1. I’m tough. Recovery won’t be that bad.
Even though I ended up having an emergency C-section, I was convinced that once I got home from the hospital, that I would feel much better. I couldn’t wait to be home where I didn’t have nurses bustling into my room at all hours of the night, and I couldn’t wait to sleep in my own bed.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bounce back as quickly as I’d hoped. After 24 hours of labor, my surgery had been difficult, taking almost twice as long as usual. Recovery was much rougher than I expected. I had to take it easy around the house, which meant trying to stay off my feet and being careful going up and down the stairs. I couldn’t get in and out of bed easily, so my husband and I ended up spending the first couple nights on the couch. I couldn’t get up off of the couch without help, either. The pain medication I was given definitely helped, but with the pain reduced, I felt okay enough to try to do stuff – a load of laundry, the dishes, etc. – and almost always ended up overdoing it. The only thing I felt like I could do to help out without overexerting myself was nurse the baby. It was extremely frustrating to have everyone reminding me to take it easy and rest – how in the world are you supposed to rest with a newborn?
2. It will take forever to lose the baby weight.
While I was breastfeeding in the hospital, I noticed that I would have terrible cramps, like having contractions all over again. I remembered reading about how that is the body’s natural way of helping the uterus start shrinking back to its normal size. What I didn’t know about was the nurses’ attempts to help your uterus start shrinking back to its normal size. They said they would “massage” my belly, which sounds pleasant, right? Wrong again. It hurt like crazy! It was almost just as bad as any contractions I felt while I was in labor!
On the bright side, the breastfeeding and belly massages really worked. I watched my stomach shrink back down to normal in about a week. I didn’t expect my body to return to normal so quickly. To my amazement, my belly got smaller and smaller every day. A friend of mine had warned me towards the end of my pregnancy not to get on the scale right after giving birth because the weight loss wouldn’t be as great as I hoped it would. After watching my belly disappear before my eyes, I couldn’t help myself and stepped on the scale anyway. In a week, I’d already lost about 20 of the 25 pounds I’d gained during my pregnancy! Did this mean I was ready to jump right back into my pre-pregnancy clothes? Not hardly. Elastic waistbands became my new BFFs.
3. Breastfeeding will be a piece of cake, and I’ll do it for months!
Our son nursed like a champ from the get-go, but after a few weeks, however, my son started to have a difficult time nursing. There were times when he would nurse for twenty minutes or more, and then there were times where he would nurse for only a few. When he nursed, he would start grunting and shaking his head around and spitting up. He seemed to be incredibly gassy and inconsolable for hours at a time.
Late one night, after trying gas relief drops and gripe water for a few days without success, I looked through the cabinet at a bunch of formula samples that a friend had given me just in case. One of the cans of formula was for gassiness and fussiness. We figured we’d give it a shot. After a bottle or two of formula, it was like having a new baby. A happier, calmer baby.
At first, I struggled emotionally with quitting breastfeeding; like I said, it had been the one thing I felt like I could do while I recovered. I had planned on doing it for awhile. Other moms made it look effortless, and here I was, giving up on it after just four weeks. But seeing how happy our son was, I knew it was the right choice for us.
4. If we can’t figure it out, I can just look it up somewhere!
While I was pregnant, I bought any books, subscribed to any websites, and downloaded any app that I thought would help us be prepared for baby. I highlighted so many passages and marked so many pages with Post-It’s that it looked like I was cramming for a Baby 101 exam. I would research baby stuff on my iPhone during 2 a.m. nursing sessions. Even though I had all these weapons in my mama arsenal, I found myself second-guessing every decision I had to make. Is he too warm or is he too cold? Should I feed him three ounces or four? Is there something wrong, or is this just a growth spurt? Books and web pages can give you suggestions, but they can’t really tell you what to do with your baby. Eventually, you have to just go with your gut.
5. I can’t wait for the baby to sleep through the night!
While I was pregnant, I started reading about sleep training and filing away tips for helping baby sleep through the night. My husband and I were in agreement that as soon as we could, we’d get the baby settled into a routine and have him sleeping as long as possible through the night. But the first night our son slept longer than normal (and missed a feeding!) I was a wreck. Around the time of his first growth spurt, our son had a terrible evening where he was wide awake and fussy as soon as he finished nursing. Since we were unable to console him, my husband took him downstairs so that I could get some rest, figuring that at least one of us should sleep. However, it was impossible to sleep as I watched the time on the clock tick by, waiting for the baby’s next feeding time and hoping that he would calm down. I eventually drifted off, and it wasn’t until my husband came back upstairs with the baby that I realized it had been several hours. I was alarmed, thinking that something must be terribly wrong with the baby, but I guess all of that fussing just really wore him out. He nursed and was just fine. For awhile, any time the baby slept longer than three or four hours at night, would panic a little, hoping that everything is okay.
6. I’ll be so tired that I’ll have no trouble sleeping.
Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps, which sounds like a great idea, but it’s easier said than done. During the day, I wanted to get housework done and catch up with friends. At night, I definitely wanted to sleep, but instead, I would lie awake, watching the clock and waiting for the baby to cry out to let us know that it was feeding time. I would listen for the familiar sounds – his grunts and his feet kicking against the bottom of the bassinet – but I think most of the time, I was just imagining them. I didn’t start sleeping better until just recently. I guess it just took some getting used to the fact that the baby was just fine, and that if he got hungry, he would let us know.
7. My brand new little baby will fit in all of those brand new little baby clothes.
Baby clothing sizes are worse than women’s clothing sizes. I had been cautioned not to buy too many newborn clothes because babies typically grew out of them so quickly. And, just like people said, our little eight-pounder came home from the hospital in a 0-3 month outfit. He wore a lot of 0-3 month side snap shirts the first couple weeks while we waited for his umbilical cord stump to fall off. When we finally started putting him in onesies, we found that he didn’t fit in any of the 0-3 month ones that we had. So I washed all of the 3 month onesies and that’s what he’s been wearing. Now, at eight weeks old, he’s starting to outgrow those, and is already wearing some 3-6 month stuff. What’s really crazy is that he’s not a chubby, roly-poly baby. He’s only in the 57th percentile for weight!
8. We’ll have all kinds of time during the day to do stuff!
I had this crazy idea that while the baby was napping, I’d have all this time to get stuff done. I envisioned keeping a (mostly) clean house, cooking dinner, curling up with some good books, and watching all of the movies that I DVRed in preparation for being home all summer. Somehow, none of that has really happened. I’m lucky if I have time to take a shower and shave my legs. Okay, I did manage to watch all of the new season of Orange is the New Black, but that’s about it.
9. We won’t get peed or pooped on.
My husband and I were warned repeatedly that with a boy, we’d have to be careful changing diapers lest our little boy spray us. We scoffed at the notion of buying a silly pee-pee tee-pee and swore that we would always remember to cover the baby up with a washcloth or a wipe when we changed his diapers. Let’s just say, you don’t always remember things like that in the middle of the night, and then you find yourself wiping pee off the wall at 3 a.m.
10. We are totally prepared for whatever comes our way.
We did everything we could to get ready for the baby. We finished decorating the nursery. We laundered all the baby clothes. We stockpiled diapers. We got the car seat installed and inspected. We filled the freezer with pre-made meals. We wrote our birth plan and had our bags by the door, ready to go.
But nothing could prepare me for hearing my baby’s first bellowing cry as he entered the world. Nothing could prepare me for the profound joy I felt the first time I held him in my arms. And nothing could prepare me for the burst of love I felt as I watched my husband hold our son. Every day, I am awestruck by the little human being that we created – and there is nothing in the world that could have prepared me for that.