Recently I went to a high school reunion. And instead of the polite compliments one would expect upon showing photos of my 4-month old, one friend quietly asked (as if it was a secret we both shared), “The first few months are a bit of a surprise and a shock aren’t they?”
Um, yes, yes they are!
Despite reading (scanning) book after book to see what I should expect while I was expecting, I wasn’t prepared for just how challenging the first few months of my son’s life would be. Here are a few things that surprised me the most, and what I would tell my pregnant self if I could go back in time.
I never expected…
1. There would be no time to take your time
Before our son’s arrival, I completely took for granted just how luxurious taking a long shower, or just eating breakfast and drinking a cup of coffee uninterrupted would become. I never anticipated just how rushed everything would become –even during his nap!
My tip: This will be your new life. But eventually some of the rushed moments will pass and you will find a new groove. And the joy of drinking a cup of coffee in peace, will be replaced with other beautiful and peaceful moments with your son.
2. How my relationship with my partner would change
I didn’t realize just how much time my partner and I spent together just hanging out until our son arrived, and how much I would miss that time together. For the first few months at least, time together was limited to an acknowledgement of each other’s exhaustion while swapping baby duties so the other could shower or eat.
My tip: Things will be different, especially in the first year, but be patient. Once you find a rhythm in this new life, you’ll find new times in the day to catch up. Make sure to share what your feeling with your partner, and check in on each other. Once you get into a routine, you’ll get more comfortable with the idea of leaving your baby with a babysitter so you can enjoy bits of your old life again.
3. That breastfeeding would be so hard
Before my son was born, breastfeeding was a lovely postcard image of mother-child bonding to me. It never occurred to me that it would be quite as challenging (and as beautiful and rewarding) as it was. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time breastfeeding would take up in the day. For the first few months at least, I felt like a feeding machine, open 24/7.
My tip: Expect it to be hard, but it gets easier every two weeks. Take advantage of all of the support you have available from midwives, your mothers group, friends and relatives. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice (you don’t have to take it).
4. Movies? TV? Theatre? Dining out? Forget about it! (at least for the first 3 or 4 months)
If we’re lucky, we can sometimes manage to watch one TV episode over three or four nights. Time with friends? Doesn’t even seem possible. As a working mom, any free time is a chance to catch up on sleep or enjoy some peacefulness.
My tip: Clear your diary for the first few months at least. You do need this time to get into a new schedule. Putting high expectations on yourself will only stress you out. Ask your friends and family to just be patient or invite them to come to you.
5. Online shopping would be my savior
In the first few months, shopping with a small baby is possible, but not easy! I ended up putting everything off and choosing to play at home or plan outside time with other new moms. So online became the only way I shopped.
My tip: Wherever you can, simplify your daily tasks using the latest online and mobile apps available.
6. Hiring a housekeeper was a sanity-saver
If you’re used to having a clean and tidy place all (or most) of the time, having little if any time to organize and clean can be quite a shock!
My tip: Hire a housekeeper before you give birth, for at least the first few months. While it’s important not to sweat the small stuff, it did made a difference to our sanity and family harmony to have a housekeeper come so that we wouldn’t feel so behind.
7. How much I would truly love – and miss — my son
Given the exhaustion, and lack of control over my time and body, I would have expected to relish my son’s naptime. Instead I miss him deeply when he’s in his cot and out of my arms. I knew I’d love him, but I did not realize that this love was so powerful that that any distance between us, becomes painful. I shudder to think how much I will miss him when he starts school, moves out of home, and (hopefully) travels the world without me!
My tip: Take lots of photos and keep a journal to record both the fun and hard times if you can. Lack of sleep can make it hard to remember the small and precious details that you’ll want to relay to your child one day.
What surprised you the most about having a baby?