You can read all the books on babies, sleep and the first year in the world, but there will still be a lot of things that take you by surprise.
The early months are a baptism of fire to say the least and I wondered how on earth I could feel so badly prepared when I had spent so many months getting myself and my home ready.
Today I thought I would share the top things that I wish I had known before having my babies. If you have any to add let me know!
1. Giving birth is the least of your worries
Doing an NCT class is a great idea and making sure you’re well aware of what can happen during delivery is essential.
But many NCT classes focus on the birth rather than the full-blown reality of what happens after you get through that mammoth physical ordeal.
Getting through the birth is of course important and there are things that can go wrong. But if you have a natural delivery and a healthy baby, believe me when I say giving birth will turn out to be the least of your worries.
So plan for your delivery, but don’t over plan, and try to think about what life will be like once the baby has arrived.
2. Breastfeeding sucks
It’s hard work and it hurts. The NHS wants you to breastfeed, which I think stops them from being completely honest about how bloody shit it is in the first eight weeks.
If we could just be given realistic expectations of breastfeeding, then I think far more women would be able to carry on doing it.
Because we go into it believing it will be natural, pain-free and easier than bottle feeding, we are disappointed when the reality comes crashing down all around us.
Breastfeeding is not easy in the early weeks. It can hurt a lot as you get used to the latch. You will worry whether your baby is getting enough milk (check the nappies and weight gain, it’s the best way of knowing all is well). You will wonder why the hell your baby feeds for three hours at a time with only a 30 minute gap in the middle.
It sucks, but it’s normal.
3. Breastfeeding gets easier
You may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s definitely there.
After around eight weeks you know what you’re doing and your baby has perfected the latch.
From here it’s a lot of easier than sterilising loads of bottles every day.
4. Sleep deprivation is awful
It’s not like that time you couldn’t sleep and laid awake in bed for hours.
It’s night after night of bad sleep and day after day of feeling like a total zombie.
Read up on my tips for surviving a bad sleeper in the first six months.
5. There are no right answers
If you spend all of your time looking for the right answers, you are going to be disappointed, and confused.
Midwives and health visitors will often give conflicting advice about things such as breastfeeding, sleep, routines and products.
The way forward is to get all of the information and make a choice that works for you and your baby.
One person may tell you that co-sleeping is wrong, while another will say it saved their sanity.
One person may say expressing your breastmilk is a bad idea, while another will tell you it can help your supply.
Take a deep breath and try to remind yourself that it’s ok not to have the right answer right now. Just fumbling your way through it is totally fine. It’s what we are all doing.
6. Your relationship will suffer
You will have less quality time together, you will both be adjusting to a massive life change and you will be crabby through lack of sleep.
Even the strongest of relationships can be tested by a new baby.
Try to be kind to each other and make time for a conversation whenever you can.
7. Changes can happen overnight
If you have a baby who hasn’t slept more than three hours since being born you may wonder if this is your life now.
Trust me when I say it isn’t! Improvements in sleeping happen suddenly and generally without warning.
Remember that better sleep, less worry and less crying is just around the corner. Yes parenting is always going to have its challenges, but the extreme pressure of that first year does not last forever.
8. Love grows
You may very well love your baby the second you clap eyes on them, chances are you will.
But sometimes it’s hard to bond, you don’t always feel that connection straight away and that’s ok, it’s normal even.
Give it time and spend quiet moments just being with your baby whenever you can.
You will be amazed at how much the love grows in the first year.
9. Mess will happen
Be prepared to be seriously disappointed in the state of your home.
If you’re a neat freak like me it’s a tricky thing to come to terms with, but you need to accept it, at least for a short while.
You will need to rest whenever you can, take showers when you have a short window and get out of the house so that you don’t go stir crazy.
Don’t tidy up just for visitors, you’ve got more important things to think about than making a good impression. Plus the early visitors should be close friends and family who understand getting the laundry folded and put away is not the priority right now.
10. Your priorities change
You may have been absolutely certain you would return to work within six months, or that you would definitely go back full-time.
Don’t make any rash decisions and think carefully once your baby has arrived.
Committing to a long work trip before you’ve even had the baby is probably not the right call. You have no idea how you will feel about work and other big life choices once they are born.
Give yourself time to make the big decisions, and remember that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
11. There will be dark days
The baby blues, loneliness and anxiety are all things that can strike during the early months. You think post-natal depression is the only thing you need to worry about, but actually even mums without PND have awful days.
Those pesky hormones can make you think everything is too hard and you’re a rubbish mum.
The loneliness is a surprise too. You may miss your old life and your old self. You may feel isolated.
These feelings are scary but try not to let them beat you. Take good care of yourself and remember it will pass. Motherhood won’t always be so hard.
I hope this tips help you in the tricky early weeks. Was there anything that has surprised you since becoming a mum?