Birth, breastfeeding, lack of sleep and adjusting to your new role as parents is HARD.
As someone that’s been part of the birth world since I was 18 I’ve seen a lot. I wouldn’t say I’ve been desensitized, because I care about you too much BUT I can be guilty of forgetting just how surprising it is to start this new little life of yours.
Even the most prepared, well read and consistently organized families come across things during birth and postpartum that they never expected and therefore never prepared for.
What makes me sad as someone that’s committed to helping you is how alone and isolated some new parents feel.
So I sat down and I thought about how we can make this better. I go in and out of homes every week reassuring people that the same things are normal and that other families all over the world are going through the same thing.
I guess when you’re exhausted and starting to lose it, it might be a little frustrating to hear that from me ‘the professional’ who slept all night and is only going to be with you for 2 hours.
So I thought I’d reach out to some moms I’ve worked with over the years and that are now part of my awesome Instagram posse to see if they’d like to share their experiences in their own words.
So here are 12 mum’s & mom’s who were kind enough to share, in their own words what was hard or surprising to them.
1. Expect a lot of opinions….
“The thing I was most surprised about is how much push back we received on different parenting choices. I didn’t anticipate having to defend or justify our choices so often, or to so many different people. I have always said to listen to your gut, rather than the never ending advice you’ll get, but I wasn’t prepared for the “battle” that seemed never ending. We made, what we think, were the best choices for our son at the time, and would do it all again-but this time we are armed ready with the research, and the certainty and confidence of those choices.”
Emilie – San Diego, CA
2. When you need help, get help, it makes a difference
“Your body needs to heal and rest so say yes to all the help you can get. If you’re not used to handling newborns (which I was not… at all… never had I ever before), you should ask your nurses/midwives/lactation consultants for advice. I was terrified I’d break my newborn until the lactation consultant showed me a thing or two and gave me confidence to trust my instincts.”
Anne – Washington DC
3. “Mom Brain” is real!!!
“I’d like parents to know that having a baby means you forget about anything and everything that doesn’t concern the baby!
I always thought “mom brain” was an excuse but I’ve come to realize that if it doesn’t directly concern the mom part of my brain (as in concerns the baby or kids) then it’s not on my radar. Answering texts, phone calls and emails takes significantly longer now. I constantly lose my keys. I’ve forgotten my own shoes (but remembered the kids’) on multiple occasions. I don’t ever remember where I set my phone down.
The list can go on and on but to be honest I can’t remember the rest of it because… mom brain.”
Celena – San Marcos, CA
4. They want to breastfeed, ALL THE TIME.
“I really wish I had known how big a newborn’s stomach is. I spent so much time wondering if they were getting enough, since they’d be constantly nursing. If I had better education on typical newborn nursing habits, I think I would have felt more prepared and relaxed about it, which would only have had a positive impact in those first few days.”
Ariel – San Diego, CA
5. Say goodbye to sleep and fancy underwear
“There’s so much advice I WISH I had listened to.
Firstly the physical recovery, my vagina and my boobs don’t feel like mine anymore. Then when people said ‘you will never sleep again’ were 100% correct… I hadn’t prepared for that. Also why don’t people talk about granny panties more?
They are now go to (thongs = what thongs?).
Most importantly advice aside, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish I had done this years ago, being a mum is amazing and he is one of the greatest loves of my life.”
Carley – Brisbane, Australia
6. Recovering with stitches is tough!
“Something that surprised me about postpartum recovery was how much easier those first few weeks are when you don’t tear. I had a minor 2nd degree internal tear with my first baby but it made recovery so difficult…much more difficult than I expected. I was not very mobile until about 8 weeks and had to use the peri bottle for 3 months! With my second baby I had no tearing and recovery was a breeze.”
Melanie – San Diego, CA
7. Blood, so much blood.
“There is so much blood after the birth. EVEN IF YOU HAVE A CESAREAN. I thought it was like suctioned out or something. But no! It lasted 6 weeks for me.”
Jasmin – San Diego, CA
8 Trust yourself because this process in unpredictable!
“My first birth was traumatic, not because there was major blood loss or things that went wrong, but because my baby had turned breech in the last 24hrs prior to our induction and now I was having a C Section. I knew a CSec was a birthing option but in my mind I had mentally prepared to give birth naturally. 14 hrs after being admitted for an induction Sienna was born in the theater room. I struggled, I couldn’t hold her as they passed me her in theater, I had her in a football grasp and passed her off, as I was too preoccupied with my OB trying to stitch me up, I was so drugged up in recovery I don’t remember meeting her. I felt like I couldn’t connect with her in those first few days of being in the world and today that makes me sad.
Pregnant with our 2nd child, childbirth scared me even more the next time around. I knew VBAC was an option but I didn’t want to get to 8 cm dilated and be told I needed another c-section and feel like I failed again. So I chose to have an elective section even though the first was medically documented as being the same but this time I was in control. I mentally prepared for it. Focusing on my breathing, what I did and didn’t want to happen in theater and how I would meet and hold my new baby. This was my healing birth.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt right from birth and dealing with babies is that they are totally unpredictable but you have to believe in yourself and that you are strong enough to handle whatever they throw at you because you get thrown different shit every day and sometimes going with the flow is better than against the grain!! The first time you deal with a situation you have no idea but the second time the situation presents itself you do understand better and can take back that bit of control.”
Emma – Brisbane Australia
9. Be prepared to feed the big kid and the little kid!
“My first had weaned herself off the boob whilst being pregnant with our second but once Paityn came along she was back on, there are only 18 months between my girls!! I remember the first time I had to feed both of them at the same time… I was with my husband, thank the Lord, and we were in a train station car park and they both wanted some milk!! So here I was sitting in the front seat of the car, with very little room, trying to feed them both. It was a weird yet amazing experience!!”
Emma – Brisbane Australia
10. Tongue ties happen and I wish I’d known that sooner!
“I wish I knew about tongue ties. I took a breastfeeding class and in retrospect I cannot believe that they didn’t even mention tongue ties. My son was tied, and we were lucky to get him a revision at 6 days, but that was still more than enough time to cause nipple trauma, slow weight gain, and extreme stress with the hospital not offering tie revisions and pressing us to give formula. I also had an idea in my head that if he had any formula at all he would refuse the breast. After the revision we got back on track and were exclusively breastfeeding by week 3. I wish I had known to ask about tie revisions, and how the hospital addresses babies born with ties that affect breastfeeding.”
Christie – San Diego
11. Be ready for anything, things can change
“Before and while being pregnant I had a plan of what I wanted my birth to look like and what I wanted and didn’t want. While having a plan is great, I now know that sometimes your plan needs to be flexible in order to deliver a healthy baby. We took the Bradley method class, finished it and by 38 weeks found out our daughter was breech and I had to have a c-section.
Completely different than wanting a non-medicated vaginal birth. Not only was I scheduled for a c-section but she decided to come a day earlier than scheduled. Be ready for anything and be willing to let go of your plan if necessary.”
Nora – San Diego
12. This experience is Truly empowering
“What was unexpected about birth for me was just how empowering it is. I know you read that everywhere and people say it, but it’s really true. When the baby is placed in your arms and all of the emotions course through your body, it’s exhilarating and difficult to explain. As for breastfeeding – I did not expect it to have difficulties. I expected it to be beautiful and inspirational like the books and pictures say. I didn’t expect to need so much nipple cream, SO many breast pads for leakage And to eventually need the support of a lactation consultant. It became beautiful and inspirational, but not without support first!!”
Amy – Oceanside, CA
The above are open and honest experiences from people just like you.
Some of you might relate! Those of you about to become parents… expect the unexpected.
Everybody struggles with different things.
Most people will agree this can be an surprisingly difficult but amazing journey.
So support each other where you can, get professional help when it’s needed and get ready for anything!
If you enjoyed reading this and/or found it useful, let me know! Better yet share it and let your friends know.
If you have a personal story you’d like to share I’d love to chat. Real moms helping real moms makes a big difference. Follow us on Instagram @birthnow and let me know what you have to say!
If you’re local to San Diego and need help, book now.
My name is Marie I’m a midwife (CPM) and board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) living in Phoenix, Arizona! You can read more about me here. If you’re a new mom, soon to be new mom or know someone who could benefit from some friendly help or advice please see my services or send them my article about getting the most out of your lactation consultant!