From your friends’ bump comparisons and gender speculations, to your neighbours’ recommendations of local childcare or the random stranger in the supermarket imploring you to get plenty of rest now while you have the chance, there’s a lot of information coming at you right now. We get it, and we promise we’re not here to add to the onslaught – but we do think it’s worth setting the record straight on a few things that people probably aren’t telling you.
1. Childbirth is messy, but you won’t care
We’ve never known of a single birth that has gone entirely to plan; your baby and your body often have other ideas. Childbirth is the epitome of both mess and magic, after all. So many expectant mothers fear the process – from potential complications they’ve read horror stories about to whether or not they will also poo in the midst of pushing.
We’re here to say that it really doesn’t matter. And not just to people like your midwife. When you’re in the midst of things you’ll also totally not care; you’ll just be focused on the job you’ve got to do and on meeting the amazing wee person you’ve created. So, try to save yourself some mental angst in the meantime and trust that your labour and birth will largely take care of themselves.
2. The hormones released during birth are incredible
You may not experience fireworks, or that profound feeling of love the moment your new baby emerges into the world, but the stage is set for it. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released in spades during labour. Not only does this help your uterus to contract, which helps labour along, but it also contributes to new mothers feeling affectionate and selfless. We have oxytocin to thank for the feelings of relaxation and wellbeing that many women feel in the first few days or weeks after they’ve given birth. Oxytocin helps us bond with our babies and also plays a role, with the ‘mothering hormone’ prolactin, in breastfeeding.
A combination of these hormones – along with endorphins (the hormones of pleasure and transcendence) and adrenaline and noradrenaline (the hormones of excitement) – carry you through not only the process of birthing your baby, but those first dizzying days of sleep deprivation that follow. Many attest that they know they’re tired, but they feel they’re floating on a cloud and are somewhat invincible in the immediate aftermath. While some level of these hormones remain far beyond the experience of birth and during breastfeeding, their steep drop-off is often blamed for the “baby blues” or emotional low that happens during that first week postpartum. This is also very common but there are many organisations out there who you could reach out to such as panda.org.au or pada.nz who provide support to mothers who are experiencing any degree of post-natal anxiety or depression symptoms.
3. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can also be really hard
Often described as the most natural option for feeding your baby, many mothers expect breastfeeding to be simple and intuitive; they expect to take to it easily. And some of the lucky ones do. But overall we are not warned well enough that breastfeeding is hard too!
For starters, it’s a new skill for both you and your baby. You are both trying to pick it up as you go, and while you’re feeling tired and emotional isn’t the most conducive time for learning or mastering something new. Then there’s the fact that it hurts at first- for everyone. Added to that is the fact that tongue or lip ties, engorgement and supply issues can make things all the more difficult. While some women are discouraged that it doesn’t always just work from the get-go, others find it difficult to know the normal struggles from the hurdles that indicate an underlying problem. If in doubt, check in with a lactation consultant who can advise. We also recommend downloading Pinky McKay's breastfeeding guide here to prepare for breastfeeding before your due date.
4. Avoid comparing milestones; it truly isn’t a race!
Coffee group chats inevitably gravitate to such topics as who is getting the most sleep, when you’ll introduce solids, and who can roll, sit and recite the alphabet already… (OK, so maybe not so much that last one initially!) It can be easy to get swept up in comparisons and spend a lot of mental energy on whether your baby – and sometimes you, yourself – are meeting the so-called milestones.
While it’s helpful to share experiences and see where others sit, it’s also worth remembering that the range of what is considered normal is incredibly vast on most variables. Milestones can be good indicators of development, but they’re not intended as a yardstick to measure your child’s growth or progress. Not only that, but the things they need to master in those early years are instinctive; they require very little (if any) direct teaching, and definitely no rushing. Babies are unique and will get there in their own time, so try to trust the process.
5. Your baby’s skin is so much thinner than yours, but they are otherwise pretty resilient
When your baby is first born, the outermost layer of their skin is incomplete and much thinner than an adults. This means that what you put on their skin, as well as what you choose not to, is important.
Many expectant mums are careful regarding what they consume, or put on their bodies, during pregnancy – mindful of the influence this will have on the babies they are growing. These considerations shouldn’t stop when your little love arrives in the world. Avoid chemicals and opt for pure, gentle and natural – yet effective – products where possible. As the purest baby wipe in the world – made with 99.9% purified water and a drop of fruit extract ¬¬– WaterWipes are proud to be classified as purer than cotton wool and water.
6. Your life, and especially your relationship, will change
Your priorities and your relationship with your partner are likely to change significantly in those early months. Cut yourself, and each other, some slack; you’re in a challenging new situation and mainly focused on survival. There are never enough hours to get everything done, but try to focus on spending some time with each other – even just date nights at home help you to reconnect.
In other areas, work on making life easier for yourself. Keep a nappy bag always packed and ready to grab so you don’t forget things as you’re going out the door – and enjoy learning new skills or applying ones you already had, say in your professional life, in a completely new context as you grow in confidence in your new role.
Finally, don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. Every mum and every baby is different, so trust your instincts (which we promise you do have and are always continuing to develop!). Parenting comes with ups and downs, especially in those early days but all of the moments deserve celebrating. So enjoy the mess and the magic, do your best and know that you’re doing an amazing job! All the very best, from us, for your pending arrival.