy period would likely pass soon and we were in the middle of something many parents had been through before me. I also love the way the app provides ideas for ways to stimulate your baby in line with their current developmental phase.
I actually bought The Wonder Weeks book and reference it on occasion as well, but the app is so darn handy!
- Buy Nursing Clothes Ahead Of Time
Before Chase arrived, I think I had maybe one or two nursing tops and bras. Well, once my milk came in and I had a baby in my arms 24/7, clothes and bras got dirty really fast. And when breastmilk gets on your clothes, it smells! Thank goodness for Amazon Prime and Target! I immediately added a few more nursing items to my wardrobe so I didn’t feel like a hot mess walking around in baby spit up and soggy breastmilk-soaked tank tops all the time.
My nursing favorites (purchased thanks to your recommendations!): Gilligan & O’Malley Nursing Tank (I honestly have at least four or five of these now! I LIVED in them for a solid three months.), Gilligan & O’Malley Seamless Nursing Bra, Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra
I also loved button-up pajamas for the first week or two (or three…) when I wore pajamas all day long. The button up tops worked really well and I lived in this super-soft Shimera night shirt.
Now I’m in the phase where I just love big v-neck t-shirts because they allow me to keep the sleeves of my shirt on but pull the shirt up and over my neck when I’m at home and want to easily feed Chase without living in nursing/button-up clothing. (<—I feel like I’m not explaining that well, but hopefully other nursing mamas know what I mean!) I now have my favorite Victoria’s Secret Essential V-neck T-shirt in five colors (yes, that’s kind of embarrassing…) and think it’s great! I bought it two sizes up when I was pregnant to accommodate my bump but after Chase was born I bought the same larger size because I love the looser fit and lightweight feel of the shirt. It’s my favorite nursing shirt that works well both as casual daytime attire and pajamas.
- Know That What Works For One Mom Might Not Work For You (And That’s Okay!)
Read the above statement a few times. Now read it again and commit it to memory. It can be so, so easy to feel like a big fat failure when you read parenting books or hear from other parents who have had great success implementing certain strategies related to everything from sleep and play to nap times and feeding. Just because one mom had a great experience with a certain parenting method does not mean you will and if you don’t, that doesn’t make you or your baby a failure.
When Chase was a few months old, I legitimately turned to Ryan in the middle of the night after we tried our best to follow a certain sleep strategy to encourage Chase to sleep longer stretches at night and said, “I think our baby is broken,” as Chase was screaming and I was reading some horrible statistic about how basically everyone else who followed this strategy had babies sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. Not my baby! And that’s okay. We got there eventually when we – and he! – were ready.
Different things work for different babies and parents and that’s great! It can just be difficult to remember this when you feel like you’ve tried every strategy under the sun on your baby without any success. Sometimes there is no strategy and just going with the flow and responding to what you think your baby needs is the best route.
- Buy Clothes According To The Size You (Or Your Partner) Were As a Baby
Ryan and I were both small babies (Ryan was only 6 pounds) but I didn’t really think about this ahead of time. I heard a ton of people talk about how they never used any of their newborn clothes, so I had a lot of 0-3 month clothes on hand for Chase after he was born. Well, our little 5 pound 10 ounce bundle of joy was swimming in these clothes and had it not been for a few hand-me-down newborn onesies my friend Caitlin gave me from her son Henry, Chase would’ve been naked until Amazon Prime delivered a bunch of newborn clothes to our house. Consider your size and your partner’s size as a baby when buying clothes for your little one before their arrival!
- You May Feel Ragey When Someone Asks If You Think Your Baby Might Be Hungry
In the beginning, it felt like I was feeding Chase around the clock. He ate all the time and I fed him all the time, so whenever Ryan would innocently ask me if I thought Chase might be hungry when he was fussing, I felt an incredible rage course through my body. As his only food source, I was clearly the only one who could feed him and asking me whether I thought the child I was feeding constantly was hungry made me want to throw a thousand things in the direction of the person questioning Chase’s hunger, as innocent and caring as the questions may have been at the time.
- Ignore Facebook Baby Brags
Oh the Facebook baby brags! These killed me! When I was in the middle of a horrible sleep patch with Chase, I remember reading a friend’s Facebook post that talked about her “amazing little sleeper” who was sleeping through the night at only eight weeks old. Chase was four months old and nowhere close to achieving this milestone. I thought I might slam my phone into a wall while tears of sleepless exhaustion rolled down my face.
I wasn’t upset at my friend for sharing this – as a mom believe me I KNOW how amazing it feels when your baby actually does sleep through the night for the first time and it really does feel share-worthy – but when you see a share like this on Facebook, remember there are a million other moms out there in your boat… And when it doubt, remember the above quote. Everyone is struggling with something.
- The First Few MONTHS May Be Tough
People talk about the challenges that come with the first six weeks of life with a new baby. I read about the hardships new moms may face centering around fluctuating hormones and adjusting to life with a newborn. I feel lucky because I honestly felt pretty great for the first three weeks of Chase’s life and am convinced I was existing on adrenaline and my mom’s incredible help… And then Chase “woke up.” There’s a huge difference between feeding a baby who will go back to sleep in the middle of the night and a baby who eats and then wants to be up for hours at 2 a.m.
I was faced with the kind of exhaustion that brings you to tears. I kept waiting to feel less exhausted but that never really happened. It just kind of became my new normal and somehow included moments of the most intense joy and love I’ve ever felt as I held my little boy. I was surprised by just how little sleep I could exist on, though I was definitely suffering from “Mommy Brain” daily and doing crazy things like putting full cups of coffee away in the kitchen cabinet.
It took some time, but around six months, everything seemed to change for the better. We started to hit our stride. Chase started napping and sleeping better. Breastfeeding was no longer the battle it was when the distracted phase of eating hit at four months. Patterns started to emerge and I began to feel more and more like myself. Oh sleep, I missed you so much!
Some people hit their stride with their little one earlier, some people later. But I think it’s helpful to know that if you’re struggling with a baby who is no longer a tiny newborn, you are NOT alone. Not at all!
- Bladder Control Is A Joke
You guys, I did my kegels. I swear. But something changes after a baby is born that I’m convinced even the best kegeler cannot avoid. First, one thing I did not know is that an epidural can effect bladder control after birth for a few days. This is probably major oversharing, but I literally could not stand up and walk to the bathroom without peeing myself for a couple of days. I freaked out and kept asking the amazing nurses at the hospital about this and they assured me it was likely due to my epidural and I would begin to regain control of my bladder soon. They were right, but it’s kind of terrifying to have absolutely NO control of your bladder for 48 hours!
Now, eight months postpartum, my bladder control is back but it’s definitely not what it once was and I still wear active pads to the gym on days when I know we’ll be jumping a lot as a precaution! (FYI, Tena active ultra thin pads work well! And Knix Wear makes underwear specifically designed for active women who experience light bladder leaks. The underwear features a built in leak proof and absorbent liner moisture wicking and anti-odor technologies.)
- Even If You’ve Never Been A Baby Person, You Will Love YOUR Baby
I have never been a baby person. I think babies are cute and all that but I never really had the desire to hold someone else’s baby (even really good friends’ babies!) and I let this thought marinate in my head a little too much when I was pregnant. I had a good amount of anxiety about whether or not I would really feel that all-consuming motherly love you read about when my baby was born… But OH MY GOSH I felt it. And it grows leaps and bounds every single day.
The love I have for Chase is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s overwhelming in the best possible way. My son is everything to me and I truly feel like the words “I love you” don’t even begin to capture the way I feel about him. He is my world and my love for him is unconditional and all-consuming.
Question of the Day
- For the parents: What is one thing you wish you would’ve known before you had a little one in your life?
I laughed really hard when I read your section on how you would get ‘ragey’ when someone asked if Chase was hungry. My little Wyatt is now 12 days old and I want to kill anyone who asks me, “Do you think he is hungry?” I am glad I am not the only one :)!!
Hi Julie! I’ve loved watching Chase grow up through your blog 🙂
My husband and I just announced that we are expecting (our first) baby via video on YouTube and it’s silly, goofy and colorful… I instantly thought of you. Ha!
We spent a lot of time on it so having people enjoy it is half the fun!
So exciting! Congratulations!!
Please let me clarify something as an anesthesiologist who places labor epidurals- they DO NOT affect your ability to urinate once they are removed (which is usually ~2 hours postpartum). The bladder incontinence experienced is NOT due to your epidural once it is removed ( that medicine is gone VERY QUICKLY after the epidural is stopped-even before the catheter removal) – it is most likely the effect of nerves that were stretched in the process of labor.
Sorry! Just wanted to clarify as the nurses and OB teams are not the ones managing the epidurals and often various things get waived off as a side effect of the epidural when in reality, birth is a very traumatic (although natural) process.
Two things I realized after the birth of my first boy, and have only continued to think after my second:
– I understand how my mother feels about me. I don’t think you can truly comprehend the overwhelming feelings of love and protectiveness a mother has for her child until you have one. Now that I have two sons, I would do anything for them. I think about how I hope they aren’t teased in school, that they become happy little boys and adults, and that they find love of their own one day. I talked to a friend of mine who has teenage kids about how hard it must be to watch your child struggle socially or on the sports field or in the classroom as they reach junior high and high school, and she said, “It will happen. And you will cry.” I never fully realized how much our own parents want for us until I had my own. It makes me appreciate my mom in a way I never did before.
– I read something on the internet before the birth of my first that said, “you are about to meet true love.” So true. There is something so all encompassing about the love you feel for your children. It makes all the hard parts so worth it.
That my level of “tired” before having a baby was laughable. I had done more than my share of all nighters in college, but nothing can prepare for the level of chronic sleep deprivation. I guess I can’t say that I wish I would have know that though, lol. And now, if I get a solid 5 hours, it’s like a miracle.
And ugh, I can hear my mother now saying “that baby’s hungry”. Whenever my daughter makes the slightest complaint, Grammie automatically assumes she is starving. No, she’s bored, or teething, or mad that you put her diaper on too tight. Basically anything besides her being hungry because she at 30 minutes ago. lol. The rage is real.
Janet Pole says
What a lovely post. The coffee cup thing made me laugh as I did that yesterday and my baby is a grownass woman.
The Bladder Control thing IS a joke! Especially if you’ve had 2-10lb babies. I ended up finding out I had a prolapsed bladder and needed surgery and now I can hold my pee until the cows come home. But seriously….before? I couldn’t go anywhere without wearing some serious heavy flow pads.