Baby magazines, books and leaflets available to pregnant women are full of tips, advice and pointers for women who are just beginning their parenting journey. However, these little titbits just don’t give you the full picture. Allow me to fill in the gaps
#1 – Your views will change as your baby grows
When I was pregnant, I was full of big ideas about how I was going to raise my child, how I would always have a consistent bedtime routine (and therefore my child would sleep great), how I would only breastfeed for a few months and how having a baby wouldn’t actually change my life all that much. HA HA HA. Yeah.
Pregnant women are sponges. They are ready and willing to soak up every little titbit of information and knowledge on pregnancy, birth and raising their babes. And of course, some of them – including me, back in the day – will conclude that they have learnt enough to totally rock at motherhood from the get-go.
However, we all generally come to realise that even the best-laid plans go awry. And that’s OK. Going with the flow is much better, anyway.
#2 – Having a baby sleeping in your arms ROCKS.
The baby sleep books, ranging from the gentle, baby-focused No Cry Sleep Solution to the harsh routines of Gina Ford, basically hinge on one idea – that if you lay your baby down alone just before they are ready to sleep, they will learn to fall asleep on their own. Furthermore, if you do this from the very beginning, they will be used to it and it won’t be a struggle. I have to call bullshit on this one. Of course it will be true for SOME babies, but certainly not all, or even most. And besides – there is nothing, NOTHING in this world that is more joyous and satisfying than having a beautiful sleeping baby on your chest with their head tipped back and face so close to yours you can smell their sweet, milky breath. I never WANTED to put either of mine down to sleep.
#3 – Sometimes breastfeeding sucks.
Most of the literature available to pregnant mothers about breastfeeding acknowledges that although breastfeeding is natural and normal, it can be very hard at times. However, I haven’t seen much literature (at least the mainstream stuff) that talks about how difficult breastfeeding can be emotionally, especially in the first couple of months when you have gone from being free and easy to feeling essentially like a glorified dairy cow, sat on the couch for hours on end nursing, nursing, nursing…
So yeah, it can be really tough at times. Many, many women I know have told me that part of the reason why they stopped breastfeeding was because they weren’t enjoying it much and they thought they were supposed to love it, therefore they figured they must have been doing it wrong. Well, listen up ladies – sometimes, you won’t love it. Especially in the first 6 months, when it can feel like a hard slog at times (especially at night). It does get *so much* easier and more enjoyable though, I promise.
#4 – There’s very little you can do to influence your baby’s sleep
Again, lots of the books will have you believe that if you just do everything right, your baby will sleep much better and will sleep through quicker than they would have done had you just done whatever the hell was easiest at the time. Again, I call bullshit. Yes, some babies’ sleep can be influenced by changes you make. A relaxing, calming bedtime routine is crucial for some babies in order to sleep well, and making an effort to put your baby down to sleep might get them used to ‘self soothing’. However, most babies will do whatever the hell they want at night, regardless of what you do or don’t do. I remember rigidly sticking to our routine when Monkey was a tiddler, and honestly, looking back I think it was more for my sanity than for Monkey’s sleep. He would have been an atrocious sleeper no matter what I did.
And I think that’s the point – if doing all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do in order to help your baby sleep makes YOU feel better, and nobody is suffering because of it, then all power to you. Do whatever the hell you need to do to get yourself through the tough times. Just please, please don’t be That Mum who smugly gloats about how your 14 week old baby is sleeping 6 hour stretches because of your Magical Routine, because all that will do is make the rest of us cross our fingers and hope that the four month sleep regression is just around the corner for you.
#5 – You will feel very, very lonely sometimes
Especially if you are the first out of your group of friends to have kids, you may find yourself feeling very isolated. Motherhood can be a thankless task sometimes, and it’s important to surround yourself with people who really get you and understand why you need them to leave by 1.30pm so the baby can nap, why you cant answer the phone at 5.30pm and listen to rants about a boyfriend or the latest local gossip for an hour, and why you can’t drop everything and meet up at a moments notice.
I’m not saying you should ditch your no-baby friends – far from it! I LOVE my no-baby friends. They’re amazing, especially when I want to do no-baby things and the hubster can watch the kids whilst I escape for a couple of precious hours. They also love doing fun stuff with me and the kids, like going to the park on a sunny day. But when the going gets tough – you haven’t slept in a week, the preschooler’s behaviour is making you want to hurl yourself out of a 2nd floor window and the house is a state – your mummy friends are the ones you turn to. They’re the ones who get you.
#6 – You will get such pleasure from the simplest of things.
Seeing your child master a skill for the first time. Your baby’s sleeping face in the half-light at 4am. Rainy days spent watching movies, snuggled under a duvet. A soft little hand reaching for yours as you walk into town to run errands. Getting them all into bed at the end of the day, breathing a sigh of relief and then proceeding to spend 20 minutes gazing at them asleep in their beds, marvelling over how small they really are.
OK, so your life may not be the exciting, spontaneous adventure it used to be, but let’s face it – however often it may drive you crazy, you wouldn’t swap it for anything
What truths do you wish you were warned about before you had children?