10 Things You Should Know About Babies


10 Things You Should Know About Babies

When I was pregnant with my first child, ten years and a million sleepless nights ago, I went about pregnancy the same way I had gone about my college courses: by reading everything I could get my hands on, studying notes, attending classes, and joining message boards. I was always a great student — and definitely an overachiever — and now I intended to get an A-plus in Motherhood 101.

I diligently attended my birthing classes, toured the hospital, and dragged my husband to the breastfeeding prep class. I washed all the bodysuits and the gowns in hypoallergenic, dye- and scent-free detergent. I practiced my kegels.

Then, I had a baby.

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And, like postpartum women everywhere, I found myself in my bed, body fluids oozing from far and near, stitches in places I didn’t know I had, my breasts growing at an exponential and alarming rate, my hormones crashing down around me, and all I could think was, “Nobody told me about this. There was no chapter that said anything about this!”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

The answer is simple: because I didn’t want to hear it. The truth is, when I was pregnant, I only wanted to talk about pregnancy and childbirth and strollers and Diaper Genies. No one told me that birth was only, literally, the beginning. I can’t blame a universal motherhood conspiracy, though; I would not have listened.

Here are ten things I wish someone had told me — and I wish that I had heard:

1. The first time you see or hold your baby, you might not hear angel choirs in the distance. You might have a doctor still halfway up your body stitching you, or a nurse pumping your stomach to help you deliver your placenta. You might be in a lot of pain. You might be more exhausted than you have ever been in your whole life. It’s okay if you don’t hear the angels. There will be time to have those magic moments with your new baby.

2. After you deliver, your first trip to the bathroom will be an event. Don’t be embarrassed to let someone help you there; do not risk passing out alone. Be prepared that this is only the beginning of your loss of dignity as a mother. After all, you will have years ahead of you during which you will not be able to visit the potty alone. Might as well start now.

3. Breastfeeding is hard. It takes a little while to get used to the “holds” and find the one that works best for you and your likely hysterically screaming newborn. Whether you are doing it right or not, breastfeeding hurts at the beginning. Sometimes a lot. My nipples cracked and bled with my first baby. Engorgement was scary and extremely uncomfortable. My breasts radiated heat and actually pulsed. But my lactation consultant was my knight in lanolin-coated shining armor, and after the first two weeks, breastfeeding became more comfortable and much more manageable. Also: if breastfeeding is not for you or if it just doesn’t work out, that is — REALLY — fine. In the end, the way you feed your baby is inconsequential compared to the way you love your baby.

4. On your fourth day postpartum, you will most likely cry. A lot. This is usually when your hormones crash. This is the day when you will be certain that your life is over, that your partner is a jerk, and that you cannot do anything right. You’ll cry just because. You’re allowed. (BUT — if you continue to cry and continue to feel down, seek help pronto.)

5. If at all possible, do not put on real clothes for at least two weeks. Once you get out of your pajamas, people start expecting you to be competent. Wear clean, fresh pajamas if you must, but stay in our pajamas unless you want to cook and clean and entertain visitors along with the bleeding, oozing, leaking, and caring for another human life parts of the first two weeks.

6. Babies don’t always sleep. This is not the result of Something You Did Because You Are Already a Failure as a Parent. These same babies will, eventually, sleep. Promise. You cannot ruin them for life. Other parents will tell you their babies are sleeping. I promise you they are a) stretching the truth, b) defining “sleep” differently than you do, c) still due for sleep disruptions, or d) flat-out lying. You will face these same alternate versions of parental realities again when you talk to other parents about potty-training and reading further down the road. Seriously, babies are as different as adults. Some sleep better than others. But they all struggle sometimes. Your child will sleep sooner or later.

7. Don’t let anyone make you think you don’t know your own baby best, and don’t let anyone make you think you’re not doing a good job. There is no one right way to parent and there are many ways to be a good parent. Related: You don’t have to do what your mom, mother-in-law, or grandmother did. Listen to your gut.

8. Find support — neighborhood groups, breastfeeding groups, hospital new mom groups, whatever you can find. Networking with other new mothers can be a crucial lifeline, even if you go back to work after your maternity leave. Having a newborn is like going off to college for the first time — you need to find other newbie freshmen so you can all be clueless together.

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9. Don’t be a martyr. Kids don’t visit martyrs for the holidays when they grow up. Hire someone or beg your friends to come and hold the baby while you shower and nap sometimes. It’s not easy to adjust to being a mom. One day, you are a person just taking care of yourself; the next day, you can’t button your shirt straight. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is hard,” or “this sucks!” It is hard and it does suck sometimes. That doesn’t mean you aren’t 110% grateful for the blessing of a baby or completely in love with your child.

10. Take lots of pictures (and get in them), because you won’t remember much of this later. Trust me.

More than anything, I wish someone had told me this: The first year of your first time being a mother is like nothing you will ever experience again, no matter how many children you have. Every day is a miracle. Every day is a journey. Every day might seem like it lasts 100 hours. There are lights at the end of every tunnel, but you won’t know it. You will never again feel like you are getting an A-plus. You will be forever changed. At some point, you will realize that “nobody ever told you” because some things you have to experience for yourself; There’s no book or class or even little old lady in the grocery store who can tell you what to really expect when you’re expecting.

Related post: 26 Reasons I’ve Cried Since Having a Baby


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  1. Jenelle W. says

    How true that I just didn’t hear all the advice! But now, with baby #2, I’m listening and doing my damnedest to believe it all and soak it in – cuz it’s all true. The poop-covered moments and the angel chorus moments. All so f-ing true!

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  2. ErikaMarie says

    It’s lovely that your hormones crash right on the day they will likely kick you out of the hospital (around here it’s 4 days for c-sections) and if you have a premie like I did, you go home alone & have to leave your tiny little precious baby in the hospital. HARDEST THING EVER.

    I wish I had allowed more photos of me in her pictures. :( She’s 2 now & I don’t have any with her really as a baby.

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    • Paige says

      Yup, having to go home WITHOUT my baby was the worst. All the hormones and crying jags and emotional baloney but no sweet baby to cuddle makes things extra hard. And not having that happily family photo in the hospital room made me wanna hurt somebody.

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    • rae says

      My dd2 was 6 weeks early and I went home without her too. A emergency csection and lots of crazy hormones left me curled on the couch (painfully) crying for a few days. Leaving the hospital every evening after visiting her hurt just as bad. I felt like I’d never stop crying. Ugh hormones!

      Hoping this to time is different!

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  3. Megan says

    I have to say that number 6 isn’t necessarily true. I got very lucky with both of my kids around 8 weeks they both slept through the night 11 hours. It scared the shit out of me because I was awake waiting for feedings. I got very lucky, but just because your kids didn’t sleep doesn’t mean that it never happens.

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    • Jodi Ann says

      I completely agree!! I Have three boys. The first slept through for 8+ hours at 6 weeks, the second at 8 weeks, and the third at 5. It happens! And trust me when I say, we’re not all lying :) I still get showers (even with the first!) and I even had all three without any drugs simply because I didn’t find it that painful. Yes, I know poeple might hate me right now, or think I’m “stretching the truth”, and think what you will, but I’ve had a pretty great time (with a very few intermitent rough times in between, no it’s not always fun and games!) over the past 5 years. Parenthood is what you make it, and I think it’s been pretty great so far and cannot wait to see what the future holds :)

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      • Liz Davey says

        I agree with Jodi I have 4 and although there are a few hair pulling moments my first year with number 1 left me wondering does it get any better than this. It was awesome and not because I have someone else in doing it all, as frankly I wouldn’t want my mum looking after our fish. Just because I had waited for a while to have them seen what kind of work it would be and new what I was in for, but no mine didn’t sleep and my sister is always asking what I do wrong as hers sleep great apparently!!

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      • enola says

        Jodi am on #four, give birth to big babies, 10pounders no drugs, naturally, so I tell people I can’t tell you what is labor pains so don’t asked me cause you may think am lying and get your feeling hurt.

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      • Tamara says

        Notice how she said they dont ALWAYS sleep. Yet both of you quoted at which weeks your babies began sleeping. So what did they do before that? Exactly. Dont take things so literally. Relax and put a grain of salt on it. It’s not like this is a medical journal spewing medical facts. What did your babies do before 8 weeks? Oh yea, they didnt sleep.

        Incredibly written article.

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        • Mary says

          Touche. My son slept through the night since birth, waking up once to eat at 3 am, and immediately fell back asleep at the breast. It DOES happen. But then, there are exceptions to every rule.

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    • Francis F says

      My first slept through at 8 weeks, my second at 7 months and my third is 11 months and still not sleeping through. Each child is different and have different needs. Oh, and that great ‘baby’ became a much more difficult little boy. From the age of 4 (he’s now 6) it can much more difficult to get him to bed (his brain ‘thinks too much’ he says). So just because you have a great sleeper as a baby doesn’t mean it won’t change :) I think what the article is suggesting is that things change and your baby/child is not necessarily abnormal because they don’t follow a set schedule/pattern of development.

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  4. Jen says

    My baby boy was born 5 weeks early via emergency c section on December 24. As I sit here with postpartum sobbing (will I EVER stop crying?) … I needed this. I’m not crazy after all… just normal.

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    • Paige says

      My girl was six weeks early, born Dec 22nd (three years ago, but still). Spending Christmas in the hospital with a newborn you can’t hold? Not fun at all. Hugs to you mama – I promise it gets better!

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      • Jen says

        MY birthday is December 22! Ironically, there was so much drama surrounding Christmas with families/stepdaughters baby momma that my fiance and I were happy not to have to deal with it, but having my baby in NICU was PAINFUL. Thank you for the support ladies…

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    • Rebeccah says

      It will get better. Baby will be fine. YOU will be fine. People love you and will help you. You don’t have to be a superhero. Talk to your ob/gyn if you are worried – I can promise you that you are not alone.

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  5. Sarah says

    YES to all of the above. I’m hoping with baby #3 (due in a few weeks) I’ll be able to get it together better… but I know if I don’t, it’s all good. Having a baby is a great excuse for being a hot mess.

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  6. Paige says

    Everything about this is fabulous, but this line is beautiful: “In the end, the way you feed your baby is inconsequential compared to the way you love your baby.” Thank you for that. What a perfect way to look at it.

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  7. Amanda says

    #7 for sure….but from my husband. He has three children already, and likes to think that he’s a far superior parent than I am. And likes to let me know it. But I know I am a good mom. :)

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