- How much I missed the hospital: After spending four days total in the hospital, I was so excited to get home – or so I thought. Then I got home and burst into tears. I was overwhelmed and filled with fear over caring for our baby without the security of round-the-clock nurses. Suddenly, everything felt so much safer at the hospital and I grew worried over everything and anything. It took me a solid week to overcome the irrational fears that were driving my anxiety, thanks to my husband and friends who helped me confidently step into my new role as mother.
- How tough recovery truly is: It’s not that fellow mamas in my life didn’t openly share what their recoveries were like, in fact, I rallied all the tips I could get – from stool softener to get me through the first poop to recipes for padsicles – but my recovery still took me by surprise. Until you go through it, it is hard to truly prepare for. I didn’t expect how painful it would be to do simple things like sit down, or how long it would take for the bleeding to stop. I also didn’t know that the severe swelling experienced in late pregnancy worsens after giving birth, as I nervously watched my feet and legs bloat up. It took a few days for me to get feeling back in my left leg – a possible side effect from the epidural and/or the severe swelling. Then there were the head aches, fevers/hot flashes, and dizzy spells. It is now week 3, and I’m just now feeling like my body is returning to normalcy.
- Just how much help we would actually need: Granted all the things I was feeling above, on top of sleep deprivation, I didn’t anticipate just much Sean and I would rely on outside help. We didn’t prep any meals ahead of time out of ignorance for just how tired we would be. So when his co-workers and my mommy tribe both started meal trains, it brought me to tears and taught me a valuable lesson: we do not have to do this alone, and it is okay to accept help. People were dropping by our house with all sorts of goodies and kind gestures, uplifting us at a time when we needed it most. As a military spouse always away from family, I was prepared to tackle motherhood alone. I have completely changed my viewpoint, as doing it all alone can easily be much too isolating.
- How much I would actually love breastfeeding: I had heard so much negativity going into this journey, with numerous warnings of how difficult it can be, how painful it can be and how unaccepting others in public may be. This made me more nervous than I probably needed to be for breastfeeding. I was fortunate that my baby boy latched on right after birth and has been a natural ever since. Aside from mildly sore nipples the first week or so, and the fact that I never have my hands free anymore, I have grown to love how simple it is to nurture my growing baby through the natural bond of breastfeeding. Yes it is exhausting and demanding, especially when he “cluster feeds,” but it is all worth it when I see a healthy, happy growing baby in my arms.
- Just how little “baby prep” matters: I planned and planned and planned for parenthood, just as I did for my childbirth. And just as my perfect birth plan got thrown out the window, my vision of parenthood has already changed too. Do I regret all my by-the-book research and organized lists? No, not at all. In the case of my labor, having to divert from my typed-up birth plan was made easier since all my research meant that I understood Plans B and C. Being informed made me better prepared. As for parenting, it wasn’t until meeting my son when my instincts kicked in. Suddenly, all the experts’ advice on parenting no longer mattered. Read enough books and they start to contradict each other; read your baby and you’ll know what to do.