I have a couple of friends who are pregnant at the moment. Sometimes I envy them. Not the being pregnant part – that was not a glowing time for me – but of it all being just, about, me. There is something wonderfully young and naive about the time before you have a baby. And I absolutely do not mean that in a condescending way, and I don’t mean to say that now I have one, little baby, I know everything there is to know about life, being an adult and so on. I absolutely do not think that only parents have the licence to tell others what real life is all about. And I do not think of my friends as young and naive.
Here is what I mean, if I can find a way to express it….
Before you have a baby, you are the centre of your known universe, even if you are a really unselfish person. You have all sorts of thoughts and you have the time to wonder about what they might mean. Then you have a baby, and your brain is re-wired. Neurons are re-directed towards the parts of the brain that need them most – your empathy bits. You find yourself having to really focus on someone else, to work out what it is they want and need. Women do this a lot anyway, but once they have a baby, it is like being a person pleaser on steroids.
There are a bunch of things no one told me before I had my baby. When I asked a friend why she didn’t, she just said, “What would have been the point?” Now I guess I know what she meant.
What would be the point? Your friends are going to go through it, no matter what you tell them. Of all life’s experiences, this is not one you want to pre-empt for someone. And it will be their unique experience, and will bear little semblance to yours, most likely.
My friends know that it was incredibly hard for me in those first few months. With the PND and the sleep deprivation and insomnia, I was under. Back then, I probably would not have advised anyone down this path. But now that I have bubba, and she is awesome and I am better, much better, I think, Yes, do it. I would not have wanted my doubts and dread to have stopped anyone else from finding their own way to the hardness and goodness of parenting.
That’s probably my main reason for not telling my friends all there is to know about those first few months – not even on this blog. Because not only would it be pointless, it might cause harm if it stopped someone from proceeding, or if it coloured their first view of their own experience. And although we make a decision to have children based on absolutely no evidence as to what that actually means – still, it is all sorts of indescribable.
That said, there are a few things which I want my friends to be prepared for, if they haven’t already read about them. I don’t mean this in the way of unhelpful or unwanted advice – you’ll get enough of that – but more as in the way of information, I hope.
1. Day 3 or 4 after delivery you lose your bundle. Apparently, a woman at this point after pregnancy has less estrogen in her system than a 65 year old woman. Then the milk starts to come in and I have been told that the tears subside – they didn’t for me, but that is part of my PND story, told elsewhere.
2. The night sweats. Again, no one mentioned this to me. When my milk started to come in, I had night sweats for about a week. I thought I might have a fever from the C-section but I called the hospital and the nurse called me sweetie. Nice nurse. Would have been nicer to have been forewarned, though.
3. Midwives. They will each have a different opinion on what you are supposed to do. Basically, all the health professionals you will encounter are going to broadcast public health messages at you, in the manner of the local council putting up signs telling people they let their children play at the park at their OWN RISK. They have to tell you it is best to breastfeed, and you have to wake the baby to feed, and so on, or else I guess they are scared that we could sue them if something went wrong. Here’s my advice, or really, anti-advice: you don’t have to do what they tell you. Take the advice you think sounds most suited to you and your baby, and check the baby’s weight and wees, and you will be fine.
4. Boobs. Lather on the lanolin as soon as you start breastfeeding, and in between feeds. Don’t wait until the nipples get cracked to start using the lanolin. I didn’t do this, because I didn’t realise that it’s a preventative thing as much as a healing thing – and once they are damaged, they hurt for a while.
5. Clothes. Make sure you have at least 2 pairs of comfortable maternity pants you can wear in and out of bed. I only had one pair of maternity trackies when I was pregnant, and that was not enough for my hospital stay. I got really upset about not having decent, clean clothes to fit into when in bed and wandering up and down the hallway; and you are not going to fit your regular clothes for a while after the birth. Also make sure you have a couple of tops to wear which you can breastfeed in – a button-down t-shirt and a medium or large, maternity, pull-on bra are a good option to start with, because you might not know what size your boobs will be in order to buy the bras with the clips. Rachie gave me a “Majama” bra, size L, and that continues to be awesome.
That’s it. Good night, and good luck.