That having a baby is a momentous, life-altering phenomenon is no secret. Every expectant parent knows that life as they know it is about to change. When one announces one’s pregnancy, congratulatory messages and/or hugs are usually followed by the statutory warning: Your life is about to change.
Things, however, are kept vague. The expectations of first-time parents are quite often heavily coloured by television and cinema. From expecting a dramatic water break to screaming the hospital down to a warm, amber glow enveloping the initial days of being a family of three, my expectations were, let’s just say, a little far from what I eventually went on to experience. I had no idea how much of a train wreck my life is going to resemble right after birth.
In this post, I will tell you 5 things I wish someone had told me about life after baby:
1. Breastfeeding isn’t easy
This is not to say that bottle feeding is easy. I can’t even imagine washing the umpteenth bottle at an ungodly hour or waiting for the water to cool down to the right temperature before making a feed for a screaming baby. But neither is breastfeeding. I was under the impression that my mammalian instinct would kick in and it would come naturally to me. For a lot of women, though, it isn’t as straightforward. The initial days are hard work. From getting the latch right to worrying about baby getting enough to dealing with leaks to the absolute lack of privacy if you happen to have anyone around, I wish I had known a little bit of what to expect to prepare for it mentally.
2. People will judge you
This comes as a shock. Especially after the almost goddess-like status they offer you when you are pregnant. Once baby is out, you cannot possibly do anything right.
You are judged for how you hold your baby to how often you feed her to how little you feed her to how uncomfortably you dress her to how you rock her to how often you take her outside to when you go back to work. The list is exhaustive. If you are prone to self-doubt, which you probably are if it’s your first baby, you will be crippled by it all and be certain that you are a failure and were never meant to be a mum. Relax. People judge. That’s just what they do. Taking care of your baby isn’t as complicated as condensed matter physics. It will come to you. You will make mistakes, you will learn, your baby won’t hate you. Simple.
3. Babies are loud
You know babies cry but you don’t know what that can do to you unless you have had a baby of your own. You know babies will wake you up at night but you don’t know how soon a baby can go from whimpering to being hysterically loud at 3:00 AM unless you have dealt with it personally. You don’t know that a baby’s constant crying can bring you to the edge of an anxiety attack unless you have been there. Colic is real even if doctor’s cannot say for sure what causes it. A colicky baby cries for 3 hours a day or at least 3 days a week. Can you imagine how hard that is? Nope, not if you haven’t had a child with colic. It’s worse than my recurrent nightmare of being chased by a hungry tiger. MUCH worse.
PS: This point was Daddy’s contribution.
4. You will dream about life before baby
And then, go on to feel terribly guilty about it. Then dream some more about the times you and your husband/partner spent sauntering around aimlessly, holding hands, binging on Netflix, drinking delicious cocktails on the weekends, going on impromptu getaways. And then have mammoth waves of guilt wash over you. This is a vicious circle. It will never leave you. Get over it.
5. Sometimes, you will resent your baby
I wasn’t even sure about including this one in the list because, let’s face it, a lot of people out there will judge me negatively for it. But it has been almost two years since my baby was born and from all the experiences that have ensued, I have learnt to develop a thick skin that doesn’t allow judgments from all and sundry to penetrate. This is an important point to address. At least to me, it is. During the hard, hard days, I resented my baby (sorry, precious) and later, felt a lot of remorse and even angst for being such a horrible person. At times, I made that angst self-destructive. No, I didn’t sit around inflicting physical pain on myself but I did it mentally. I judged myself unfavourably, called myself the most horrid things. Since no one had told me I was going to feel this way, I thought I was the only aberration with such feelings. As a result, I bottled them only to suffer more. Had I known how common it is, I would have shared it with my friends. Had I known how common it, I would have encouraged my new-mummy friends to share it with me. But in my ignorance, I simmered all alone in the deep, dark corners of my mind. While all expectant mothers have heard about the baby blues or postpartum depression in some form, it is important to address it openly and encourage them to have meaningful dialogues with someone they can trust and seek help, if necessary.
At the end of it all, I am grateful for the baby I have been blessed with and I always will be. I love her like I have never loved before and that’s something that will not change. She is perfect in the most deliciously imperfect way and god knows, I will never have that change. She gives me hope, she gives me strength, she brings me calm, she pushes me to push myself. She is tiny but she is magnificent and I will always walk that extra mile for her. No one told me any of this either and no one could have as some things can only be discovered. The 5 points I mention above are, however, best told to expectant mamas to give them a peek into what awaits them.
What are the top 5 things you wish you had known about life after baby? Write in the comments below.