I Was Warned, But Hot Damn: 5 Surprising Facts about Labor & Life with Baby
Throughout my pregnancy, I read a number of baby-prep books and subscribed to several news feeds devoted exclusively to weekly pre- and postnatal updates. As my due date loomed, these news sources, in addition to friends and family members, warned me of the experiences and changes to come. But their forebodings went largely ignored because, frankly, there are just some experiences that can’t be conveyed through words alone. Until you’ve gone through the experience yourself, they’re just words.
So here’s a short list of things I was warned about labor, delivery and life at home during baby’s first few weeks, but that still shocked the hell out of me when I experienced them for myself:
- Labor is painful… Yeah, yeah. No duh. But no, really. When I started having early contractions, I thought to myself, Am I having contractions? And then hubris set in. Pshhh… I GOT this. I must have a high tolerance to pain. And then I started having contractions. I woke up in the middle of the night, or rather, I woke up my husband when I made some kind of animalistic sound that roughly translated to: HOLY CRAP, What is this?? My water broke as soon we got to the hospital, but I didn’t get an epidural until five hours later. The pain I experienced in the meantime left me stunned. I threw up three times while I labored. Nobody told me this was going to hurt this bad! Yes, they did; I just didn’t understand what they meant by “painful.”
- Childbirth is a miracle… Before I had a baby, I would roll my eyes whenever someone referred to childbirth as a miracle, as in “the miracle of life.” I agreed with a comedian who said it’s not a miracle–babies are born all day everyday all over the world. But after laboring for 14 hours, just barely avoiding an emergency c-section and seeing my goop-covered baby held up for me to see, childbirth is a freakin’ miracle. I felt an instant bond with my son; after all, we’d been getting to know each other for nine months. But I was also in awe of him and of myself. Did I just produce this human being from my own body? Whoa.
- Babies poop. A lot. And often explosively… I seriously underestimated how many diapers we’d go through. Before my son was born, I actually thought I’d use cloth diapers. [Cue laughter here.] Yeah, well… maybe when he’s older, but don’t hold me to it. And I’d heard of projectile vomit, but have you ever heard of projectile poop? Neither had I, but I made the mistake of taking too long when changing the little man’s diaper one night, and I was distracted by him spitting up massive amounts of breast milk. Then what I thought was a toot turned out to be poop–all over the wall of his bassinet. While I attended that linen massacre, he peed on his face, soaking his PJ’s along the way. Wow. That’s right. I experienced the unholy trinity of diaper changes. Lord help me.
- Babies cry… This is another one of those “no duh” moments. When a baby cries, people generally get annoyed. But when it’s your own baby, the sound of their crying elicits this instinctual desire to soothe. And when nothing you do does the trick, all you can do is sigh while you hold your writhing infant and make ineffective cooing sounds that the crying nearly drowns out.
- You will be sleep deprived… Everyone warns you about this one. And they often do so with a certain relish, as if to say, Hee hee, just you wait. But the truth is, no amount of warning can really adequately prepare a soon-to-be parent for life without sleep. All babies are different, but all babies require frequent feedings for the first few months. So regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you’re going to be up at least every 3 hours. At least with a bottle, you can enlist the help of a partner to do the late-night feedings, but breastfeeders (like me) are screwed. No one else can do this task for you, not even when you command your spouse to begin lactating immediately. At least, that tactic didn’t work for me. You’ll also hear the mantra: Sleep when your baby sleeps. But what if your baby doesn’t sleep that often? And what if you need to do laundry? Or eat? Or, god forbid, shower? This mantra seems like sage advice, but in reality, you’ll only snatch an hour or two of sleep here and there. But you get used to the lack of sleep and the general haziness that is now your quotidian life, and you get by with the vague hope that this can’t last forever. Right?