Grace’s too-cute chicken robe can be found here
I’m so lucky that I got pregnant around the same time as some of my closest girlfriends. We were able to compare stories, offer suggestions, and ask the nitty-gritty questions that you’re too afraid to ask anyone else. It’s true that when you become a new mom, you’re immediately entered into this amazing support group made up of moms everywhere who are there to encourage you and say, “You’ve got this.”
One friend in particular is one that you all no doubt know well: Liz Adams of Sequins and Stripes. She and I have been besties for a long time (our husbands are also best friends, so our worlds perfectly coincide) and she’s one of the people who helped me immensely. (Also sending a digital high-five to Kels, Caitlin, Alex and Steph!)
I remember one day in particular when Liz came over to hang out with Gracie and I during the first few weeks of maternity leave. She knew I was having a tough time breastfeeding and showed up at my house with flowers to brighten up my day. I sat in my living room with her, and I was topless, trying to feed Grace with raw, chapped nipples that were close to bleeding. I was frustrated and I felt like a total failure. Why couldn’t I get it right?!
I talked through all the hiccups I’d experienced with tears in my eyes. Liz, being pregnant at the time, sat for hours with me as we chatted over things we’d heard that could help. I don’t think that we came away that day with a solution for my problem (I’ll address what turned out to be the root of the issue below!) but I can tell you this: Having her there to talk about everything with, and just to be there, made my day so much better.
Months later, she’s now a mother to the adorable Charlie, and we still go to each other with questions, concerns and thoughts. Recently, we laughed about how no one tells you certain things about being a mother. It’s silly, really. We thought, why don’t we lay it all out for people? Why don’t we talk about all the things that we only tell our girlfriends, to our digital girlfriends? After all, knowledge is power, and even if some of our experiences don’t apply to you, we hope that our thoughts will help you, or a friend, to feel not so alone during the beginning of motherhood.
So, here are my top secrets of motherhood that I only tell my girlfriends. Be sure to swing by to Liz’s blog to check out her post, where she’s chatting about her new normal after having a baby!
We hope that these posts can serve as a great resource of honesty for you to refer to again and again, especially for the newly pregnant women or new moms who, like us, felt underprepared and love nothing more than a sincere girlfriend to lean on.1. You don’t bond immediately. But, when you do, it’s the most intense love you’ll ever feel.
When I was pregnant, I internally thought something was wrong with me. Sure, I cared deeply about the baby in my belly, but what I felt wasn’t the intense, parental love that I’d heard everyone talk about. It was hard for me to bond with someone that didn’t have an identity yet; someone that I’d never met before. I’d pat my belly fondly, wondering in awe about this child growing inside of me, but I still felt like it wasn’t really happening.
Don’t worry, all that changes. The deep love happens at birth and beyond. When Gracie was born and I first held her, this huge wave of intense emotions overcame me. So many things at once; I couldn’t believe how much I loved this tiny human and couldn’t believe she was here.Throughout the days, weeks and months after birth, the bonding that happens between a mother and her child is indescribable. The only way I can put it into words is by telling you this: You would do anything – anything – for your baby, and your baby becomes the most special and important part of your life. The love that you experience is unmatched.
I find myself looking at pictures of Grace while she’s napping, crying at silly things like a too-small onesie because she’s growing so fast, and staring at her for hours, taking in every ounce of her adorableness. It’s a sometimes irrational, consuming, and intense love, and there’s truly nothing in the world like it. I feel so lucky to be able to experience it. 2. The aftermath of birth is physically really crazy.
Dad, stop reading here.
Everyone knows birth is painful. Everyone knows things get messy. But no one talks about what happens after birth. Here are some surprising things that happened to me. (Excuse the sometimes graphic explanations. I tried to be delicate with wording but am not sure how else to lay this all out – eek!)
First, your nether-region has just been through war. Many women need to be stitched up, which yes is very painful, especially when you need to use the bathroom. You will bleed for weeks, need to clean frequently with a squirt bottle, and will probably need to wear heavy pads throughout your days and nights. In the first few weeks, you’ll also need a cold compress down there, because after all, you’re healing an open wound. It’s crazy, guys. Take lots of Motrin.
Photo via this post, where I talked about the after-baby bump
You will still look pregnant for weeks, maybe months, after. Don’t worry, your body will slowly go back to normal, but you need to be patient because it definitely doesn’t happen as fast as you’d like. Breastfeeding helps to decrease the size of your belly, so keep at it! Your body actually releases a chemical called oxytocin when you breastfeed, which helps to contract your uterus. Surprise – another weird side effect – because of this, when your baby is feeding in the first few weeks, you bleed a lot, which is your uterus physically getting smaller. Hence those pads I mentioned above. Buy them in bulk.
Oh! And did you know that you don’t get your period while breastfeeding? I thought something was wrong with me at first. My doctor said 1. It’s completely normal, and 2. It’s essentially your body’s way of protecting you against getting pregnant again too soon. Makes sense, right?
Another surprising physical change that I went through was hair loss. I’d heard of this and thought I was in the clear because I wasn’t noticing loss yet, but once the 3 month mark hit, it started shedding in clumps. Clumps, guys. I was shocked, alarmed, and every time I showered I was convinced that I couldn’t possibly loose any more. And yet, a day later, more fell. Luckily this stopped after a few weeks, and it was less drastic when I cut my hair shorter, but now I totally get why a lot of women cut their hair super short after becoming a mom!
3. Breastfeeding is one of the toughest things you’ll ever go through.
This could be an entire series on its own so I’ll summarize things to the best of my ability.
All around, this was probably the hardest adjustment for me.
First, my milk didn’t come in quickly. I waited…and waited…and days later, still nothing. Gracie was losing weight rapidly and was becoming increasingly fussy because she was hungry. After day 3 of no milk I gave in and fed her a little bottle of formula, and started sobbing because I was so upset. I thought it would just never happen, and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t feed my baby. Then, the next day I woke up and my breasts were literally squirting milk across the room. Surprise!
Once the milk came in, the next issue was latching. As hard as Gracie and I tried, we just couldn’t get this right at first. She wasn’t latching properly, and it was causing my nipples to be chapped, swollen and raw. She would feed and I would have tears streaming down my face because it hurt so bad. I was determined to breastfeed, and needed to make things work, so I would just suffer in pain as Grace fed. I got mastitis, a breast infection, multiple times and my breasts were constantly red, hot and swollen. It was absolutely miserable.
After a few weeks, my cousin Steph, who is a new mom as well, was the one to bring the light forward. I was over at her house and forgot the breastfeeding pillow that I’d lay Grace on to feed. She said, “So what? You don’t need it. Try doing it without the pillow.” You know what happened? Grace latched perfectly. The whole time, our issues were because of the stupid pillow that I thought I needed because I read it on some website somewhere. This was a huge lesson for me – your body knows what to do, and you don’t need a ton of things to help you do it. Let nature do its thing. Which leads me to #4 below.Before we go there, though, let’s go back to breastfeeding. Another area in which I really struggled was pumping. My insurance covered a breast pump, but the one they provided was terrible. Steer clear of Nature’s Bond! I found that Nature’s Bond’s suction is off and the tubes continually suck in milk, leading to a really messy and inefficient system. Get this one instead – the Medela Pump – once I got it, things were a lot better and went much smoother.
Now, let’s talk about the process of stopping breastfeeding. This is also known as weaning, and I was surprised to find that it was a very emotional experience. I weaned around 5 months, after it became increasingly hard to pump at work. Your body goes through a huge change in hormones, and though I never experienced postpartum depression, I do think this experience was close. For probably 2 – 3 weeks I was just in a funk. I was irritable, overwhelmed, sad, and anxious, but couldn’t pin point reasons why. Luckily, a friend sent me this this post from A Cup of Jo, and it all came together. What I was going through was a result of weaning.
All that said, I’m so happy that I breastfed. It was a really beautiful bonding experience with Grace and now that I’m done I truly miss it. I loved cuddling her as she fed, loved her little coos, and loved that it was our special time together. Though it’s difficult, I hands down recommend to stick it out if you’re able, but certainly do understand anyone who chooses to forego it. It’s a completely personal decision and there is no right or wrong!
4. You really don’t need all that stuff.
The first time Doug and I went to register for baby stuff, we were with my mom. The three of us walked into Buy Buy Baby, got as far as the pacifier section (yes, section), and left. It was just too much. We had no idea where to even start.
My mom said it best. “My generation raised kids without all this stuff and you all survived. All the options today are just crazy.” She was right! Worst, all these gift registration guides and “newborn must haves” make you feel like if you don’t spend thousands of dollars, you are ill prepared.
I promise you, you do NOT need all that stuff. In fact, you don’t even need half. Get the essentials and allow your friends and family to spoil you with shower presents, but beyond that, don’t stress. Especially in the first months, your baby is actually pretty simple – they just need a safe place to sleep, clean diapers, milk (or formula) and you to cuddle and be with. Everything else you can get as you learn your baby’s needs and as he/she grows.
5. There are moments when you will need a break. And help. (Usually both)
As much as you love your baby, you will need a break. It could be a 5 minute shower, or it could be a night out. Whatever “break” means for you, make sure you are prioritizing it, because it will make you a better mom.
This is less of a secret and more of a reminder. Lean on your husband or partner – they can and should take a night shift to help you get a little sleep. If your parents are coming in and have offered to babysit, say thank you, go take a shower, put on some mascara, and have fun. Have a wine night with your girlfriends for crying out loud, and yes, you can drink a glass of wine or two while breastfeeding. (Just pump and dump if you drink more!) My doctor has confirmed, and I’ve tested it out. Gracie is just fine.
It’s easy to shrug off offerings of help and think that you can do it all. But little breaks are a healthy, normal thing to do and they will make you feel so wonderful and back in touch with the world. So you do you, girlfriend! Even if it’s for just a moment.
6. Your priorities will change
Before you have your baby, you will think you can do it all. (Because, honestly, you can.) Whether it be work, seeing friends regularly, or working out every day, you will do all that you can think of to prepare and set yourself up for success once the baby comes. You’ll make plans. You’ll organize. You’ll think, “Life doesn’t have to be drastically different.” And you know what? You’ll be right.
But here’s what you won’t anticipate. Once your baby comes, you won’t necessarily want to do all those things you had grand plans for before. Your new normal will do a complete 180. Suddenly life will take on a new meaning. Time spent together will mean more than pretty much anything. Your priorities will change, and suddenly the life you had planned for with baby will look much different.
For me this applied to things as small as going to bed hours earlier than I used to (Grace gets up at 6:15 whether I’m tired or not) or reading more advice columns from fellow mothers. Though work is still something that I enjoy, it definitely became something that I’m much stricter about turning off when I need to. I became closer with my parents, because I realized just how much they’ve done for me. Doug and I even moved to a different neighborhood, so that we could afford to start saving for Grace’s college, even though it meant a much longer commute.
It’s really hard to describe in a way that makes sense, but overall I’d say that with the birth of Grace, my mentality and expectations totally shifted. I became less selfish. I think of her first, before any wants or need of my own. I grew up.
Gosh, guys, I could keep going for so long. I wish we could all sit in one big circle with a glass of wine and chat over every detail, no matter how small, about the secrets and ins and outs of motherhood. I do hope this was a good start, and I hope it was at a minimum an interesting read for you!
Tell me, what secrets for motherhood do you have? If you’re not a mom yet, what questions are you wondering? I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!
Be sure to swing by Liz’s post to read all about her new normal after having a baby. And, if you liked this post – be sure to check out the story of Grace’s delivery and thoughts on returning back to work after maternity leave.
*The opinions, details and experiences expressed in this post are my own and should not replace those of a medical professional.