what no one tells you about new parenthood (condensed version)
Here's a very brief version of a much longer post (that will likely appear on a separate page) about the things I've discovered and worried about since Jack was born. There are approximately eight bazillion things that I can't cover in this post, but hopefully what I can cover does help someone out there somewhat.
Common Baby Myths
You are legally permitted to slap anyone who tries to convince you of any of the following myths:
"You can sleep when the baby sleeps" - This is utter nonsense because as every woman discovers, this is the only time you can actually get some fundamental things done...like shovelling a sandwich into your face before the baby wakes up. Additionally, if you do try to sleep, you do so with one eye and both ears open, anxiously awaiting the sound of your little one's cries. Which leads nicely to the next myth...
"You get used to sleep deprivation" - No, you don't. You just learn to cope with it, eventually.
"Breastfeeding is easy" - Apparently there are mothers out there who can wrap their newborns in a sling, head off to Ikea, and feed without exposing themselves and shop for flat packed furniture at the same time. I'm not one of these mothers. I needed both hands (plus any extra Paul could lend), a nursing pillow, a sofa or bed, and thirty tries to get Jack to latch on properly. If you find any aspect of breastfeeding difficult, stressful, and/or exhausting, never feel like a failure because most of us have been there. We are not all superwomen and (in my opinion) breastfeeding can take time to get used to. Never be afraid to ask for help, whether that's from friends, a breastfeeding helpline, or your midwife/health visitor/GP.
"If you breastfeed, the pregnancy pounds will melt away" - Okay, this is my theory and I stress that it's not based on any research or scientific evidence. Personally, I believe that weight loss after pregnancy has to do with a couple of things: the type of weight you gained (e.g. weight gain from eating excess calories or fat stores for breastfeeding) and how you tend to gain and lose weight naturally. If, like myself, you gained weight from eating several pints of Green and Black's ice cream and other such sundries, no amount of breastfeeding is ever going to "melt the pounds away". Also if, like myself, your body tends to hold on to fat for dear life you are probably going to need some extra time to drop the pounds. I was in maternity clothes for around four months following Jack's birth. I am so not Posh Spice.
Stuff We've All Worried About
Bring up any of the following topics to your new parent friends and they will all nod vigorously. Trust me, you are not a lunatic for worrying about any of the following things:
Your baby's weird breathing/noises - I am convinced that all newborns make the most alarming noises just to keep us on our toes. They stop breathing, make choking sounds, hack, cough, and splutter their way through the night. Although it does seem to sort itself out after the first couple of months, I don't know if any parent ever stops checking to make sure their kid is still breathing at night.
Poo analysis - Never in a million years would you have imagined yourself studying the contents of a nappy...and then discussing it with anyone who'll listen. Become a parent, and this becomes quite a normal part of everyday life. Baby poo goes through a myriad of changes (sometimes during the course of one day), most of which are perfectly normal but we analyse it anyway. I'm not sure when this phase stops. When they're toilet trained?
Rolling over during the night - Hurrah! Little junior has learned how to flip himself on to his belly! Holy crap, what if he does this at night? Babies shouldn't be on their bellies because of SIDS (cot death), right??!! Although it is advised that we place babies on their backs when they sleep, this is not really an issue once they can hold their heads up (and some babies just prefer to belly sleep right from the start). It doesn't take long for babies to learn how to flip themselves back over and if they get stuck trying, trust me, they'll let you know.
My baby isn't eating enough/I'm not producing enough milk - I really wish that boobs came with a visible milk gauge so you could see how much the baby is getting at each feed. Since they don't, you have to rely on other signs if you are worried that your baby isn't eating enough. If s/he is producing several wet and dirty nappies a day, this is a good thing (no really, it is). If s/he is gaining weight steadily and remains on the same percentile for weight, this is also a good thing. One thing that really surprised me was learning that what you pump (especially using a hand pump) may not indicate how much milk you produce during a feed - thank you LisaS for teaching me that one! I thought that because I could sometimes only pump an ounce or so, this meant Jack wasn't getting enough milk some feeds. Babies are far more effective at getting milk out of you than a suction cup attached to a plastic bottle, so what you pump isn't necessarily what they get when they latch on to you directly. I am considering hiring an electric hospital-grade pump from the NCT next time, if I want to express my milk. I think that for me, this might be more effective than the manual hand-held variety. It will also make me look a lot more like a dairy cow and will undoubtedly amuse my husband to no end.
My baby looks cross-eyed! - Did you know that the eyes actually have to learn to work in synch with one another? Neither did I until I asked about it when Jack was a newborn. Apparently this causes the cross-eyed (or "lazy eye") effect we see and fret about, and it does correct itself after the first few months. Who knew?
Baby skin is the weirdest thing ever - From cradle cap to unidentifiable rashes, baby skin seems to have weird things happen to it on a regular basis. Sometimes a rash will suddenly appear on Jack's face, only to disappear a few hours later - for no apparent reason. Cradle cap looks like scaly bits of yellowy skin that can appear on the scalp and go down to the eyebrows. It's easily removed by gently applying olive or vegetable oil on the scaly skin with a soft cloth, then wiping it away after a few minutes. Other rashes can be caused by drool, heat, illness (like colds or other viruses), allergic reactions, or eczema. If you're ever concerned about it, do get it checked out.
Has any of this helped? Is there anything else you want to know about? Leave a comment and let me know!