I’ve been a mom for almost four months now (how is that even possible?!) and I’ve been thinking a lot about what has taken me by surprise in these first few months. I think when you become pregnant, you develop a lot of assumptions and expectations about what motherhood will be like, and maybe 10% of those turn out to be true. Almost four months in, here are nine things that caught me by surprise:
1. Breastfeeding is hard. Like, really hard. Like, I-understand-why-some-women-don’t-do-it hard. It took Everett and I a full fourteen days to get the hang of breastfeeding. A breastfeeding class was included in our birthing class package, but since we signed up so late (oops!), we missed this class due to Everett’s scheduled c-section at 39 weeks. I had talked to a few friends and skimmed over the breastfeeding sections of The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy (aka, the only book I read while I was pregnant), but nothing prepared me, or my boobs, for what was about to happen. I had a wonderful experience with the nurses at Sutter, and many of them watched me breastfeed and told me I was doing everything right, which was confusing and frustrating because it still hurt so much. Those first two weeks were torture. I was sore, bleeding, and basically dreaded every single time I had to feed Everett. Brett was as helpful as he could possibly be, but him and I were both totally clueless. And truth be told, I still don’t know what went wrong. After two weeks, it just got better. One day it hurt like hell and the next day it didn’t hurt at all. Maybe Everett and I just needed time to figure it out? Maybe I just needed to toughen up? It wasn’t until after breastfeeding had gotten better for me that a few friends opened up about their similar struggles. I went into breastfeeding pretty blind and optimistic, assuming it would hurt a little, but really….I had no idea. The good news is: after two weeks of practice, Ev and I became breastfeeding superstars. Everything healed (thank God!), and it became a daily bonding experience for us that I have come to truly enjoy. I have no idea if breastfeeding will be easier, harder, or about the same with our next baby, but at least I know what to expect the next time around!
2. My body bounced back fast. I’m not a crazy health nut by any means. I eat fairly well, walk regularly, and try to attend yoga or pilates 1-2 times a week. I didn’t start any of that until six weeks postpartum, and by then, I was feeling pretty comfortable with the way I looked. I don’t know if it was the breastfeeding, the fact that I was in good shape before I got pregnant, lucky genes, or a combo of all three. Either way, towards the end of my third trimester I was becoming more and more concerned about how my body would look after Everett was born. I was shocked at how big my belly had grown, and couldn’t imagine ever having a flat tummy again. I also kept picturing tons of extra flabby skin, but really…..everything just gradually went back to normal, give or take a few inches. I never would have spent so much time worrying about my body had I known how quickly it would bounce back.
3. My emotions are out of control. In the past four months, I have experienced some of my highest highs and some of my lowest lows. I’m a total freakshow. Crying one minute and laughing the next, I don’t even know how I feel about anything half the time. I thought I was a train wreck while I was pregnant, but I think I might be more of a train wreck now. Say it with me: Poor Brett.
4. It’s lonely. As much as I love staying home with Everett, it does get lonely sometimes. I went from a pretty active social life to a somewhat nonexistent one; from a mover and a shaker to a homebody. My days are spent with Everett and my nights are spent with Brett, and most days, I am content and fulfilled with that. But some days, I’m really not. My lowest lows have stemmed from the days/weeks when the loneliness seemed extra prevalent.
5. Everett felt like ours immediately. While I assumed this would happen, it still took me by surprise. From the first time I saw him, I knew he was our baby. It felt like a piece of me detached from my own body and morphed into the most beautiful human being I’d ever laid eyes on. It was overwhelming on the day he was born, and it’s still overwhelming every time I think about it.
6. My hair is falling out. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I really cannot stress this enough: nobody, and I mean nobody, prepared me for postpartum hair loss. It’s real, and it’s gross, and it sucks. Big time.
7. Unsolicited advice is the worst. I got plenty of it while I was pregnant and now that Everett’s here, I have advice flying at me from every direction. It’s annoying. People give advice out of love with the very best intentions, but it’s still so, so annoying. Even more annoying? I’ve caught myself doing it too. Shame on me. I think as mothers, we often have a tendency to a) think our way is the best way, and/or b) want to make sure everyone around us knows just how capable we are. And the thing is—just because x worked for your baby doesn’t mean x will work for my baby. And just because y happened to my baby, doesn’t mean y will happen to your baby. I’ve asked plenty of friends about their experiences with sleep training, teething, etc, and gotten lots of helpful tips. The difference is: I asked. If I don’t ask, please don’t tell me. And if you catch me offering unsolicited advice on this blog, feel free to call me out in the comments. Actually, don’t. I’d probably cry. See number three.
8. How open-minded I have become. It took becoming a mother for me to really see how judgmental I had been about certain aspects of parenting. From small things like using pacifiers to big things like cosleeping, I never realized how strong my opinions were about various parenting topics and methods until they blew up in my face. I am doing things I never thought I would do, saying things I never thought I would say, and basically feeling ashamed and embarrassed at how many times I questioned another mother’s tactics. Suddenly, I find myself open to all sorts of things. Oh, you cosleep? Good for you! You want to breastfeed till your baby is two? Go get em, tiger! More power to ya! I am much more understanding, empathetic, and compassionate towards other moms than I was before I had Everett.
9. The big big joy that comes from the small small things. Everett’s first smile. The first time he said “goo” and wrapped his hand around my finger. The way his eyes follow me when I walk around the kitchen. The way he kicks crazily when he’s in the bath, like he’s trying to swim or something. The tiniest things put the biggest smiles on my face, and I never knew I could find such joy in something as simple as a look or a sound. Everything he does amuses me, and reconfirms my decision every single day that I was, indeed, meant to be a mother.
Mommas, what surprised you the most about becoming a mom for the first time?