Pregnancy is amazing. Hands down, it's one of the most incredible things I've ever experienced. Growing human life is an honour and a great privilege and seeing how a little human grows over time is undoubtedly fascinating and awe-inspiring. That said, pregnancy is also lots of other things, like tiring, a bit gross at times, frustrating, and let's face it, scary. They say ignorance is bliss, and boy were they right. That said, I really wish someone had given me the heads up on some of the less glamorous aspects of late pregnancy and birth. So I've compiled a list of seven things I wish someone had told me when having my first baby:
1. The Dignity
The prep work, I remember it well. From painting my toenails to shaving my legs and moisturising said legs. The grooming and preparation that I underwent before my trip to the hospital knew no bounds. Sure, things weren't necessarily going to be pleasant, but my nails and hair would be in check. As the day progressed, and the contractions set in, my make up slowly slid away and my hair looked more like matted fuzz than curled. Looking back, if I hadn't shaved my legs in a year, I'm pretty sure the midwife or the consultant wouldn't have noticed. My lasting memory of my time in the hospital after my first was born, was lying with essentially no clothes on in the middle of the delivery suite, being washed down by a really lovely care assistant with the equivalent of a j-cloth. I remember turning to my midwife and laughing saying 'I'm glad I painted my toenails for this'. The first time they examined me I was nervous and a little embarrassed, definitely self-conscious. Skip forward four hours, half a tank of gas and air and an epidural later and I would have invited the Queen herself along to have a look. You just stop caring and relax. You just have to remind yourself, they have seen it all.
You can never really be truly prepared for the tiredness after giving birth. I probably naively thought I knew what tiredness was. I was wrong. I arrived to the hospital at 8am the morning I was being induced. I didn't give birth until 3 am the next morning and it was after 4am when I got back to the ward. Factor in an hour of pushing, the aftermath of an epidural and being awake for 21 hours. To say I was tired would be a slight understatement. I remember finally getting into bed in the ward, my new bundle parked alongside me. All was well until the reality of my husband being sent home hit me. The midwife telling me to set an alarm on my phone as I would have to feed the baby again in two hours. I felt broken. I had never felt such tiredness and all I wanted to do was cry. But I did what she said, and I woke, and he fed. Although those memories are vague and hazy, I have come to learn that sleep deprivation is a feature of parenthood. I also now know the amazing things your body can do with little or no sleep.
3. Babies are Terrifying
I remember when my husband was sent home once we got back to the ward. It was just this new little person and me for the first time. I'll be honest my initial feeling was an overwhelming sense of terror. This tiny being was my responsibility, and frankly, I hadn't a clue what I was at. Throughout my pregnancy, I worried I wouldn't take to the whole 'motherhood' gig. I was never the type to throw myself at people with babies and goo and gah at how lovely they were. In all honesty, I kind of thought all babies looked the same, and my inherent fear of dropping someone else's baby led me to become the one who admired babies from afar. Now here I was, alone in a hospital, responsible for 'my' baby. I won't lie, I shed a fear tears and had a mini internal meltdown but then swiftly got it together. Once the hormones settled down, the effects of sleep deprivation eased and it dawned on me just how amazing this little thing was, the terror was promptly replaced with pride and excitement.
4. The Day After
During labour and birth, you are most definitely on a high (not just from gas and air), fight or flight kicks in and you instinctively know that you will get through it all. Afterwards, its a hazy blur of a day with the ultimate ending being the arrival of a mini person. And as my due date approached I remember anxiously playing out all the scenarios of what might happen during 'D' day. What I never really thought about was the next day, and for me, the next day was tough, really tough. I was in a lot of pain, I was sleep deprived, I had this shiny new baby who was reliant on my failing body for food. I was cranky, hormonal and overly sensitive. I remember my Mom coming to see me and whispering to her 'I am broken....I will never be right'. She smiled and reassured me that I would, and sooner than I thought. Needless to say, she was right. I survived and within a couple of days, I felt like myself again.
5. The Shower
Soon after giving birth and once I was able to stand again, I remember craving a shower just so I could feel human again. That said I had never really given much thought as to how difficult having a shower was going to be. Given that I could barely walk, couldn't bend and had stitches in unimaginable places, I was unsure as to how things were going to go down. You're warned and encouraged to shower often to avoid infection and the likes, but it's not like home, the shower head isn't exactly detachable (for obvious reasons). Now really wasn't an opportune time for me to bust out the yoga moves, mostly because I was physically unable to walk straight, don't mind bend. I was terrified of what had gone on down there just hours previously and touching said area was a no go because of the pain. I wish someone had warned me of this, given me the heads up or mentioned how underwhelming and unsatisfying my first post-baby shower would be. A squirty water bottle as a shower companion would have done the trick and I could have avoided the stress. Funnily enough, I don't remember that being mentioned on any hospital bag list!
6. The Adult Nappy
Could I ever be truly prepared for the love I would feel for an enormous green maternity pad? Probably not. I remember shopping in Boots with my Mom whilst pregnant and being horrified at the sheer size of a maternity pad. In all honesty, I didn't really comprehend what I would be needing them for. I was edging towards the discreet 'slim' maternity pads and was a little irked at my mothers' amusement when she practically forced me to buy the industrial looking ones. Let's just say I thanked her afterwards. They may not be pretty, but they sure are cushioned. Although I assure you it won't last, I definitely felt 'delicate' for a few days and these bad boys were very much appreciated.
7. The Love
As I sit here reminiscing, I am reminded how I really hadn't a clue just how much I was going to fall in love with that little person. The love is overwhelming. The love is intense. This all consuming love is your reward, your prize, for all you went through to bring this incredible, tiny person into the world.