I am a recently new auntie to a lovely baby girl. Like a lot of pregnancies, my sister had complications. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia two weeks before her original due date and they had to induce labor. As someone who has never heard of preeclampsia before, I had to google what that was and it really is some scary shit. I came back from Paris to meet my new niece and help out for a few weeks. The baby was born in a record time of 16 minutes (as I always say, there is a an upside to mostly everything), but had to spend a few days in the NICU. Once the baby came home, my sister was rushed and readmitted to the hospital with an infection she contracted while giving birth and was there for a week. Luckily both mom and baby are now healthy and enjoying some bonding time together.
What most people don’t know is that enjoying motherhood and bonding with your newborn child is complicated by the aftermath of giving birth. The one thing that my sister kept repeating as she hobbled to and from the bathroom is “Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about this stuff?” And although I have never been pregnant, I know it is true because I’ve heard countless friends talk about the things they go through during pregnancy or miscarriage, but you only hear about the “good stuff”. Saying that, no one really talked about what really happens until recently. After telling my friend the unabridged version of my sister’s experience she said to me, “Ab, I firmly believe pregnancy is designed to kill women.” Honestly before watching Ali Wong’s “Hard Knock Wife”, I thought that the baby just came out and your body went back to normal. As naïve as that sounds, that is what the conversation was limited to with people talking about how resilient a woman’s body was. We were led to believe that after the nine months of carrying our soon to be new human our body would pop back and things would go back to normal. Instagram and modern day media purports this belief with new moms posting smiling photos holding their new bundle of joy, as well as pillars of high society looking perfect hours after delivering their child. Now because of women finally speaking out about it, we all know it is not perfume and roses. And although the miracle of having a child is “so worth it”, as most moms will tell you, I think every expectant mom and parent should know what to really expect. This is what I have learned in a few weeks of being a new aunt.
YOUR BODY DOES NOT POP BACK
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Simply said, after the baby is out, the fun really begins. Your body going back to normal is a myth and this does not happen immediately and I’m not talking about losing the baby weight. In a nutshell, going to the bathroom is basically the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest and I am just talking about having to pee for the moment. Getting yourself to the bathroom is pretty much only half of the battle — my sister hobbling to the bathroom brought back memories of breaking my foot and being in an aircast. Luckily for me, the pain was limited to my broken foot and not everything below my waistline. Urinating is painful AF (It is most likely you will tear down there while giving birth and require stitches. If you are really unlucky, you will tear in your urethra — double ouch!) and you will need to spray yourself with a numbing agent afterward, which purpose is to kill the pain, but even the spraying part is painful.
Thought you wouldn’t have to wear a diaper again till your senior citizen ages? Well, you were wrong. You will be sporting the equivalent of an adult diaper which is a ginormous maxi pad held up by mesh panties since you will have heavy vaginal discharge, which is the equivalent to one massive postpartum period that lasts for a few weeks (if you are lucky). Another possible side effect to make matters even worse is developing a UTI, so stock up on the cranberry juice! As for the other thing you do in the bathroom, welcome to Dante’s 10th circle of hell. Choose your drug of choice — laxatives, a stool softener or prunes (if you are one of those organic folks). Just keep in mind that even when you do that you may still suffer from severe constipation and it can feel like trying to give birth all over again. Seriously, the gifts just keep on giving.
Pro-Tip: If a C-Section is an option for you, do it. There will still be healing and pain that will happen postpartum, but chances are it will be more manageable than natural childbirth. Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, so do what’s best for you and what is advised by your medical professional.
MY BOOBS ARE GETTING BIGGER — THEY HURT
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That is what you will be screaming when your boobs feel like they are about to explode. Whether or not you are breastfeeding, you will need to get the milk out of your body because if you don’t it will hurt like hell. Your body is primed to produce milk after birth so if you choose not to breastfeed you will still need to pump at least every two to three hours. You should definitely see a lactation specialist before leaving the hospital or have them come to your home. They will be able to help with the whole process and give you some best practices.
If you can and you choose to breastfeed, the only con I have seen is that the way the baby latches and sucks can be painful. If you have a low pain threshold and it is already painful during the newborn phase, you may want to consider formula since imagine doing this when your child has teeth. Ouch! Saying that, pumping is no walk in the park either. Again, you need to get the milk out so you will need to pump and dump unless selling your milk on the black market is in your house of cards. If you choose this route, make sure to invest in a good hospital grade breast pump machine. Operative words: hospital grade. My sister was using the mass market one referred to her by all her friends who went through this before but it was one of the most agonizing part of postpartum for her and for me to watch the pain she was in. After she received the hospital grade one she finally cracked a smile and a sigh of relief. I believer her words were “My boobs are soft again!” Yes, they are much pricier, but believe me this is going to be your saving grace and may save your sanity.
Pro-Tip: Your nipples will get chapped from all the pumping or breastfeeding so make sure to get a nipple cream that hydrates and protects.
Oh, and if you do breastfeed, lay off the alcohol or be prepared to pump and dump that precious breastmilk!
NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN
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Everyone tells you to enjoy your sleep before the baby comes and believe me truer words have never been spoken. You will basically be pulling an all nighter for the unforeseen future. A newborn baby will need to feed roughly about every three hours and depending on your baby’s sleeping behavior, which means you will be up feeding your new baby every three hours. Unluckily for my sister, her baby is also a night owl and sleeps through anything during the day and is up all night IN ADDITION to feeding times! And when I say she is up, I mean she is crying. After a few days back my sister was wishing she was back in Club Med (aka my term for her brief stint in the hospital). The swaddle method is an effective way to get them to sleep without you holding them. Another great way to help the little one self-sleep is a great bassinet and rocker, so they can rock themselves to sleep with their own movements. If your baby is always restless anytime you need a break to sleep, pump or just relax I find the high tech all-in-one solutions out in the market extremely effective.
Pro-Tip: Invest in a night nurse — it is a small investment with high returns. Whether or not you can afford a full-time nanny, one thing you should spring or save for is a night nurse. Believe me, it will take the edge off and make parenting and the morning after a little easier.
SHOWERING IS A MYTH
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Showering is one of my favorite things not only because it is cleansing, but also a great way to relax. For the longest time I never understood how some of my parent friends would skip a shower. For instance, one of my friends came to visit me in Paris and we were running late because her son was being overly energetic that morning. She says “Guess mommy doesn’t need to shower again today.” I obviously did not judge, but honestly didn’t understand how people didn’t have the time to shower. After experiencing life with a newborn, I totally get it. You literally don’t have the opportunity to do it some days, especially with a newborn because 1-they are so finicky and 2-you are literally trying to do a million different things (pumping, changing them, soothing them, breastfeeding or preparing formula, etc).
Pro-Tip: If you need your daily shower, schedule it for a time you know will be downtime for all. It may not be your normal schedule (i.e. — you may be a morning bather, but now have to do so at midnight) but you will need to adapt or forego showering on a daily basis.
NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS SKINNY FEELS
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You will be eating an average of one meal a day or eating later than usual. Make sure to stock up on healthy eats or have a VIP account with food delivery services as eating becomes a luxury. Being able to eat uninterrupted will probably not happen for awhile. If you are a person wondering what to get new to be parents, surprise deliveries from supermarkets, restaurants or Amazon will be much appreciated.
Super Pro-Tip: Wine IS a food group. Honestly, when you are dealing with no sleep and a crying baby, you’d be surprised how fast you metabolize it. I was telling my friend the other day “I always wondered how moms were able to drink wine while watching their kids. You really don’t even get a buzz and it just calms the nerves. I get it now.”
DOGS ARE A MOM’S BEST FRIEND
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I personally feel the need to write about this since I was worried for the dog. I know having a baby is a huge undertaking in several ways and know things change once you have a human child. I read so many articles about people giving up their pets after having a baby. First of all, if that is your first go to, you probably should not be having a baby. Yes, things change but it is NOT unmanageable. All you have to do is have enough love and patience to manage both. And think about it, in a few years, they will end up entertaining each other, which will be added relief in your daily schedule.
Pro-Tip: If you have a dog, you may want to encourage the barking while you are pregnant. The baby gets used to the noise while in utero and is not a problem after when they are born. My sister’s baby can sleep through any noise and the sound of the dog barking actually comforts her. At least it is pleasing to someone’s ears!
Having a child is challenging, but the more prepared you are, the more rewarding and easier it will be. It’s time that we open up the conversation and start sharing the truth so people can make better and more informed decisions.
And for my final pro-tip — Surround yourself with people that make you laugh because laughter is the best medicine and definitely makes everything better!