5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Giving Birth

I spent waaay too much time while pregnant reading about my growing baby, how to exercise, and what to eat when I really should have been preparing for taking care of a baby. Let me repeat: ladies pregnant with their first baby should spend less time worrying about their stretch marks and more time practicing what to do with a tiny baby.
I must admit that I was a bit shocked with how much work babies are. Sure, you feed them when they’re hungry, change their diapers when they’re dirty, and cuddle with a cooing baby when they need it. Reality sure is different.

Here are 5 things I wish I would have know before Helen came:
1) Some babies (READ: Helen) want to eat ALL the time. I read in pregnancy books and websites that most babies want to eat every 2-3 hours. “That’s a lot,” I thought, “but I guess that’s doable.” I didn’t realize that that was an estimate for formula fed babies. Helen wanted to eat for nearly an hour every 15 minutes. All. Day. Long. Oh yes. I felt like I was going to go crazy. Never a moment to myself. She’s finally spacing it out to about an hour. I can’t wait until she can go for 2 without napping.
2) Babies Cry. A LOT. “Sure,” I though, “babies will cry when they’re hungry or dirty. That’s easily fixed.” Little did I know that babies can cry for many more reasons: overstimulation, understimulation, being overly tired, wanting to be bounced, rocked, or walked, or crying for no apparent reason. And they can’t be rocked in a swing. Ooooh no. It has to be a living, breathing human being.
3) It can take longer to recover than you expect. During pregnancy I was looking forward to my period of recovery with dread. I knew I would be drained for a day or so and wasn’t supposed to do much for a week. That sounded like a long time to me. What with excessive blood loss and a bout of mastitis, I wasn’t feeling like myself for nearly 4 weeks. Four. Weeks. Now I hate bed rest even more.
4) Nursing moms need to watch what they eat. Not realizing that what I ate would affect my baby, I gobbled down two bowls of spicy tomato soup a week after delivery. Yikes. Helen was a basket case for a few days.
5) Newborns have erratic sleep patterns. They want to take many short naps during the day. Sometimes Helen will nap for 20 minutes, sometimes she’ll go as long as 2 hours. I still haven’t figured out a pattern (I should really keep a sleep diary). But she’s really good about sleeping at night. I’m VERY thankful for that. I usually get my 8 hours (wishing for more).

So there you have it.
Smiley Girl
Let me temper this with something happier. All of the crying, spitup and endless feedings are worth it when she smiles and tries to copy my words.
And when I read horrible stories about the atrocities of abortion, I clutch her tight and thank God that she’s safe in my arms.
To all you new moms: It get’s better. Slowly. Bit by bit. But in the meantime, it sure is frustrating.
To all you veteran moms: Thank you for all that you’ve gone through. You are way more amazing than I ever knew.

7 Responses to 5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Giving Birth

  1. Debbie 
    Your such a great write as well as photographer. Thanks for sharing. I am glad Helen seems to be sleeping well at night. I never had to go through as much as you, but I never had a good night time sleeper either. Always helpful to look for something positive.
  2. Judy 
    Hang in there Erica, as you’re already finding out it does get better, slowly but surely. Better weather around the corner will help too.
  3. candice 
    My little guy just turned 6 months and has only JUST settled into more predictable and consistent daytime naps. the worst thing I did early on was read a baby sleep book someone passed along to me that basically told me I was doing something wrong if my baby wasn’t napping for 1&1/2 hours each time. I spent way too much energy worrying about trying to fit him into that mold and not noticing that he was happy and thriving despite his catnapping tendencies. I’m finally starting to relax now that I realize every baby will get there on their own timetable. :)
  4. Heather Michelle@ A Sweet Simple Life 
    I’m 23 weeks along and this post is super helpful. Everyone has been pointing me to pregnancy books, but clearly I need to pick up something about the first year. Thanks, Erica.
  5. Diane 
    If she’s sleeping all night (or perhaps I am misunderstanding you getting 8 hours) than you are a lucky mama. None of mine slept all night until they were at least six months old. I found the best way to deal with babies is routine, routine, routine. Up at the same time every morning, breakfast, nap, play, nurse, nap, dinner, bath before bed, nurse to sleep and into their crib. I didn’t do any co-sleeping since I think it is unfair to the marriage to have a pile of kids in your marital bed. If they are tiny or sick, then sure, but the rest of the time, they go in their own bed so you don’t have separation issues when they get a little older.
    Try to give her a bottle now and again so you and Ruben (sp?) can get a little couple time when you leave her with your mother or sister for a few hours. Or at least so Daddy can feed her, too.
  6. Laura 
    She is adorable!! I agree with Diane on the routine. My firstborn was very much like Helen especially at feeding time and the cat napping. She didn’t not sleep through an entire night until she was over 1 year old!! So, when we had our second we decided to try a routine with her. Ahhhh! life was so much easier even though I had 2 children. Even if I was tired, I woke her up at the same time and such just like Diane described.
    Nevertheless, enjoy that sweet baby. She will grow up so soon. This is one thing I wish I would have done more with each child. They are such a gift from God. ;-)
  7. Sarah 
    Oh, honey. Let me just tell you that it gets better! When Ava was a newborn, I remember how delirious with sleep deprivation I was. I dreaded the long night feedings, awake by myself in a silent house with a baby who wanted to nurse and nurse and nurse. Ava started sleeping through the night at three months, and with sleep training (a gradual process), her naps eventually developed a rhythm. Having a routine really helps, and it’s never to early to introduce bedtime and nap rituals.
    Invest in some gripe water and infant gas drops. They are both miracle workers. I remember crying along with Ava when I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset and wouldn’t sleep. Oftentimes, she had trapped gas and was in pain. Who knew? I was a first time mom and she was exclusively breastfed! There’s a learning curve. You’ll get the hang of it ;)
    She’s beautiful. Enjoy those early months, because they grow so quickly! Mine is almost 14 months!

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