It's been five years since I was at this point: preparing for a baby. The last time around I was all aglow and thinking solely of nursery decor, tiny baby clothes and finally getting to meet this little nugget I'd already fallen in love with.
Then I had a baby.
I wish I could say it was amazing and the newborn days I dreamed about became a reality, but that would be a lie. While many things were wonderful and I was thrilled to be a mom, a few aspects of my postpartum life caught me off guard—big time. These were things I never even thought about prior to living them. But I've been through this once before now and I feel more ready for what's ahead of me.
Here are just five things that surprised me and how I plan on avoiding them this time:
1. I felt ugly
I went from feeling all glowy, marveling at the miracle that was my body, to feeling down right homely in the matter of a day. My pregnancy curves that I loved to show off in belly-hugging outfits now sagged with a jiggly sadness. Nothing fit. My maternity clothes made me still look pregnant and my regular clothes seemed miles from reality. I had no time or energy to do my hair or makeup. I wanted to show off my baby, but keep myself hidden.
This time I've stocked up on some non-maternity/non-clingy tops and leggings to get me through those awkward few weeks feeling a little more put together. I've also made an appointment to get my hair done just a week or two before delivery so I'm feeling fresh and root-free.
2. Breastfeeding was crazy hard
I'd never considered not nursing my baby. I scoffed at the lactation consultant who insisted on manhandling my boobs before we were allowed to leave the hospital, and then it turned out, I sucked at nursing. My baby didn't latch right. I didn't have enough supply. I had to supplement with formula from the get-go which made me feel like a huge failure as a mother. This was supposed to be a wonderful bonding experience for us, and it just wasn't.
Despite the struggles, I plan to try to breastfeed again. I'm hoping feeling less stressed will alleviate a lot of my nursing issues. I'm aware that the same struggles could arise and I may have to give my baby formula again. And I'm going to be OK with that. After all, my first child is happy and healthy and isn't that all that matters?
If people offer to help this time around, I will gladly accept.
3. The weight didn't just fall off
So many friends claimed that their baby weight just melted off. Mine definitely did not. If you're me, you can birth a 9-pound baby boy, a two pounds of placenta and over two pound of fluids and weigh in at precisely three pounds less a week after your baby is born. The math doesn't add up. I worked hard to lose baby weight and hated my body for not cooperating.
With Baby #2, I'm working hard to not gain too much weight. I'm also aware that, for me, the weight probably will not fall away effortlessly. I'll have to work for it and be patient. After all, it took nine months to gain that weight, it's going to take a while to get it off.
4. At first I had lots of help, and then... nothing
I was overwhelmed with meals and encouragement the week after birth. Family would stop by to cook for us, help with laundry or watch the baby while I slept. It was a godsend... and then it stopped. People would occasionally offer help or ask how I was doing, but I felt inadequate accepting it after a certain point. Like I should have my shit together by now. So I pretended like I did.
Lesson majorly learned. If people offer to help this time around, I will gladly accept. What's more, I'll even ask for assistance, a meal, or a coffee delivery when I need it. I've been blessed with friends and family who want to support our family and this time I'll let them.
5. I felt sad
Sadness after your baby is born is the most peculiar thing. I knew in my head that it was the hormones but my sadness seemed so unwarranted that I felt guilty which just perpetuated the feeling. I had a beautiful, healthy baby, time to spend with that baby, and was surrounded by friends and family who loved me. How on earth could I not feel happy?
I know the baby blues will likely come this time too. Expecting these feelings helps me prepare and knowing that they, like everything else, will pass, will help me cope.
Pregnancy leads up to such a climactic end. Few things in life go out with such an extreme high note. After the amazing moment that is the birth of your baby, it's understandable to feel a bit of loss. After all, pregnancy is over—now what?
So be patient with yourself, enjoy those sweet baby cuddles, and know that there is light at the end of the postpartum tunnel.