Having a baby is a unique experience for each and every family! We all have different expectations, and your reality is just your baby’s and yours.
When I was expecting my baby, everything was so new and exciting! There was a completely new life ahead of me – a life I had previously only dreamed of (usually the fairytale kind of dreams)! I knew it is going to be hard work but I was pretty sure I was prepared. I read every book that was ever written on the subject, from What to Expect When You Are Expecting to Where to send your child to college (I just made the latest up, but you get the point). I have spent my entire life around children. I have more younger siblings than you can count on one hand, AND I am an elementary school teacher. I have learned about child psychology and development, I have a defined teaching/parenting philosophy based on my beliefs about how to raise a well-rounded child. I thought I knew everything. 🙂 I had no idea how many metaphorical slaps I was going to get right across my face!
Expectation: I thought I was going to die in childbirth! I’m not kidding! I was absolutely terrified! I did not think I could bear the pain of having a human being come out of me. (I’m 1.63m tall and my baby’s weight was 4 kg at birth.) An epidural was out of the question for me, because I have an even greater fear of needles! And of losing control!
Reality: If you are reading this, you know by now that I am still alive and well. Giving birth was a very painful, amazing experience! Now, I think that it was the unknown what I was really afraid of, not the actual delivery. Once I was in labor, it felt like I was in a race I had to successfully finish. Giving up did not even cross my mind! I worked assiduously until my mission was completed!
Expectation: I have always imagined that my heart will overflow with love, that I will immediately feel connected to my precious little baby and we will be inseparable, forever!
Reality: Bonding is a complicated process that can be different with every baby. In fact, many babies do not form a strong enough bond with their parents, and that affects them for life. I was lucky to have felt overwhelming love for my little bundle of joy since I first laid eyes on him. All of a sudden my priorities have shifted and that little-wrinkled person was more important than my sleep, my shower, my meal, my everything else!
I have to say I did feel a little disconnect when we got home and my newborn was just laying in his crib awake, without crying, for long periods of time. I felt bad for him for being alone so I decided to pick him up and play with him or just stare at him every time he was not sleeping. I ended up holding him day and night ever since! So, don’t do what I did! 🙂
Expectations: You know those nursing photos where mothers and babies look so content? That was the breastfeeding image I had in my head. I could not let go of it!
Reality: The OMG type of pain! If I remember well, I declared I would rather give birth again than go through the excruciating pain of breastfeeding. I refused to give up even when I was told I might not get milk (because of blood loss during delivery). I was crying and feeding, crying and feeding! Lanolin, coconut oil, hot/cold packs, pumping, and time, helped! After a few painful weeks, the image I had in my head about breastfeeding finally matched the reality! I’m still breastfeeding my 15-month-old.
Expectations: I was aware that my sleeping patterns will change and that I will wake up every 3 hours to nurse, in the first couple of weeks.
Reality: I had no idea that things will not change after a few weeks/months. I still wake up at least every 3 hours! Sleep training hasn’t worked for us for personal reasons, so we have chosen to co-sleep. Our son still wakes up a lot during the night and can’t fall back asleep if he is not nursed. This my personal reality. Don’t judge. And by the way, whoever invented the expression “sleeping like a baby” obviously have never had one!
Expectations: We thought we won’t need anyone around for a while, so we can spend time with our newborn and get used to the new family format.
Reality: Would someone just ring the doorbell already? Anyone? (Funny story: I made friends with the postman during this time. I was the only one home in the neighborhood, so he brought parcels for people to pick up at my house.) My husband and I are both introverts, but we were never happier to see people than when we had visitors to meet our baby. The time I was alone with the baby, I would just hold him and wait for someone to come – my sisters, my friend Keri or my husband. Friends are most welcome into a house with a newborn!
Going Out/Being You
Expectations: I was planning to continue going out and have fun with my friends in a few months after having my baby.
Reality: I tried to go out a few times but the only thing I did was think about my baby. I could not enjoy it in the same way I used to, so I just rushed back home. Only after about one year I have started to want to go out again (without my toddler). It hadn’t happened yet but it will.
Getting Back in Shape
Expectations: During my pregnancy, a time of my life that I loved, I only gained 7 kilos. My baby weighed 4 kilos and the amniotic liquid and placenta another 1,5 kilos let’s say . It would have only made sense to lose all the excess quickly.
Reality: After I came home from the hospital and I was resting in bed, it looked like my belly was laying next to me. No difference from when I was pregnant whatsoever. Even later, because I needed to produce milk, my body would not let go of the last 2-3 kilos I wanted to lose. Only after 9 months I felt I got back to my old self physically. Just like they say, it takes 9 months to gain the pregnancy weight, so the slimming down will take about the same time. (More about this in a future article.)
Bottom line: I had to learn to stare at my precious baby, not my new tummy.
Making Mom Friends
Expectations: I thought I will not need new mom friends because my old friends were so awesome and they would LOVE hanging out with a new mom and her screaming baby. Afterward, I was still myself! And IF I needed to hang out with other moms… how hard could it be to just interact with someone in a playgroup or at the library?
Reality: I was in serious need of adult conversation. After months of exclusively speaking to my baby, my vocabulary was slowly eroding to the point that I was only using words from nursery rimes. I needed some mom friends who could get me, but man, that was so hard to find! You can’t just go to someone and ask if they want to be your friend! Well, that’s exactly what I did! And she was crazy enough to say yes! Leah is one of my best friends now and she connected me to other awesome moms.
For me, motherhood has been a constant learning experience filled with joy but also a big dose of the reality that this IS hard work. Just when I think I have one thing figured out, something else pops up to throw me off my game. My identity, responsibilities and priorities have shifted from being free to now finding a balance as a woman and a mother. My pre-baby life is a faded image of my current life. I would not trade the opportunity to be a mother for anything in the world.
Here is a funny video on the subject. Enjoy!