My son, Coby, was born nine months ago and I thought before he was born, I was going to become a lady-of-leisure. I was in for a big shock. I guess before your baby is born you are just focusing on being pregnant and preparing for the birth; that seems as much as you can handle. Needless to say, my idea of us sitting, watching films together, snuggled up on the sofa didn’t quite work out. However, in my defense, I think many people underestimate how much work it is when you become a parent for the first time. Even when you try and explain to many people, they still think you are on some kind of extended vacation. So, what unexpected things about motherhood might you find?
1. You will have absolutely no time to yourself.
As soon as your baby wakes up in the morning, your working day starts, and it finishes when he goes to sleep at night. Even if he naps during the day, you will have baby-oriented tasks to do, such as sterilizing milk bottles and pacifiers and washing their clothes. Expect the washing machine to be on almost daily as the baby vomits and poos their way through many sets of clothes. You will spend the day thinking about baby sensory classes you can attend or local playgroups.
2. You will be extremely exhausted.
During the first year of your baby’s life you can expect to be extremely exhausted daily. For the first few months of their life, they don’t have any concept of day and night, so they might get up to play for hours in the night, and you can expect to be woken up in the night for the first six months when they get hungry. At around six months, they can start to sleep during the night, but then they start teething and tend to wake up during the night again. This interrupted sleep plays havoc with your energy levels.
3. Breastfeeding is tough.
When you attend parenting classes, you think that breastfeeding is going to be so easy. In reality it can take up to six weeks to learn how to breastfeed your baby. If you are finding it impossible to breastfeed, you can express milk for your baby. That is very easy to do and ensures he is getting the best milk possible.
4. You have to manage their sleeping pattern.
My son struggled to sleep for the first six months during the day. I just thought he didn’t need to sleep; that was just him. However, after some experimenting I found out what he needed to feel comfortable sleeping during the day. Now most days, he sleeps at specific times during the day. For him, he doesn’t sleep in his stroller for more than twenty minutes, so he needs to be at home in his cradle in order to sleep for extended periods of time. He also needs a dream feed first and to be in his sleeping bag. If any of these factors are messed up, you can forget any daytime napping.
5. All babies are different.
What works for one baby doesn’t work for another baby, so you need to find out by trial and error what works best for your baby. For example, my son sleeps best in his cradle during the day whereas a friend’s baby only sleeps in her stroller.
6. You constantly worry.
Maybe it is your hormones, but you imagine the worst situations and worry your baby is going to be affected by them. You feel extremely protective of this little bundle you have been looking after for some time as they are completely dependent on you for everything.
7. Your priorities completely change.
You might be surprised how much your priorities change once your little one arrives. If you are planning to go back to work quickly after your baby is born, you might change your mind as you realize that there is more to life than your next pay check.
8. You can’t imagine life before they existed.
Becoming a parent completely changes your entire life as you become focused on their needs rather than your own. Once this is your new reality, it is hard to remember your old life.
9. The relationship with your partner has to change.
Once your baby is born you have to share responsibility for looking after this other person in an equal way. If you are at home with baby all day, your partner has some responsibility to share the load when he or she is not at work. Then the split should be 50:50. You have to work at establishing who does what so you are getting enough support. Most new mums struggle with this to some degree.
10. You gain a new appreciation for other parents and their babies.
Before your baby is born you probably didn’t notice babies as much as you now do, and maybe you felt irritated by babies who cried on the bus. Now when a baby cries on the bus, you think it is so cute. You find yourself having a conversation with a stranger on the bus about your baby’s sleeping patterns. Other mums are a great source of inspiration and advice.
11. You get secretly competitive.
Even if you are a completely non-competitive person you still try and work out how your baby is doing in comparison to other babies of the same age. And you try and avoid the new mums who are very competitive and want to prove their babies are superior to yours.
12. You will be the most unfit you have ever been.
Following the birth of your baby, your body feels like it is most unfit it has ever been. Your muscles are stretched so far during pregnancy and you generally put on extra weight for breastfeeding. It is quite scary how different your body feels. However, you need to be patient and persevere. Realistically it can take time to get your body back to its pre-pregnancy shape, but that’s okay.
13. You are not in control of everything.
You read all the books about becoming a new parent and think it is possible to schedule and plan everything around your new baby. However, you cannot even control when your baby sleeps and what they eat. You can try to influence them but you cannot control it.
14. It can be isolating.
If you are used to working in a social environment, it can be hard to be at home looking after your baby alone. This makes it important to get out every single day, even if you go out for a quick walk round the park.
15. You love your baby more than you knew was possible, and this makes everything worth it!
This one speaks for itself.