Or maybe you’re a newlywed, eagerly trying to conceive. You can’t wait for the day to come when you’ll hold your “Mini Me” in the crook of your arm, when you’ll dress your whole family up in matching outfits, and when you’ll plan his or her first birthday party.
But don’t bask in these dreamy scenarios just yet. Sure, motherhood is wonderful, miraculous, and positively life-changing. But it’s also tiring, stressful, and can turn your whole life upside down. As the gals in GirlTalk will tell you, once you've plunged into motherhood, you'll realize there are a few things you'll wish you'd known back when that baby was still a bump. Already know that? Join the discussion at the GirlTalk forums and share your knowledge!
But just in case you're new to the business of motherhood, here are a few things you should know before you have your first baby—things they don’t talk about (too much) in baby magazines or websites:
Giving birth is like joining the Olympics—you need to train for it
If you are aiming for normal childbirth (as opposed to a cesarean section), you need to have the energy and stamina to push and bear down for hours. Imagine holding your breath, then trying to push as if you have been constipated for months, all the while in the midst of the worst dysmenorrhea of your life (which is what a contraction feels like). Not to scare you or anything, but yes, it’s that tough.
So while it’s true that you should not overexert yourself during pregnancy, you also need to start preparing for labor. Simple stretching exercises (Kegel exercises included), and frequently walking around (even in the mall) can go a long way when D-Day comes. Inquire about prenatal yoga classes. Also, birthing classes are a great way to learn how to properly stretch and squat; or ask your OB-GYN to show you a few moves.
Resist the urge to buy everything on sight.
Research ahead of time to determine which items are essentials and which are superfluous. For example, you don’t need a burp cloth because a cloth diaper (lampin) will do just fine.
Baby clothes are especially tough to resist buying, as everything just looks so darn cute! But babies grow incredibly fast, and you wouldn’t want to buy an expensive romper your little one will wear only once. Besides, you will probably receive a lot of clothes as gifts from friends and family anyway.
Breastfeeding is tough.
Books and television shows always show a mom looking down adoringly at the baby quietly suckling on her breast. What they don’t show are the first few days, weeks—sometimes even months—of struggle that all newly breastfeeding moms go through. Yes, breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but it is something that moms (and babies) have to get the hang of first. And this learning period is difficult, plus it will exhaust you physically and emotionally.
There will be pain—some breasts become so painful that they will hurt even when showering. They may also become painful when they are engorged (that is, when your breasts fill up with so much un-drained milk that they become rock hard and will throb constantly, and you will develop fever and chills). Sometimes there is even bleeding.
Emotionally, you will always be second-guessing yourself. “Am I producing enough milk? Is my baby getting enough?” There is also guilt, especially when you run across someone who has been successfully breastfeeding for more than a year. The trick is to ask her how things were during her first few weeks—odds are, she went through the same things you did.
But don’t lose hope, because there is a solution! Don’t just read up on breastfeeding (books tend to downplay the difficulties). Instead, talk to all the moms you know of who breastfed, even those who only did for a short time. Attend breastfeeding classes and talk to lactation consultants. Be prepared for the worst, and just know that things will get better in time. But when you are really at wit’s end, know that:
Cow’s milk (or formula) is not poison.
Breastfeeding is best for babies, but cow’s milk will not kill your baby, either. If breastfeeding is causing you too much stress, then consider alternatives. And be happy with your decision. Take comfort in the fact that if you are calm and happy, then baby will be calm and happy as well.
There is no right or wrong way to give birth.
Just like the breastfeeding versus formula debate, there is also intense pressure for women to deliver via normal means. Again, while it would be best to deliver sans any form of medication, do not hold it against yourself if your plans to awry. What’s important is that you and your baby come out healthy.
Your body will never be the same.
You will swell, stretch, and get dark patches (in the unlikeliest of places at that!). It will be months before you start to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape—and for some, this never happens! Even if you do eventually manage to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes, there will be stretchmarks across your tummy, thighs, sometimes even your breasts (unless you are one of the blessed rare women who don’t get them). Consider them battle scars and wear them with pride.
Your relationship with other people will change.
Once the baby is here, your husband will either become the most loving and supportive man you have ever known—or the most selfish and insensitive. Your mom will either be the source of best baby-care advice or the most infuriating busybody ever. Married friends will become your best friends or your worse competition. And you might end up having fewer and fewer things in common with single best buds.
Relax. Remember that you’re a mother now, but a mother isn’t all you are. Allow yourself to be yourself, but also admit that who you are and what you want in life may change, and that’s why the dynamics of your relationships may change as well.
How you view yourself will change as well.
Motherhood will most likely bring out your competitive streak—either with yourself or others. You will always be second-guessing yourself, constantly wondering if you are doing things right. You will also be comparing yourself with other moms—“Why is her son taller than mine?” “How come she still looks so good while I look like a basang basahan?”
If you keep this up, you will become an emotional wreck before your child turns a month old. Instead, pick a few people whose parenting philosophies you trust and are in line with yours—and instead of comparing, listen to them. This brings us to our next point.
No two babies are ever the same.
Your nephew was sitting up by himself when he was four months old; your daughter is six months old and is still wobbly. He was also a happy and sociable baby, while yours cries at the sight of a mere stranger. What are you doing wrong? Absolutely nothing. Babies grow physically, mentally, and socially at their own pace, and if your pediatrician is not bothered, neither should you be.
Motherhood is like being an emergency room doctor: You have no days off.
Say goodbye to reading the newspaper from cover to cover and hello to a five-minute scrub down in lieu of a relaxing shower. Don’t be surprised if you no longer know what the most popular song on the radio is, you don’t recognize the cute guy on the newest Bench billboard, and you’ve forgotten when the last time you wore makeup was.
Just remember that this insanely busy time will pass and that even if it’s hard, you need to force yourself to take time off from your baby once in a while and take care of yourself too (by perhaps enjoying a nice absolutely-no-baby-talk-tonight dinner with your single girl friends while baby is with a trusted caregiver for the evening).
(Coming soon photo by Hilde Vanstraelen via sxc.hu; baby love photo by Emily Cahal via sxc.hu)
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