Over the past nine months, I read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and caring for a new baby. While my studying gave me a general understanding of what was ahead, no book or class could have fully prepared me for labor or parenthood. The act of giving birth, and my new status as a mom, have taught me more in the past two weeks than a lifetime of reading ever could. Here are a few of the things I learned from Charlie’s birth, and in the first few weeks of motherhood, that I didn’t know a month ago, and that I would want to share with expectant first-time mothers.
Lessons Learned from Charlie’s Birth:
- A baby’s due date is totally irrelevant. Babies come when they want to come, and when a baby decides he’s ready to enter the world, there is no turning back! It’s best to be prepared for an early arrival. That being said, an unexpectedly early baby isn’t the end of the world: nothing really needs to be done ahead of time that can’t be taken care of after baby’s arrival.
- Labor will most likely not go according to plan. However, it’s still a good idea to write out a birth plan, and have several copies available on game day. Our own birth veered far from what we’d envisioned, but our birth plan still served as a general roadmap for how we wanted our labor to play out. I am thankful that we chose to incorporate an “in case of hospital transfer” section in our plan, and was impressed with our doctor’s and nurses’ willingness to adhere to our wishes.
- The best way to prepare for labor is to practice meditation and relaxation techniques. Staying active throughout pregnancy helps as well.
- A doula is an excellent investment, and personal connection is more important than experience when selecting a doula to attend your birth. Our doula, Kimberly, only recently graduated from her doula internship program, but she proved to be the perfect support for both Luke and me during labor.
- Buy your own gown to wear during labor. It won’t exactly make you feel “cute” when you are in labor, but it definitely beats the ugly hospital gowns!
- Even if you plan to give birth in a birth center—which would mean returning home just hours after birth—pack a change of clothes and some toiletries, just in case you unexpectedly find yourself spending a couple of days in the hospital. Our families were able to bring those items to us in the hospital, but I wish I had thought to pack them in our bag.
- Your body is much stronger and more intuitive than you think, and you are able to tolerate more than you would have ever imagined.
- Labor is painful, but all memory of the pain fades within seconds of your baby being born.
- Holding and seeing your baby for the first time will unequivocally be the most amazing and emotional experience of your life.
Lessons I’m Learning as a New Mom:
- In the first few days, every task—from diaper changes to breastfeeding—is a two-man job. I don’t know how I would have made it through any of these things without Luke by my side.
- Babies are nocturnal. At least, that seems to be the case with my baby. He happily sleeps all day long, and often has to be awoken for feedings, but he is up most of the night. I shouldn’t be surprised, as he was always most active at nighttime when he was in utero.
- On a related note, sleep deprivation is a very real thing. But you are able to “function” (at least on a superficial level) on much less sleep than one would have predicted.
- Newborn clothing does NOT fit all newborns. . . at least it won’t fit if your newborn is 5 pounds. The same goes for cloth diapers: the “one size fits all” label clearly does not take tiny babies into consideration. It’s going to be some time before we’re able to transition into those!
- Between mom and baby, there are a whole lot of fluids coming from some interesting places, and there is no such thing as too many burp rags, breast pads, or receiving blankets.
- A baby boy WILL pee on you when you change his diaper, especially if it’s in the middle of the night. The same goes for pooping and spitting up.
- A newborn’s habits and preferences are constantly changing. Just when you think you’ve figured out his favorite feeding position, soothing technique, or stance on swaddling, he will change his mind and the learning process will begin again.
- The minute you sit down for a meal is the exact moment your baby will decide that he, too, is ready to eat. Be prepared to eat some cold food.
- Being a new parent is nerve-wracking. Every cry, hiccup, and possible sign of distress evokes feelings of panic. Everything is usually fine, but it’s scary nonetheless.
- Breastfeeding results in a ravenous appetite and an unquenchable thirst. Plan on your grocery bill doubling once your baby arrives.
- An infant’s facial expressions and catlike movements are the most adorable thing in the world.
- Motherhood is challenging, but 100% worth it! Holding your baby is hands-down the best feeling in the world, and you will be more in love with your child than you ever thought possible.
I know that my learning as a parent is only just beginning. In his two short weeks on this earth, Charlie has already taught me SO MUCH and I can’t wait to see what he’ll be teaching me in the days, months, and years ahead. If you are a parent, what lessons has your child taught you? Please share your wisdom in the Comments! And head on over to Chatting at the Sky to read about what other bloggers have learned this month.