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"Your partner gets So. Much. Praise." The 7 things I wish I knew before having a baby.

Before you have your first baby, well-meaning parents stare at you with a wistful look in their eyes and tell you that your life is going to change and to sleep while you can. While these things seem obvious, there were a few things I was not expecting. So I thought I’d share the 7 things I wasn’t prepared for before having my son, 7 weeks ago.

1. There will be lots of tears, and not just from the baby.

No matter how much exposure you’ve had to little people, it’s universally known that babies cry, A LOT. What people don’t warn you about is that you will cry. Often.

I was expecting to cry on day three, as I’d been warned that you get ‘baby blues’ when your milk comes in. But it’s not isolated to this one day. You’ll cry because your baby is really cute, or because they’re crying. You’ll cry because you feel guilty that you miss your old life, or because your partner ate the last serving of hokey pokey ice cream. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have postnatal depression (although you should always talk to a medical professional if it is becoming too overwhelming) – there’s just something about having a baby that brings all the tears.

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Whether it lasts for days or weeks, you will cry. There are hormones raging through your body and you're recovering from childbirth on minimal sleep. Plus, you’re in charge of this tiny, helpless human who needs you 24 hours a day. It’s ‘normal’ (whatever that means).

2. Breastfeeding can be really hard.

I’m not talking about sore nipples. I expected sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, but what I wasn’t expecting was that it just wouldn’t... work. I thought I would put my baby on my breast and it would take a bit of practise and I would get there eventually.

Watch: Explaining nipples to my baby. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC
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The fact is, you may need to give your baby formula. Be prepared for that. It might make you feel guilty (hello, mother guilt!) even though logically you know that your child is still being fed and that’s all that matters.

For some people, it just doesn’t happen, and that’s okay. Formula tins, SIDS booklets and internet forums will make you feel guilty enough, so go easy on yourself.

3. Some days, you will wish you were still pregnant.

Hear me out: being pregnant can be a wonderful time (particularly if you have no other kids to look after!). While there's the morning sickness, dizziness, food aversion, heartburn, and so on, for the most part, your standard pregnancy can be enjoyable. People are nice to you, they ask about you, they make you cups of tea at social gatherings. You can sleep ALL DAY without feeling guilty, and your partner will happily (mostly) retrieve things for you in the middle of the night. It’s an exciting time, because you’re about to welcome a tiny human into the world and there is so much excitement and anticipation as you're on the brink of the next chapter of your life.

In the depth of post-birth sleep deprivation, you will find yourself fondly looking back at this time, imagining what it would be like to get out of the house whenever you like, or sleep for longer than two hours uninterrupted.

4. Be prepared for the partner praise.

EVERYONE (read: older female relatives ) will tell you how lucky you are if your partner is hands on.

“Oh, look at him with the baby, he’s doing such a great job, you’re so lucky he is so involved!"

"He gets up in the middle of the night to help you? HE CHANGES NAPPIES!!!??"

"In my day, the dads weren’t even in the delivery suite!”

If you’re lucky enough to have a hands-on partner, you will spend your days smiling obligingly as people tell you how lucky you are and what a great job he is doing.

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You will never get as much positive feedback as the dads, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing an exceptional job. You are.

5. Happy mum, happy baby.

Whatever makes you happy and whatever you need to do to get through it - do it. A happy mum means a happy baby. Throw all of your expectations out the window.

Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes chat to Midwife Cath about what to expect after giving birth and why you’ll be keeping a diary to write in about poo (and not just the baby's) on Mamamia's Year One podcast. Post continues after podcast. 

6. It takes a village.

So reach out to yours, and accept help when it’s offered. Now is not the time to let your pride get in the way. There’s a reason women in Japan traditionally move back with their parents for three weeks so they can recover while their family take care of the chores.

7. People will tell you this is the easy part. It’s not.

Those first six weeks can be the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand you're completely overwhelmed by feelings of love for your new baby, so much so that sometimes you feel as if your heart may literally burst. On the other, you're sleep deprived, hormonal, and did I mention sleep deprived? You’re in charge of taking care of this precious, precious baby and most of the time you don’t know what you’re doing. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of complete responsibility you now have.

It’s also.. boring. It feels like Groundhog Day - a a blur of sleeping, eating, and poo-ey nappies. Your baby doesn’t do much else, and it’s not very exciting or stimulating. You’re led to believe you’ll be in a bubble of love and happiness during this time, which you are, but there’s a whole other side no one talks about.

Your whole life has changed. It’s an adjustment, especially seeing as chances are you really enjoyed your old life. Being able to pick up and go wherever you want, whenever you want, to sleep until noon, to binge watch a series in an entire weekend. Basically as adults, we’ve spent the better part of a decade or two (depending on when you have kids) doing whatever we feel like. Nothing can prepare you for that change.

So, while people (usually those with toddlers) tell you this is the ‘easy’ part - it’s not. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but also the most rewarding.

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