As a brand new mom, there were a bunch of things that would happen, and I would think to myself “why didn’t anyone warn me about this?”. When I sat down to write this article, I wanted to make sure I had a complete list and not just a list from my own experience. Not everyone’s experience is the same, therefore not everyone will go through all of the things on this list—I certainly didn’t (thank goodness!). I reached out to a group of mom friends who I met in an Expectant Moms Group in NYC and asked them: “What are things that people don’t openly talk about that every new mom should know? The things that you were surprised to experience in the first couple of weeks as a new mom.” As they do whenever I ask them a question or for advice, they all shot back a flurry of responses to help me pull this list together (hence, the first bullet on this list!).
After the six of us had recounted the really stressful and hard couple of weeks when our babies were first born, we all agreed how fast that time had passed and how it felt like a lifetime ago. This list is definitely not the fun stuff, but it’s the real stuff. Knowledge is power – and knowing you are not alone in what can be a challenging time is so important. Every new mom has gone through some of the below and has come out the other side.
Feel free to reach out to me through the website, email or Instagram if you are looking for some support during your adventures as a new mom.
Every new mom should know:
- The importance of having a friend or confidant who is pregnant the same time as you. This could be a coworker, cousin, a friend of a friend, or even people you meet through an expectant moms group (like I did!) It is really helpful to have at least one person who can relate to EXACTLY what you are going through at the same time. I was lucky to have my best friends from high school, college AND new friends to rely on. Those first few days when you come home from the hospital are tough and its nice to have someone who responds to your 3am texts when you are both up for middle of the night feeds.
- The “baby blues” are no joke. I cried every day for 10 days straight after I had Charlie. I was a complete mess at his Bris – even once it was done and he was sleeping peacefully, I sat on the couch of my parent’s apartment and continuously burst into tears. For days, I cried in the shower. I cried myself to sleep at night. I cried because I had no idea why I couldn’t stop crying! And then one day I did stop crying. Each day after that I began to feel a little more like myself. I mentioned my “baby blues” to a bunch of my close friends and was surprised to hear how common it was. I also made sure to keep an open dialogue with my family and friends about how I was feeling, which is important in case you do need to seek professional help.
- Baby nurses aren’t for everyone. A baby nurse is essentially a stranger that you are letting into your home to help take care of your baby at night and while you are still recovering. I had a really hard time putting my trust in someone that I didn’t know. On top of that, we live in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There is not a ton of space, so it was awkward for me to share my apartment with someone the first few days after we brought Charlie home—I just wanted to be a family. I cried myself to sleep multiple nights because I wanted her to leave, and texted every single one of my friends mid-panic attack telling them how unhappy I was with the situation. We ended up parting ways earlier than we had originally planned, and for me that was the right choice. On the other hand, many people love their baby nurses and have them extend their stay, so its really personal preference.
- To bring shoes to the hospital that will fit over very swollen feet. I came to the hospital in Nike sneakers and left wearing Ugg house slippers that barely fit. My feet were so swollen from IV and everything my body had just gone through that when it was time to leave the hospital my sneakers did not even come close to fitting on my feet. *Queue: meltdown and waterworks (starting to see a trend?).* I had to wear my slippers out of the hospital because, in the words of Regina George “it’s the only thing that fits me right now”. My feet and legs stayed swollen for quite a while after leaving the hospital. A few days after I was home, I called my doctor because my legs were still so swollen I thought something was wrong with me – turns out having these tree trunks for legs was normal.
- Your first couple of pees after delivery are SO HARD. Peeing after the delivery is a whole to-do. The nurses even measured how much I peed to make sure it was enough. It hurts and it takes Jedi-like concentration. It’s the last thing you will want to deal with, but must be done before they will allow you to leave the hospital.
- Your breast milk doesn’t come in right away. I didn’t realize that it could be days before your breastmilk came in. It can be stressful not knowing if the baby is eating enough the first few days. I was so nervous about it that I had a lactation consultant come to my house. To reassure me, she weighed the baby, had me feed him for a little while and then weighed him again. I was able to see that he was actually getting milk! There are so many other challenges that come along with breastfeeding – latching issues at the hospital, clogged ducts, mastitis, figuring out how to use a pump. I had to FaceTime my best friend, who was able to instruct me on how to get it working. A friend of mine reported having a complete meltdown trying to setup her mom – pretty standard. If you do choose to breastfeed, it is important to know that it gets easier and less painful every day.
- You won’t necessarily feel “bonded” to your newborn right away. I was so upset that I felt more anxious about Charlie and his wellbeing, than bonded tohim. This feels horrible at the time because you might expect to have this immediate bond with your baby, and that is not the case for everyone. The bond will happen – not everyone is on the same timeline.
- “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is complete BS. All of the people who care most about you will try to get you to sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s not bad advice – you are either recovering from hours of labor or possibly surgery, and getting little sleep at night. Realistically, with the amount of things to do and things on your mind, it is very unlikely that you will be able to follow this advice and it starts to get a little annoying to hear! I think I took one 15-minute nap during those early days.
- Time means nothing. Day is night and night is day – those first couple of weeks the baby just needs to eat every 2-4 hours no matter what time it is. One of my friends said that while she hated having no structure to the day or night, she didn’t mind feeling completely normal eating a bowl of pasta at 2am. Have to look at the positives, mamas!
- Your body odor and sweating will be out of control. This is sort of a rollover from pregnancy. My natural deodorant was simply no match for what my hormones were doing to my BO. It wasn’t cute, and it takes a little while to smell like yourself again.
- You will have to tell a lot of people “no”. This means something a lot different during a pandemic. New moms now have the perfect excuse to not let anyone visit or touch their newborn. When I had Charlie, it was flu season (no one knew to worry about coronavirus in New York at that point) and I was extremely strict about who could visit or hold him. I made a hard and fast rule that only people (including family members) with the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine could enter my home. I chose to be super strict, but as a new mom the decision is up to you.
- It really does take a village. As much as you will want your space and alone time, you might also need some help. I had my whole family doing things for me behind the scenes and I am forever grateful. I really didn’t want people taking Charlie from me to “give me a break”. When my sister-in-law brought me coffee and breakfast or my mom would unload the dishwasher for me or my mother-in-law would bring me lunch – these were the things that were incredibly helpful that I’ll never forget. I think it is important to be honest and let people know exactly how they can best help you.
- You might be overwhelmed with texts. If you are lucky enough to have so many people reaching out to you that it is overwhelming, take a minute to be grateful but don’t feel the need to answer everyone immediately. Like I said, it takes a village, but its also nice to have some quiet, technology-free time with your baby.
- Showers are now a luxury. Every new mom will have that moment when she is at home alone with their newborn for the first time and has to figure out the best way to take a shower. Yes, your basic human need to clean yourself is now a test of critical thinking. I personally put Charlie in a lounger of some sort and brought him into the bathroom with me. The sound of the water and humidity from the shower was actually calming for him.
- Its normal to constantly be worried when the baby is sleeping. As an expect mom or new mom, you do so much reading about the risk of SIDS, how to properly swaddle, and only allowing him to sleep on his back with nothing else in the crib. By the time you put the baby to sleep, its hard not to worry about this tiny little human. The first night when Charlie was born, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t let the nurses take him to the nursery in the hospital AND forced my husband to stay awake staring at him the entire night. This was overkill, and by the second night my husband insisted Charlie go to the nursery. The point is – being worried is normal.
- Babies make weird noises that will probably make you nervous. To tack onto the point above. Babies make weird gurgle-y noises that will probably freak you out. Every time Charlie made one of these noise my husband would jump up and sprint over to him to make sure he was okay. Eventually, we got used to the noises he made and were able to be a little less nervous.
There are probably dozens of other things that could be added to this list, and I would love to hear some things that you wish you knew as a new mom. Feel free to comment below!