I have a 5 month old baby (pausing while I re-read that sentence, absorbing the enormity of it). The past months since my baby's birth have been the most challenging months of my life. We are both crying less and smiling more now, but it has been a rough road. There have been many moments that I have been upset with my parent friends for not telling me details that would have helped me know what to expect. If I had known some of these things, I might not have felt so isolated/inadequate while I was going through them. So, as part catharsis and part message/head's up to my friends who will become parents, here are the things that I wish my friends had told me:
1. Having a newborn will likely be one of the most challenging experience of your life.
2. You will spend hours taking childbirth classes, reading books, talking to friends, and scouring websites preparing for what happens during the actual birth of your baby. NEWSFLASH: Your body and the professionals who have gone to school for 20+ years and delivered a bajillion babies DO know what to do. Spend time reading what happens AFTER the baby is born...like how to instill good sleeping habits, how to breastfeed, how to use your stroller, how to use your breast pump, etc.
3. Your baby may not nap for two hours at a time like other babies do. In fact, your baby may only catnap for 30-40 minutes every nap...every day. And, he may fight against those short naps, too. This will allow you to get nothing done around the house. Don't even try.
4. There will be no time to shower, drink tea, eat real food, or pee.
5. Let people help you. This is not time to compete for the martyr of the month competition. If your mother wants to stay with you for a week...let her. If your neighbor wants to make you food...order up!
6. Your baby will cry for long periods of time. He won't be hungry, tired, cold, hot, wet, poopy, etc. He will just cry. You will feel helpless because you won't know how to help the little guy. You will figure it out, but it will be a process of trial and error.
7. Your baby will poop again as soon as you change his diaper.
8. Poop will gross you out at first. Within a matter of days, you won't bat an eyelash at it.
9. Breastfeeding may be "natural" but neither you nor your baby will likely know what to do. It may take a really long time to get the hang of it. Find a good lactation consultant; they are worth their weight in gold. (The first three that I contacted bailed on me.)
10. People will offer ALL KINDS of unsolicited advice regarding baby-rearing in general and breastfeeding in particular. They will tell you that your baby is not getting enough to eat, that you won't be able to breastfeed, that your baby will have nipple confusion, etc. Listen to no one. Trust yourself.
11. Your milk ducts can get clogged. This causes the baby to get very upset which makes breastfeeding difficult. Hot showers, massaging until you are bruised, and cabbage leaves worked for me. And still work. It continues to happen. Five months later.
12. You will be tired all of the time. You will fall asleep while nursing. You will get through it.
13. You will feel anxious the first time...okay the first 20 times...that you are alone with your baby.
14.You will feel love for your baby like nothing you've ever known or imagined.
Good luck, my would-be parent friends!