Being pregnant is a long, boring and often miserable experience. To help pass that time, you’re probably on a non-stop internet cruise finding every exciting/terrifying factoid associated with your exact gestational week and day. What else are you supposed to do with all that time you used to spend binge drinking and riding roller coasters?
During this magical, flatulent period of your life, it’s probably hard to imagine life as anything but perfect after you finally give birth and put an end cap (mesh panties) on this whole ordeal. When you picture what you’ll do with a real, external baby in your possession, it’s probably draped in a silky nightgown/robe serenely rocking in a plush glider with a downy head on your chest. Seems nice, right?
Replace that nightgown with some maternity leggings (yep, still necessary) and a nursing tank you’ve been wearing for the better part of a week and you might be a little closer to what those first days at home with a newborn will actually look like. Here are four of the many unexpected truths you’ll come to realize in your first month as a new mom:
You Might Miss Being Pregnant
No, seriously. Please refrain from pelting your screen with gummy bears and half-eaten turkey legs and hear me out:
A couple of days after we brought my newborn daughter home, I made a quick run out of the house to grab some supplies. In transit, I came to the sad realization that I was completely alone for the first time in nine months. My pregnancy was no longer this bloated affliction that couldn’t end soon enough, it was a small, special chapter of my relationship with my daughter that was officially behind us. To put it delicately, I lost my shit. My epiphany, mixed in with my dickhead evening companion, Baby Blues, triggered a full-blown, mobile meltdown in the space of four miles.
The same thing happened when she got hiccups for the first time. I stifled a sob and said to my husband, “I remember when she used to get them inside meeeeeeeeeee!” *husband slides candy bar across floor with big toe, moonwalks out of room*
This overwhelming sadness – almost a sense of loss – was a big part of my experience with the Baby Blues. Every day around sunset, I would get crushed by this wave of sadness about everything and nothing at the same time. Baby Blues can include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping and shouldn’t last more than a few weeks. With every doctor visit after you give birth (for both you and your baby), you’ll probably get a questionnaire that qualifies your feelings and can help flag if you’re experiencing anything outside the norm (like the more serious Postpartum Depression). Be honest with yourself and your doctor! These feelings are totally normal but should be watched carefully for you and your baby’s safety.
You Will Still Look Pregnant
There are a few things that go away immediately after you give birth – like heartburn and rib pain – but many of your body’s new pregnancy bonus features will remain for some time after you’ve forcibly evicted your uterine cling-on. This includes your unrecognizable and holy-sensitive hooters (damn, girl), raging hormones and a host of other aftershocks (see postpartum poop terror, night sweats, nipple cracks, partridge, pear tree).
For a lot of us, the hardest thing to deal with when surveying the smoldering husk that is our postpartum body is the fact that we still look pregnant. Like, “Awe! How far along are you?” pregnant. We all know it will take a while for the uterus to fully deflate back to its normal size, but it might be disheartening to see how long it actually takes for this to happen (as long as eight weeks or more).
Fear not, my sweet cherub. You are a beautiful, powerful entity that just DUPLICATED! That bod of yours is fucking incredible and you should cherish it, no matter what size or shape it is. Yes, more than a few things have shifted and stretched, but you’ll be back in the tankini saddle before you know it. And if you’re not, screw it. That baby human you created loves you no matter what size your sweatpants are. Now is not the time to be thinking about drastic weight loss or fitting back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. You are not a lingerie model with a big shoot coming up (I mean, probably). Please be kind to yourself, because you’re truly amazing.
Also, don’t let it ruin your day when the little girl in the elevator complements your cute baby in one breath and says “You’re having another?” in the next. True story. Shout-out to Elevator Girl.
You Will Be Scared of Your Baby
So you’ve read Happiest Baby on the Block, taken your parenting classes and binge watched enough Teen Mom to feel like you’ve got this in the bag. My estimation is you’ll be confident you know what the hell you’re doing about 45 percent of the time. Not too shabby!
However, there will be times you’ll feel as though they were negligent in letting you, someone with literally no first-hand experience tending people under eleven pounds, take home this baby. What does it want? I’ve fed, changed, burped and rocked this screaming pink raisin person to no avail and the incessant crying is making me physically sick.
You’ll quickly learn there are some things that make your little nugget very happy (food, car rides, maybe some slapstick comedy) and a much longer list of things that make them decidedly unhappy (gas, awkward silences, 7 p.m., general existence outside your womb). The thought of trying something new, even as small as putting them in a front carrier or offering a new type of pacifier, can be certainly scary enough to avoid for the foreseeable future.
This too shall pass. Somewhere around eight weeks you might notice a “settle” in your baby’s temperament. They’ll suddenly decide they’re not like a regular baby, they’re a cool baby. One that’s much less apt to trigger your fight-or-flight response with a half-full cart at Target.
You Will Cease to be a Person Outside of Your Baby
By now you’ve certainly been cornered by more than one veteran mom and listened obligingly to their sage advice and overshare tales from the parenting battleground. “You’ll never fully relax again; Kids change everything; There’s no harder test on a marriage than a baby; All your hair will fall out and your stomach will look like a saltwater taffy machine.”
It’s almost all true. That nearly complete person you’ve been working so hard on will certainly change everything about your life, for better or worse. You will suddenly understand how moms can inexplicably lift overturned cars like spent tissue to save their children. “Number one” is no longer you, it’s the baby. Your last meal was an M&M you found in the couch? That’s ok, the baby fell asleep on your chest and you don’t want to risk waking them. Wildlife is scouting your hair as possible living quarters? It’ll have to wait, the baby melts down exactly three minutes after the shower turns on. You’re in survival mode, sister. There will be plenty of time to be a sassy, independent woman again after you exit the newborn stage.
In the meantime, don’t worry when you can’t think of anything to talk about besides the consistency of your baby’s last bowel movement or the weird moisture in your breast pump tube – your brain is doing its best to not pee its pants and collapse on the marathon course in front of all its brain friends. Try to limit your social interactions to people who have either been there and get it, or won’t judge you when you sit on a piece of jellied toast and don’t notice for half an hour.
The moral of this story is you’re in for a wild ride, Toad. But I want you to know it gets better. Newborns are fucking hard and there’s no way around this part. It’s one of the most difficult times you’ll experience as a parent (jury’s still out on whether it’s better or worse than puberty) but it will be over before you know it and you’ll be wishing you could press rewind and live every single day over again. Yes, even the day she projectile vomited into your open mouth. Good luck, my little Russian nesting doll – you’re going to be an amazing momma.
Our next recos: Better/Harder: Adjusting to Life as a New Mom