Written by Rachael Cheeseman
There are probably some things on this list some of you have heard before. Someone - a kindly aunt or an older sibling - took the time to enlighten you about the not-so-glamorous aspects of motherhood. The things Hollywood movies never touch on and other mothers (including our own) daren't tell us in case it puts us off having a family, refusing to provide them with grandchildren (seemingly, the holy grail for the post menopausal). However the point is these are things conspicuously missing from the Sex Education classes and almost never spoken about by new mothers who must convince the world that every second of having a newborn baby is unrivaled bliss, lest anyone accuse them of being a bad mother. So, with that in mind, here are some of the things I really wish someone had warned me about when it comes to being a mother.
1. Your Modesty will be Completely Disregarded and You’re Expected to be Perfectly Okay with this
Now, considering the exit strategy when it comes to childbirth, of course you're anticipating your modesty to be somewhat compromised. I would bet you are not expecting every Doctor, nurse and midwife you come across to want to look, feel, and comment on the most private part of your anatomy. Yes, I said comment. From declaring you have a tilted pelvis or mucussy discharge or a spongy cervix, medical professionals will delight in telling you all these wonderful tidbits about a part of your body you probably still refer to by a childish nickname (for me it's a "Penelope").
Don't get me wrong, I know that they're just being professional and if the doctors were as weird and awkward about these exams as we feel, the whole experience would be roughly a million times worse. But that doesn't mean it's easy to welcome the world and its wife to come and take a gander at your privates. Oh yes, that's another thing, not only will your Doctor or midwife want to have a good old look around, but they may well invite anyone else they feel like to join in the fun too. From trainee paramedics, to first year Doctors, to specialists or other midwives who were just popping in to borrow equipment; your delivery room can feel busier than Waterloo station; and not one of these people is going to give a damn for your modesty. A necessary evil but one I would have liked to have been forewarned about nonetheless.
2. You’re not done when the Baby is Out
So this one came as a real shock to me. My only knowledge of the actual process of delivering a baby came from movies and television. I expected contractions to hurt, I expected it to take a very long time and to be allowed to curse and scream at the man who got me into this mess in the first place. But then... then they hand you you're baby, you get that perfect moment of heart stopping wonderment as you stare at your baby's beautiful little face and then you're done, right? Right? Wrong. Because what no one tells you is you still have to deliver the placenta. Yep, that's right. That big old bag of goodies and nutrients that's been keeping your child alive still has to come out, and it's coming out the only way it can. I'm not going to pretend that this is anywhere near as painful as delivering a baby, but it is uncomfortable and can take an extra half an hour or so of work which is something you simply do not have the energy for after the ordeal you've just been through.
But that's not all the post childbirth fun in store for you. You see, on its way out, your little bundle of joy may have decided to get in an awkward position, or wriggle suddenly and do some extra damage. Sometimes you'll get a little torn, (it makes my eyes water too) and once the baby's out and safe the midwife will want to stitch you back up. Yep, stitches... there. And if you're really lucky you'll get some pain relief in the form of a suppository whilst they're down there. They certainly never showed you that in the movies.
3. Mothers are the Most Competitive People in the World
You did it. You had a baby. You went through the agonizing labour and now you have a little angry bundle of demanding-ness, who wants to eat every two hours and only naps for a few minutes at a time. Now would be a great time to have some other new mothers to talk to. Well, maybe not. It won't be all mothers, probably not even most mothers, but I guarantee you that you will meet at least one über-competitive mother who seems to have made it her personal mission to pick holes in everything you're doing, whilst boasting about how amazing she is and somehow making her child sound simultaneously like the most challenging and the most angelic child in the world.
These are the women who will tell you that their baby was sleeping through the night the instant they brought them home. They'll look at you in abject horror if you give your child a dummy because, ‘Don't you want your child to learn how to self soothe?’ and then they'll look at you in utter disgust if you don't use dummies because, ‘Don't you think it's cruel to just leave your child to cry themselves to sleep?’ You literally cannot win with these women. If you put your child in its own room they'll be spouting the virtues of the family bed and telling you that "real" mothers want to form proper attachments with their baby. If you opt for the family bed they'll have a hundred horror stories about parents who have accidentally crushed or smothered their children by having them in their bed. There is no avoiding these women, all you can do is know that their kind is out there and ignore their unrelenting negativity. Being a parent is hard. Do your best and surround yourself with people who know how to be supportive.
4. Poop, Poop, and More Poop
Babies poop. A lot. But I would expect you to already know that. What you may not be prepared for is the amount of your life that will become consumed with thinking about, and talking about, poop. You will become poop obsessed and your non-parent friends will worry for your sanity. They'll probably start trying to avoid you to save themselves from the endless poop talk. Now, your new found obsession will not be due to your development of some kind of strange new love for all things poop. It will happen because your baby's poop is a gross little insight into their health.
How much they poop, the colour, and the consistency can tell you all sorts of things that your child’s pained screaming cannot. It can be quite a shock to go from never talking about poop with your significant other to talking about it roughly 80% of the time; basically whenever you're not talking about whose turn it is to get up and do the next feed. The good news is this passes, or at least becomes dormant for a while. Then you start potty training and you're right back in the poop (quite literally). The good news here is you'll finally have someone to share in your obsession, because nobody is fascinated by poop like a toddler is.
5. The Umbilical Cord
This is a little thing, but I really think it's something you should be warned about. You know the umbilical cord: that strange, gristly tube that tethers you and your baby together? You'll have seen the touching scenes in films where the uncertain first time father is handed the scissors and cuts the cord with trembling hands. What you probably won't have seen is the weird little stump of cord left over that sticks out of your child's belly. Or how the midwife will put a clip on this little stump to cut off it's blood supply, or how you'll take your baby home like that and watch this strange leftover piece of cord slowly turn black and die until it falls off in your hand one day when you're cleaning around it. It's gross and fascinating and kind of smelly and definitely something I'd like to have known beforehand.
6. Breastfeeding is Hard
Breastfeeding is quite a hot topic right now. In this culture of so-called “Nipple Nazis”, and the “Breast is Best brigade”, there is a tremendous pressure on new mothers to breastfeed. Some mothers will never experience this pressure. They'll plan to breastfeed, put their baby to their breast, the baby will latch on instantly and that'll be an end to it. Some women won't want to breastfeed; and that's fine, it's their body, their baby and 100% their call to make. Maybe they don't want to leak milk all over their shirt every time they hear a baby cry (yes, that's a thing). Maybe they're busy with another child and can't stop what their doing every couple of hours, maybe they just don't like the sensation or the idea of being milked. It doesn't matter, it's their choice. But these women will be faced with judgmental looks and comments and that's a real shame.
But then there's another category of women. Women who desperately want to breastfeed but can't because what no one tells you is that breastfeeding can be really hard. Your body might not produce much milk, your nipples might be an awkward size for your baby to latch on to, your child might pull away from you or be too impatient to suck for long enough to draw your milk out. Or maybe you'll be plagued with cracked nipples and mastitis and simply find the whole thing too painful. These women will already feel like failures for not being able to feed their child, the last thing they need is to be shamed by other people who have no idea what their individual circumstances are. I guess what I'm saying is, it's hard. People make it out to be easy and straightforward but that isn't always the case. Don't be too down on yourself if you can't breastfeed.
I guess there's a lot of things I wish I'd been told before I became a mum. Like the fact that a baby's first nappy has the consistency of tar and is harder to clean off your child’s skin than superglue, or how you'll have to use one of those weird bogey sucking devices to clear your baby's blocked nose. But I suppose the thing I really wish someone had told me was to stop worrying about what the books say and what the other mums are doing and just enjoy my child, because the one absolutely true thing that everyone will tell you is how fast it goes.