As we head into the final stretch before our munchkin arrives (tick, tock, tick, tock), I can’t help but reflect on how blissfully ignorant I was about pregnancy and nursing before I had Parker. While I generally have easy pregnancies, there are just some things that I was not prepared for. Here’s a list of some things that I wish I knew.
1. Your pre-pregnancy body rocks – don’t give yourself such a hard time. If I had a dollar for every minuscule thing that I had wanted to “fix” about my body prior to my first pregnancy, I could have paid for my labor in advance. You don’t realize how wonderful and functional your body is until you watch it morph and expand to sizes previously unknown. Once I got back to my fighting weight after I had Parker, I was much more forgiving of my flaws (both real and imagined).
2. Your body will gain whatever weight it needs to regardless of your efforts to thwart it. With Parker, I gained 50 lbs. exactly and this time, I’m on par to gain right around 40 lbs. There have been weeks that I’ve eaten perfectly and weeks that I’ve been a dietary disaster and you know what? The scale went up regardless. I’ve been much more blasé about the weight gain this time around because I know it’s only temporary and, quite frankly, it’s necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
3. In the third trimester, you will pee at least 5 times a night. This one really rocked me the first time around. At the very end, it is nearly impossible to not get up every other hour to use the facilities. What’s even more frustrating is that you feel like you’re going to burst and then you barely have any output. That is courtesy of your child’s head pressing firmly on your bladder.
4. Regardless of how crappy sleep is during pregnancy, it’s still more sleep that you’re going to get once the baby gets here. Sleep deprivation is the nemesis of every new parent, but there is no way that someone can prepare you for what it feels like to only get 4 (interrupted) hours of sleep for weeks on end. I seriously felt like I was training for a covert military operation. What’s more, the first time that you get a 5 or 6 hour stretch, you could weep for joy and you feel like a whole new person. Who knew 5 solid hours of sleep would ever be considered a gift?
5. Not all children sleep through the night by 6 months of age. Ha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahhahhahaha. This was the joke of all jokes in our house. The Irishman and I were convinced that 6 months was some kind of magic age where Parker would begin sleeping for 5+ hour stretches. When 6 months became 12 months and 12 months became 18 months, we were borderline manic. What I found out the hard way is that some children just. don’t. sleep. It is no accident that these kids are 4.5 years apart. There was no way that I could remotely think about embarking on the newborn journey again while I still had a non-sleeping 3 year old.
6. Modesty is a thing of the past. Without going into any details, let’s just say that pregnant women and new mothers suffer a number of indignities that leave no room for modesty. I think my low point during my pregnancy with Parker was when the anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural (after I’d been in hard labor for 9 hours) and I excused myself to use the bathroom one more time…and didn’t bother to shut the door or close the back of my gown. It didn’t even remotely phase me.
7. Breastfeeding can hurt, even if you’re doing everything right. I had this vision of nursing in my head where the baby and I would look lovingly into each other’s eyes and it would be the most natural thing in the world. The fact of the matter is that, for the first month or so, it hurt! Prior to Parker latching on, I would hold my breath and wince in anticipation of the initial latch. The good news is that (1) I was committed to breastfeeding and willing to stick it out, and (2) after those first dicey 4 weeks, he went on to be a champion nurser for the next 13 months. Without the commitment and support of my friends and family, I would have surely thrown in the towel within the first couple of weeks.
Now for the good news!
8. Regardless of what phase your infant is in, it will be over shortly. If your baby has colic or excessive gas or screams bloody murder during every car ride, it is only for a very limited time. In that first year, that little person makes so many transformations, the first of which comes right around 12 weeks. I remember reading in a Dr. Sears book that the first 3 months are actually the 4th trimester and that babies don’t really come into their own until they pass the 3 month mark. I think he was spot on. For the first 3 months, Parker either wanted to be held or nursed. There was no acceptable third alternative for him. Once he passed the 3 month mark, he was engaging, interested in the world around him and generally much easier to please. If I had known how quickly 3 months would get here, I would have been much less stressed out about the total insanity and chaos of the first couple of months. Before you know it, they’re crawling, walking, talking… Having a newborn is hard, but it is such an incredibly short period of time. Trust me, all children will eventually sleep, give up the pacifier or the bottle, wean themselves and become more self sufficient than you’re probably prepared for. In moments of weakness, “This too shall pass” becomes a great mantra.
9. A change of scenery can do wonders. Seriously, something as simple as just walking outside can have such a huge impact on both you and the baby. The fresh air and sunshine instantly soothed both Parker and my nerves and I always kicked myself for staying cooped up inside on days that beckoned us.
10. Becoming a parent is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. When I was huge and miserably pregnant with Parker, I didn’t realize that I would miss his kicks and flips. Pregnancy was the only time in my life when I was capable of keeping him completely safe and warm and loved. It was also the only time when I had him all to myself. Once that baby is born, you share him or her with the world, but for the 9 preceding months, there is something wonderful about the bond that the two of your share. So for now, while I’m lying awake at night fretting about launching back into the chaos of having a newborn, I am savoring each kick and flip knowing that this will be the last time that I experience this. While I’m eager to meet this little person, I’m also content to let her cook another week or two. She’ll get here when she’s ready.