I’m sure you’ve all heard that you can’t ever really be ready for a baby until you have one, or that you won’t understand the different love you have for your kids until they’re here. You’ve probably also heard that newborn life is hard and that sometimes it’s not all sunshine and roses. However, what many new parents don’t know is WHY life is so different once you have a kid. Sure, not sleeping sucks. But getting up with your dog twice in one night pre-baby has nothing on the soul-sucking exhaustion of new parenthood. I wrote a list of things you SHOULD ask before you have a baby, but probably won’t. Let’s pretend we’re best friends sitting down for a chat – because this is about to get real.
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How much sleep will you really get?
To be fair, this one could also be titled, what does sleep deprivation with an infant actually look like? In either case, it means you aren’t getting a solid eight hours for a LONG time. And probably not six either. Babies wake every two to four hours to eat throughout the night. In the newborn phase, they can be up every hour or two from the time they finish a feeding. This means you could be actually nursing or feeding every hour. Yes, this is as bad as it sounds. After a while, they’re probably able to sleep longer but just like the cuddle time. Fantastic.
If anyone had told me I’d be up every night until my daughter was 11 months old I might not have had kids. Six a.m. felt like a total dream when she finally started sleeping that long at 11 months. Even now at age three, we’re not far past a 7 a.m. wakeup call. We are out of the “I’m so exhausted I can’t really even pick up my feet phase” – but it’s still tiring.
This will get better as you progress throughout the first year. And yes, some people have miracle babies that sleep through the night at 10 weeks. I hate those people and don’t recommend you base your projected sleep off of them.
Why is everyone obsessed with baby poop?
It’s weird. I thought more about pee and poop when my daughter was an infant than I ever had in my life. And I have stomach issues, so that’s saying something. The output is something doctors use to measure whether or not your baby is thriving and gaining weight, so it’s super important during the early days.
As your baby grows, disrupted bathroom habits can be a sign or symptom of another illness or issue, so parents tend to watch very closely. Finally, we also just had to deal with a lot of crap. Literally.
The first month or so we were changing up to 15 diapers per DAY. I didn’t realize you could go through an entire jumbo pack of diapers in two days. It was madness. If the baby wasn’t eating, she was pooping. We had so many blowouts it was ridiculous. Poop just becomes a big part of your life once you have a newborn.
What’s really different about newborn life? I mean, you just have a baby to hang out with now.
Literally everything. Your entire world will be re-framed overnight. It’s not like you just got a new handbag that you can show off when your friends come over. Every single decision you make will be coming from the new epicenter of your universe.
Calm down. I’m not saying that who you are as a person is totally dead after you have a baby. You still exist. You have other thoughts, opinions, wants and needs. However, the decisions you make and your entire worldview has changed.
You’re also operating on very little sleep (see point above) and if you’re breastfeeding need to be able to stop and nurse almost every hour. So, yea, things look different than they did before you had a baby.
Why can you never hang out on Friday night?
See points above RE no sleep, no time without a baby attached to your chest and trying to reframe yourself as a successful woman. If by some miracle you have two hours to yourself on a Friday evening, you’re probably so exhausted all you want to do is sit in front of the TV or go to bed early.
When you first enter the phase of newborn life you will mourn happy hours, hanging out with friends, and having one or two drinks out at a bar. You’ll also miss the ability to be away from your nursing infant for more than two hours.
However, all that stuff is temporary, and you can do it again in a shorter time than you’d think. But I’m not going to lie – it does suck at the very beginning. And most people won’t tell you that.
Is my dog really going to be less important to me?
I can’t really answer this one because I don’t have a pet. I don’t think people who have pets like them less once they have a baby. However, I can tell you what happens to your priority list once you have children. And that’s that they head right to the top. Everything else comes second. Or third, or fourth.
After kids probably comes work, your house, your spouse, and yourself. Your pet is somewhere on that list and is likely still well cared for. But, if he or she had top billing before the baby arrived, I’m guessing life has changed at least a little bit.
Will my choice to breastfeed or formula feed come back to bite me?
The short answer here is yes. Women are made to feel terrible about their feeding choices no matter what they choose. Breast is best is touted from the rooftops and at every OBGYN appointment you have the pleasure of attending. Especially at the pediatrician’s office. Also, you may be made to feel like your baby may get some horrible disease or be brain dead if you don’t give him the nutrients found in breast milk.
However, it’s not truly a societal norm to nurse freely and uncovered in public. Formula (or bottle feeding) is still more socially acceptable in some places in public. If you nurse for “too long: people will constantly ask you when you’re going to stop. This starts somewhere close to the one year mark. You’ll get questions and comments like, have you not switched to formula yet?! If you nurse your baby too long, you’ll never be able to wean, or my favorite – they’re using you as a human pacifier. Also, people will tell you that you’re creating attachment issues and you can’t really live your own life if the baby is attached to you all the time.
FYI – I nursed for 19 months and none of these bad things happened to me. My daughter never used a pacifier so we didn’t have to worry about weaning from that, and she seems to be relatively well adjusted at age three.
Ok. Be real. What’s really so hard about newborn life?
The baby part is just tiring. The hardest part about newborn life is that your life was literally turned upside down, shaken, and put in a blender. Redefining yourself as a mom, an employee, and a woman with all new priorities, thoughts, and values is probably the hardest part about having a baby.
The sleeplessness and dirty diapers aren’t awesome but eat, sleep, play, repeat isn’t really that HARD. It’s just hard when it’s your entire world. You’ll get through this phase, and I’m told that once you have a teenager, the baby phase feels like a piece of cake.
Something to look forward to, no?
Will I hate my husband?
You may, in fact, hate your husband. Even if he set the stars before your baby was born. The hormones and sleep deprivation are a huge factor here. As is the fact that a lot of men just aren’t naturals at parenting at first. Many men feel like they don’t know what to do when the baby is crying or feel like they can’t help because they can’t breastfeed.
In these scenarios, you should reassure your husband that he’s doing an awesome job. We’re just winging it as we go along too! Even if he can’t breastfeed, he can help out in other ways. Washing pump parts, cooking, and doing the laundry aren’t things that magically happen. If your hubby is helping out and making a concerted effort to help you parent, the feelings of annoyance or resentment will likely pass quickly as the hormones leave your system.
What if I don’t love my baby?
Ok, this is a tough one because a lot of the time this feeling is linked to postpartum depression. It’s not that you actually don’t love your baby.
However, let’s first start out by saying that not everyone has love at first sight with their baby. For some of us, it takes awhile. The need to develop an attachment is totally normal. When I met my daughter I didn’t have that “she’s the most amazing person in the world” feeling, and I was sure something was wrong.
It’s not. Focus on healing, and getting to know your baby. The wonder and joy will come. If you’re still feeling unattached and are having trouble getting back into your routine, you should definitely talk to your doctor. While love-at-first-sight doesn’t always happen, you should begin to develop an attachment and feel better about your life within the first month or two.
There are so many challenging and amazing things that happen as a new mom, but so many of them are hard to explain or wouldn’t come up in normal conversation. There are things you definitely SHOULD ask your mom friends before you give birth for the first time. They’ve been there and can provide insight. Newborn life is challenging, and it’s a hard transition, but one that is so worth it.