What is it about pregnancy and being woefully under-prepared for what’s coming? The final weeks leading up to delivery are like sitting in a leaky rowboat, watching a 40-foot tidal wave head toward you while your mouth hangs agape. But you’re thinking, “Eh, I’ll just float, right?” I was like, “Go me! I can deal with this!”
Did someone cue hysterical laughter? Hahaha!
Maybe I was a bit naive. Or maybe nobody told me some of this stuff. I suspect it’s both. Oh yeah, and the tiny little fact that nothing can prepare you for motherhood.
Just so you can’t say you weren’t warned, here’s what I learned:
1. Birth plans are just a false sense of security.
I had a “natural birth” plan. I never would have suspected that I’d be hit with preeclampsia a week from my due date, and I would end up needing Pitocin to bring on labor, antibiotics, an epidural, plus my husband holding one of my numb legs and getting a gory eyeful while I pushed—instead of me getting to squat like I’d “planned” (and had done all of those months of useless squats for).
2. You may not immediately fall in love with your newborn.
Motherly love is supposed to be woven into the fiber of our being or something, isn’t it? It’s like we’re made to believe we’re soul-less or something if we’re not hit by the mommy version of Cupid’s arrow immediately after our kid’s birth. Stress, exhaustion and severe postpartum depression cruelly combined to make it pretty much impossible for me to feel very attached to my new daughter, or much of anything really. A few weeks and an antidepressant later, I finally felt like a real mommy to my daughter for the first time. It was beautiful.
And that’s not uncommon. We barely made it to six weeks before we threw in the burp rag and switched to the bottle. I just wish I had treated my depression earlier, been a lot more forgiving with myself, and found out about “tongue-tie” sooner. Definitely see a lactation consultant if you have issues, but don’t feel guilty if you find you need to quit. Just don’t.
4. Boobs don’t always bounce back.
I assumed that after I wasn’t breastfeeding anymore, they would eventually return to their original state. Well, they definitely shrank to their pre-pregnancy size, anyway—minus any amount of perkiness they once had.
5. Weight and size are not the same thing.
Okay, so I hoped that with some exercise, maybe I’d get lucky and most of my extra weight would come off within a year or so. But breastfeeding and stress took so much out of me, that I came close to my pre-baby weight within three weeks. So it makes sense that I would fit into my old pants, right? Nope. Apparently, my shape actually changed. So even if I were the same size, it wouldn’t matter anyway. I am now mom-shaped, and I gotta get used to that.
6. Becoming a mom doesn’t make you unselfish.
Moms seem to be commonly portrayed as constantly self-sacrificing martyrs, and I naively thought I’d experience such a life-altering paradigm shift upon my daughter’s birth that I’d somehow become one too.
My first thoughts upon waking are something like, “I want a coffee I.V. hooked up to my arm,” not “I want to cuddle my daughter because she’s cooing (yelling) so sweetly in the next room.” I would walk on hot coals for her, but I still have to make a conscious decision between reading a book to her in a silly voice or just putting her in front of the TV while I hit Facebook, and dozens of other selfish vs. unselfish decisions, every single day.
7. Cravings don’t just disappear.
I thought this would end after pregnancy ended, but I will still eat all the cheese, dammit. I have three different kinds in my fridge right now. I might actually dream of cheese.
Looking back, I now realize just how laughably unrealistic pregnant me was (can I blame the hormones?). The lesson I learned from all this? None of it really matters, because I have a child to love. Fate will laugh at you if you try to plan around something as unpredictable as parenthood. And as long as that kid is loved and cared for to the best of your ability, even the unexpected isn’t really such a big deal.