Prior to experiencing having a baby, my expectation was to simply push out my new gorgeous child, nestle it to my breast to feed and life would continue on in a bubble of blissful happiness. I must admit I was shocked by the reality of a number of things that would happen to my body, about which other Mums had never enlightened me. It was like there was a mother’s code of silence on these things, as if procreation would end if we knew the real truth. I’ve made a list of five things I wish I had known:
1. Breast feeding hurts
I expected to have my baby softly suckle my breast and that it would be a pleasant experience. Nothing prepared me for the feeling like someone had pliers on the end of my nipples trying to wrench them from my chest. The pain was excruciating and as neither my newborn nor I had any experience at breastfeeding I ended up with blisters and bleeding nipples. This certainly wasn’t in the brochure!
Don’t get me wrong, I wholly endorse breast feeding and in fact fed my own kids until they were each 12 months old. The good news is that after a few weeks your nipples go from areas of extreme sensitivity to toughened udders and then the health benefits and the convenience of breastfeeding outweigh the pain you went through in the first few weeks.
2. Sometimes you drown yourself in breast milk
I was blessed with an ample supply of milk, in fact, maybe too much! I once filled an entire baby bottle full of breast milk with leakage from the side from which I wasn’t currently feeding. The funny thing about your milk supply is that sometimes for no real reason, you have a let down of milk that leaves your top saturated. It could be hearing your baby cry, or another baby cry, or even just the thought that you will need to feed soon. Unfortunately, you have no control over this and even though breast pads will help absorb any leaking drips, they are no barrier for the flood of a let down. Just a note to self, not only carry a spare set of clothes for your baby, but for yourself too
3. After birth pains
I always thought all the pain was over and done once you pushed your baby out. I knew little about the post partum pains that occur when you breast feed. It is nature’s way of helping you get back into shape by contracting your uterus when you feed. In the early days, the pain I experienced was equivalent to early stage labour pains and I had to time pain relief to coincide with the time of the next feed.
4. Hair Loss
Your newborn baby is like a parasite, sapping all the goodness out of you. Your health comes second to providing nourishment to your child. After a few weeks you start losing copious amounts of hair. I lost so much hair that I often thought if I had spun it into thread, I could have knitted baby booties from it! The good news is that it does grow back, however for a period of time, you have a halo of short fuzz around your hairline. The purchase of a good hat cannot be underestimated.
5. Secret women’s business
If you consider your womb prior to conception as a lush, tropical oasis, after you have given birth it becomes the Sahara Desert. It is nature’s way to say to your partner, ‘Steer clear, I’m not fertile!’ All I can say is stock up on lubricants.
Whilst discussing issues of a woman’s private domain – I can’t emphasise enough the need to do pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy and beyond. I have several friends that didn’t heed that advice and now can no longer belly laugh, sneeze or jump on a trampoline with their kids without a little leakage.
I’m sure other mums could add to this list with issues such as hemorrhoids, mastitis, episiotomies and varicose veins. I don’t want to be a scaremonger, but if you are like me, you like to go into situations knowing what to expect.
If you’ve had a baby, please share a comment with any other experiences that you think new Mums should expect.