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Ten things people don’t tend to tell you about having a baby…

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By Anna Trevelyan cropped-anna-pic-2-e1436354275658.jpg

Before having my baby I thought I was pretty prepared for the chaos that would ensue. To some extent, I was: everyone knows that having a newborn means little sleep, that we would have limited time to ourselves and that it might take me up to 9 whole months to get back to my pre-pregnancy figure (or so Kate Winslet assured readers of Harper’s Bazaar). But there was a lot of stuff people didn’t tell me about the birth, and afterwards. Maybe they thought it was going to scare me, or maybe they thought it was just them. Well, it wasn’t. Knowledge is power in my book so here are the top ten things people don’t tend to tell you:

  1. Say bye bye to your birth plan. OK, so I get that it’s a good idea to know what you do and don’t want to happen in the delivery suite but guess what – it often doesn’t happen as you imagine. This is your first lesson in realising you have very little control when it comes to bubbas – they definitely have their own agenda. Situations change and needs must, so don’t get hung up on the detail. (For example, I wanted to have a water birth only to be told, upon arrival and in full labour “sorry love, it’s closed for maintenance.”). My Midwife friend says a lot of people also decree that a certain music track should be played upon Junior’s crowning. Trust me, at that point you won’t want someone to be faffing with the stereo. Save yourself the stress and simply plan to go with the flow.
  2. Your lady parts will suffer (but don’t worry, they heal remarkably well). I remember spending hours during pregnancy worrying about tears and episiotomies. I genuinely thought a rip down there was the worst thing I would have to go through. Well, it wasn’t, and when it came down to it it was the very least of my worries. I had a grade 2 tear (as well as a few of what they laughingly call ‘grazes’) but after two weeks things were pretty much back to normal. Some women have a much worse experience but eventually things will heal – just don’t look at it if I were you. Lady parts, I salute you.
  3. You may not poo yourself. Apparently, delivering more than just the baby is a very common occurrence, and worry, for mums-to-be. I actually didn’t (ha ha, Fabian, it doesn’t always happen!) but after 68 hours of pain, pushing and no sleep this was certainly no consolation. I gladly would have swapped a bit of poop for a little less labour but I presume it’s a personal choice.
  4. There will be blood. A LOT. There was remarkably little blood during the actual birth, I am talking about AFTERWARDS. I nervously giggled at the suggestion that I should buy disposable knickers prior to the event, thinking my one-pound-Primark-wonders would do the job. How wrong I was. I remember mildly panicking as what looked like a CSI scene ensued on my bed, around my bed, and all over my clothes over the next few days, which the Midwives assured me was entirely normal. If you didn’t have a strong stomach beforehand then you certainly will afterwards.
  5. Breastfeeding blooming hurts. I was so glad that my sister-in-law warned me of this beforehand, otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to do it. Breastfeeding really hurts. Your nipples will probably bleed, and it feels like a slap in the face after all you’ve been through, but it does get much easier. After you’ve cracked it (sorry, mastered it – your nipples will already have cracked days ago) it’s a breeze. Get yourself a good nipple cream (Lansinoh is a lifesaver) and just blast through the tricky beginning. Some people can’t breastfeed for various reasons, but if you can do it, do try. It’s cheap, it’s healthy and you’ve been through a hell of a lot worse already.HPA_Pack_and_Product
  6. Your shape will change. As well as still looking pretty pregnant for a while after your little bundle of joy arrives be prepared for your tummy to look like a giant dog’s bottom (especially around the navel area). Those celebrities who are back in their super-skinny jeans three months later are just ridiculous and clearly have an army of nannies to bring their children up whilst they spend every waking hour at the gym. Don’t put pressure on yourself; you will have loose skin, your boob size will be more up and down than Kerry Katona’s career and your shape will just be slightly different. Whether this is permanent or not I am yet to discover but why not learn to love the changes – they brought you the best thing ever and what you and your body went through together was no mean feat. (FYI don’t bother wasting money on expensive anti-stretch mark creams, just stick to cheap old moisturiser. I obsessively slathered myself in 9 months’ worth of creams and lotions which, when added together, cost almost as much as my first car. I still got stretch marks towards the end so don’t believe the hype).Zara Phillips
  7. You may well wet yourself laughing. In spite of doing daily pelvic floor exercises when pregnant you will be shocked to find that, after the birth, you cannot control your wee stream. It’s scary but true. Many friends told me afterwards about embarrassing urine-related incidents that plagued them for months after they had had their babies. Just try to stay near a loo and avoid trampolines at all cost (this is possibly a more appropriate time for those one-pound-Primark-wonders).
  8. Be prepared to loose sleep for a year. It’s no secret that newborns wake up during the night but older babies and toddlers? This was certainly something I didn’t really think about. If you are one of those very lucky parents whose baby sleeps through the night at six weeks then you are definitely in the minority (and for goodness sake don’t boast about it – everyone will hate you. And I mean everyone). You get so used to waking up through the night that even after they sleep through you may still find yourself waking. And that’s all before teething, nightmares, fevers and climbing out of their cot – let’s not even go into the ‘4 Month Sleep Regression’ – except to say that it happens. Just wave a fond farewell to lie-ins and long, deep sleep and try to appreciate every good night that you do have – it may well be your last for a while.
  9. Sometimes they cry for no reason. I am not sure I really knew this before. After feeding, winding, changing, rocking, cuddling, putting layers on and off etc etc sometimes babies still just cry. You will probably start to wonder if something is wrong – colic? Allergies? Reflux? Most parents I know went through the same phase, spending ridiculous amounts of money on Infacol (and other anti-colic ‘treatments’), and some even went as far as to try cranial osteopathy and other quack ideas. Just take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone, the ‘witching hour’ really does exist (when they cry for no reason from 6pm to 7pm on the dot every night) and that this can be completely normal (a check with a Health Visitor etc might be in order but try not to obsess). I found it a lot less stressful when I accepted that sometimes they will just cry. Try everything, and do whatever you can to keep sane, but it’s not just you. It’s also not just them – I burst into tears for no reason on more than one occasion after I had had him. The sight of a dead mouse outside left me positively inconsolable.
  10. You can forget about what you want for a while. This is probably an obvious one but from the moment your baby arrives you simply won’t have time to feel bored, tired, stressed or worried about minor things. Your wants become secondary to the needs of the baby. I think this is actually a positive thing – it will make you re-assess your reactions to things (once I mastered catching vomit in my hand before it hits a cream carpet I was no longer flustered by minor dramas at work, for instance). Plus, with all your time taken up with the baby you won’t have hours to stare in the mirror and obsess over small matters like a bit of a mum-tum. In time, you can address this but for now you will have bigger fish to fry.
  11. (yes, there is an 11) BUT – None of this stuff actually matters. Trust me on this one. I learned a huge amount over the first few months of being a new mummy and think it changed me in a positive way. Although no one may have spoken about a lot of these topics you soon learn them for yourself, and deal with them in your own way. Others will have been through all this and more, and come out at the end still smiling. The biggest surprise is how none of this really bothered me that much. It gives you camaraderie with other honest parents, and it does make you feel that, if you can survive all this and not be thrown by it, you can probably pretty much survive anything.
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