Early last summer I shared the 10 Secrets to Share with the Mother-To-Be. This upcoming week, my oldest celebrates her third birthday, marking the beginning of my fourth year as a mother. Every day I learn something new, and there are still daily surprises during the most exciting, yet challenging, time in my life: motherhood.
Here is my additional top ten list of what I wish I knew before motherhood:
1. Afterbirth Pains. I will never forget the moment my labor and delivery nurse quietly stepped towards my bed as I examined and fell in love with every inch of my new son. Out of nowhere, I shrieked in pain; she sneaked her hand over my abdomen and applied pressure, as if saying, “Mama, just in case you have already forgotten, this is what labor feels like!” As I continued to get to know my youngest, I felt severe cramping for a couple of weeks following his birth. At moments, the pain was more intense than the contractions I experienced during my two natural childbirths. How can this be?! I did not feel these intense cramps after my first’s birth. At times, they stopped me in my tracks, perhaps because breastfeeding actually intensifies the pain as your body releases the hormone oxytocin. The afterbirth pains are the uterus working even harder to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. The process is called involution and with every childbirth, the uterus has to work even harder to revert back to its original shape.
2. Watch your mouth. There are a few words in the dictionary that seem to capture the attention of a toddler immediately. Warning: unless you like to hear the same word said non-stop, at various octaves, during the course of the day, may I suggest that you make a list of words or sayings that make you cringe like nails on a chalkboard before your child celebrate its first birthday? I truly regret uttering the following ones: No, stop, mine and oh dear.
3. Irish Twins. Breastfeeding mothers with two babies twelve or less months apart are living proof of the fallacy surrounding breastfeeding and pregnancy. Breastfeeding does not eliminate your chances of a subsequent pregnancy; instead, it may postpone ovulation. Every woman’s body is unique, so using this as a rule of thumb is not completely accurate. And, many women experience spotting, and could release more than one egg, as their cycle attempts to regulate.
4. Communicate with your spouse. After I left a meeting last week, I checked my phone for messages. There was not one, not two, but three text messages and a missed call from my husband. They were all in regards to one question, “What IS a pinwheel sandwich?” (We had been creating and sampling pinwheel sandwiches for the last week in preparation for my oldest’s pinwheel themed birthday party.) Let your spouse know the latest trends in your home.
5. Lochia. Give yourself a break after giving birth for an array of reasons, including adjusting to your new life as a mother and to allow your body to heal. All women loose blood during and after giving birth, called lochia. Some women bleed for a few days, while others have a menstrual like discharge that tapers off weeks after giving birth. Also, use “the foam” as directed following a vaginal birth and grab a few of those sexy undergarments from the hospital as your body strives to get back to “normal.”
6. Live for the moment. I made a grave mistake a month ago. For the last four weeks, the first and last sentences out of my toddler’s mouth were, “Today is my birthday party?! My friends are coming?!” Never, ever – I repeat, never, ever – share your future plans with a toddler, unless you want to hear the same sentences over and over again. Live for the moment and avoid sharing your afternoon plans with your toddler, unless you like to hear a broken record.
7. Postpartum hemorrhoids. Common during pregnancy and postpartum, hemorrhoids affect some new moms. As your baby grows, it increases the pressure in the veins below your uterus. Donut pillows and various ointments will help alleviate your discomfort.
8. Every baby is unique. The weight, height and milestone charts are intended to be used as a reference. Various elements, including environment, genetics and an array of other criterias need to be accounted for. Share your concerns with your child’s physician, but remember that every child is as unique as the next.
9. Sleep is overrated. Actually, sleep is glorious, especially when you get a full night’s worth. I wish I could say the moment your newborn sleeps through his first night is the moment you once again can rely on at least eight hours of sleep every night. The reality is that you can bet on loosing sleep between colds, other illnesses, monsters under the bed, scared of the dark and even when they are out and about as teenagers and adults.
10. They need you more as they grow. During my first baby shower I was given a piece of advice that at the time I did not quite understand, but could not agree with more than today. Your child will need you more with each passing day as they transition from newborn, to infant, to toddler, to an older child and into the teenage years. I am realizing as my oldest toddler’s vocabulary expands, so does her enthusiasm for emotional and physical interaction. She thirsts for attention, looks for comfort and seeks to learn more about the world around her.