The first few weeks after you bring your baby home will be one of the most stressful and wonderful times of your whole life. I went into it feeling really prepared. I had talked to my mom, aunts, and mommy friends at length. I had read every parenting book that I could get my hands on.
But it turns out that there were still surprises. There were things I wished I could do differently. And I have three kids! I discovered that each pregnancy and baby is totally different. I also learned that no matter how much you think you know – there is always more to learn.
Here are ten things I learned first hand after having a baby.
1. Take the stool softener you’re given
Things tend to get bound up immediately after having a baby. This is usually compounded by the pain medication you’re on. You will most likely be offered a stool softener. My advice? Take it. Your body will thank me.
2. Frozen maxi pads are your new best friend
Take a maxi pad, run it under water, and put it in the freezer. Give it a few hours and you have the most amazing, perfectly shaped ice pack for sore lady parts. I remember telling the nurse who told me about this amazing invention that she was a genius. Have these little gems on hand for when you bring your baby home from the hospital.
3. Your baby might sleep a lot
There are some wonderful little souls who seem to sleep all the time right at first. One of my kiddos was like this. I was a little worried by it. But then I remember looking back and wishing it could always be like that. If you happen to get one of these amazing little beings for your own – enjoy this time. It’s normal. It also usually doesn’t last long, but when it does it’s amazing.
4. Your baby might cry a lot
My first daughter wasn’t a cryer. So we were a bit shocked when our second daughter began screaming her little brains out nearly immediately. The crying would go on for hours. It was a shock to me. I had heard other people’s babies cry before, but nothing prepared me for my own offspring howling like a banshee. It was heart-breaking and ear-shattering. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed.
But time passed and it stopped. She was gassy. Her little body figured it out. Babies outgrow this. I don’t know too many grown-ups who cry at the top of their lungs all the time.
5. You will still look pregnant
I know that the birthing class instructor told us that you should pack clothes for the trip home from the hospital that would fit your five months pregnant self. And I did. But it’s so disheartening when are having a baby and look down and you STILL LOOK PREGNANT.
I remember wanting to cry. Somehow my rock-hard nine months pregnant belly was easier to handle than this squishy mound before me. It actually shook like jelly when I laughed. I remember thinking I looked like Santa.
But it goes away. In fact, it goes away pretty fast. You’re so busy being a mom and getting through those first few months that you’ll look up and it’ll be you in the mirror again.
6. Labor and delivery nurses are da bomb
Sure, your doctor is the one who helped your little miracle into the world. But those labor and delivery nurses – they make the entire labor and the entire after delivery portion of your hospital stay manageable.
They help you labor, help you use the bathroom, help you with your baby, help you with your pain meds. They can be your saving grace when you’re sore, tired, overwhelmed, or just have questions. Take a photo with those folks because you’ll want to remember them someday.
7. You will sweat like a pig
I had no idea how much my body could sweat. I’m not usually a big sweater, but when I came home after having a baby I would honestly soak through my pajamas, my sheets, everything.
There is nothing worse than being wet through to your skin when you’re already struggling to feel like your old self. I remember being completely shocked by this. Nobody mentioned that could happen.
Plan for it. Make sure you have extra clean clothes, undergarments, and sheets. In fact, put a waterproof liner under your side of the bed and put towels on top of your sheets for a week or so. You’ll thank me in the middle of the night when you wake up drenched.
8. Meconium is stickier than honey
You know that first poop your precious child produces? Meconium. It’s a fancy word for black, waxy grossness. It’s somewhat traumatic trying to scrub that stuff off your precious new baby’s tender little bum.
Be generous with the wipes and generous with the diaper cream. The good news is that the meconium stage is super short. Then you’re on to the more normal stuff (and the stage where it’s normal to discuss another human being’s bathroom habits.)
9. It’s okay to say no
Can’t muster up the energy to handle more visitors? That’s okay. Tell them you’re exhausted and just want baby time. They’ll understand. Every parent out there has been in your shoes before.
10. Be gentle with yourself
Now is not the time to scrapbook or clean or cook or perform any other “super mom” duties. Heck, it’s barely even the time to shower (although you might find that feels good if you can find the time.) Pregnancy is hard work. Being a new mom is even harder work. Be as easy on yourself as you can be.
Ask for help. I’m serious. I was terrible about this. But asking for help (not holding-the-baby help – you want doing-the-dishes, doing-the-laundry, cooking-a-meal help) is one of the smartest things you can do. Relax and enjoy your new family.
11. Having a baby is both bizarre and wonderful
There’s nothing quite as surreal as being pregnant and then giving birth. One minute you have a big belly and the next you have a child in your arms.
Be proud of yourself. You grew a PERSON. Sister – you rock!
Featured photo credit: DSC_9688 a/bradfordst219 via flickr.com