When I had my first child, I was an adult woman with a college degree and a stack of half-read pregnancy books who had watched numerous episodes of TLC’s A Baby Story, and yet I had no idea that in the days and weeks following childbirth, I would bleed. Sure, I knew my vagina would be tender and sore. But bleeding that was like a heavy, blood-clot-filled menstrual cycle? I had no clue. Turns out, this is normal. But if you’re worried, always check in with your doctor. So let it be known to the world: adult diapers and the mesh underpants/magnum-size pads you get at the hospital will be your best friends. Love them. Cherish them. Use them.
2. You will still look pregnant, even when you’re not.
Imagine my shock when, after I pushed an eight-pound human out of my body, I still looked like I was a few months pregnant. The truth about post-baby-bodies is that they don’t shrinky-dink down to their former pre-baby sizes. Your stomach may be round and swollen for a while after giving birth and it’s not just extra pounds — your uterus needs time to contract in size. This is normal — not that you’d know it from body-obsessed tabloids — and has become normalized in recent years with women like Kate Middleton showing the world what actual post-baby bodies look like. Embrace your inner Kate and let that sweet baby belly shine.
3. Breastfeeding is not intuitive.
There’s this weird belief floating around (er, maybe just in my head?) that simply because we’re born with breasts means we’re going to naturally understand how to use them once they’re filled to the brim with milk. “Oh yeah,” one thinks, “I’ll just shove these things into my baby’s mouth and the nectar of life shall pass from my boobs to their lips and all will be easeful and joyous!” Nope. Breastfeeding must be learned and practiced, through a crapload of trial and error and painful, nipple-destroying attempts. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting it right straight away. Seek help from lactation consultants, books, the internet and friends. Pain should be a red flag — and could be anything from your baby having a shallow latch or tongue tie to you having a clogged duct. There’s no shame in asking for help and it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong as a mother.
4. Breastfeeding can make you want to eat all those things.
We all hear about pregnancy cravings, so I was surprised to discover during my first pregnancy that I was actually more repulsed by food than I was lusting for it. Almost everything but Lucky Charms, ramen noodles and Wheat Thins seemed utterly disgusting. Plus, having a person growing inside you means that you often get full really fast. I couldn’t have eaten a pint of ice cream if I wanted to. But behold — breastfeeding cravings! Breastfeeding burns calories, so it made sense I was hungry. But I had no idea that feeding a person from my bosom would turn me into a ravenous creature, salivating at the mouth for smoked meats and salty, sharp cheeses. A day after returning from the hospital, I sent my husband to the grocery store with an order to bring me back “every kind of salami you can find.” I had previously been a vegetarian, but now I wanted only to gnaw at hunks of meat 24/7. It was the best of times, it was the delicious-est of times.
5. There will be a moment where you realize your pre-baby life is gone for good.
It normally happens a week or two after you’ve returned home with your newborn. You haven’t slept since before you went into labor. Your nipples are the size of hockey pucks and keep dribbling milk on every shirt you put on. You’ve been bouncing on a yoga ball while holding your screaming baby for an hour, it’s 2 AM and suddenly it dawns on you: this is your life now. You can’t return the kid to The Baby Store, or call a time-out on this whole newborn thing. This is it. And this realization is often terrifying, exhausting and demoralizing. Don’t be ashamed if you long for the days of your pre-baby past. It was fun staying out until 4 AM and then eating two diner grilled cheeses for breakfast. There’s no shame in mourning your glory days.
Turns out being a mother is not as easy as making the baby, there’s a lot to be considered because it is utterly a hard working job. So, the question is: are you ready? One thing is for sure, when in doubt, use a condom.