Before becoming a mum I thought I knew exactly what it would be like, what I’d want to be like as a parent and what I’d do in every major situation you can think of. They were thoughts I’d collated over the years of watching others around me parent and I thought (rather smugly, I’ll admit) that it’d be a breeze. Then I had the baby…
Expectation: Newborns sleep a LOT don’t they?! Every time you see one on TV they’re asleep so it must be the truth. Nice long naps at frequent intervals, waking only to feed before dropping back to sleep easily. Simple.
Reality: Clearly our baby has a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) because he hated sleeping. Genuinely hated it. The only way you could get him to sleep was to bounce him for a minimum of thirty minutes which resulted in major knee pain for both me and the husband that continues to this day. Once asleep he would only stay that way if held semi upright against the body before waking every ten minutes just to make sure you were still having as much fun. Bounce, sleep, wake, repeat. Forever.
Expectation: Breast-feeding is so natural and oh so easy. Women have been doing it for centuries in all walks of life. It’ll be nothing compared to labour anyway!
Reality: Oh my. Breast-feeding is anything other than the easy route. Looking back on it now, I should have known that any body part that’s being mashed and sucked for 23 hours of the day would get sore but who thinks of that?! We spent hours squishing, prodding and pushing my boobs into his (tiny) mouth and achieve the Holy Grail aka. THE PERFECT LATCH. We then battled cluster-feeding (ouch), mastitis (double ouch) and nipple thrush (unbelievable ouch) before finally appearing to hit our stride. We’ve even kept going through him getting teeth and becoming the pinchiest, grabbiest baby in town. I’m quite proud to have exceeded my expectations and still be feeding at eleven months; we’re still going!
The Moses Basket
Expectation: Co-sleeping – yes. Bed sharing – nooooooo never. Don’t people know how dangerous it can be? We set up a Moses basket by the bed and another in the lounge so that we didn’t have to keep carrying it up and down the stairs. Mental images of me sat reading a book whilst the baby napped soundly next to me were abundant, there may have been bunches of grapes alongside me in that fantasy. Possibly.
Reality: Smug parents, we were not. No books, no grapes, no sodding Moses basket. If we thought getting him to sleep was hard, getting him to sleep in the basket was harder. We managed two nights of pure hell before blearily agreeing to pop him in the bed with us. I sat bolt upright for nearly two weeks terrified to sleep in case I dropped him whilst he snored away between bouncing and feeds. Finally, we cracked and bought a co-sleeping crib which gave me something to jam my body on to whilst he hogged the bed. Entirely what it was meant for. What happened to the Moses baskets? They became laundry holders/clothes horses – definitely a missed marketing opportunity there. This continued for months before we gave in and packed them away.
My Body Image
Expectation: Okay so I put on more weight than I ever intended – no, it wasn’t twins, thanks for asking. However, breastfeeding shrinks weight off like magic so it will all be fine. The baby will sleep all day long and I’ll use that time to workout religiously and lose all the weight. Yummy mummy here I come(y?).
Reality: The first few weeks I lost a substantial amount of weight purely from the fact I no longer had a person inside of me. I’m sure breastfeeding would help you lose weight (although I’ve heard wildly varying reports of this) but it also makes you ravenous. When the baby wasn’t clinging to me demanding attention (who knew babies were so needy?!), I lay on the bed willing myself to sleep rather than pounding it out on the treadmill. With that in mind, I resigned myself to putting up with things for a couple of months whilst life settled back to a new normal and generally avoiding mirrors. It’s been eleven months. It’s probably time I stopped that.
The Maternal Side
Expectation: I really struggled to connect to the fact that I was Having. A. Baby. My expectations for how I would feel after birth were pretty low because of this; I was scared that I wouldn’t be maternal enough or that I just didn’t have the gene.
Reality: When he was born I was deep in shock but in the following few hours my husband slept and I just sat, holding my son and staring at him as he snorted away in his sleep. That protective, awed feeling that is so difficult to describe. When he smiles, it makes my chest hurt. When he cries, it does the same. Even when he’s driving me crazy (which is often), it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
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