You know what’s pretty fucking crazy? Having a baby. The only thing crazier may be having a baby during a pandemic (especially if it’s your first and you have no clue what to expect). It doesn’t matter what you’ve read, who you’ve talked to, how many classes you’ve taken or how many variations of a birth plan you go through – nothing will totally prepare you. Looking back, the thing I’m most grateful for is that I went into the whole experience with a totally open mind – and lots of COVID-induced anxiety, of course.
Three months later (holy shit), here are all of the top things I wish I knew before giving birth and have learned in the past 12 weeks.
Fuck Your Birth Plan
How many times do you read about “birth plans” while pregnant? It became one of those things that I felt I needed to have in order to have a baby. But let me tell you something: If your birth goes according to a plan you wrote down on a piece of paper, you must be a psychic and I’d love to meet you. I was very loose with my own ‘plan’ because as we all know, you make plans, and God laughs, so why set myself up for disappointment? My ‘plan’ was more geared toward birth ‘preferences,’ such as I’d prefer to give birth vaginally, and I’d prefer to labor at home. I mean, I sure didn’t write in my birth plan that I wanted to be in labor for 30+ hours so… what gives!?
While I made sure I was educated on as many of the different roads labor could take so that I could make informed decisions as I needed to, going into labor with a set plan is setting yourself up for disappointment. Of course, there are some concrete decisions to make ahead of time (such as circumcision), but my biggest advice is to keep an open mind for the rest of it.
You’re a Mess – Embrace It
I’m not talking about what you look like (even though that’s its own topic), but the first few weeks after giving birth, you are just a mess. There’s no other way to put it. For the first few days after having AJG, I couldn’t even lift myself off of the couch because I had no core strength.
Post-baby reality is: You smell (no matter how much deodorant you wear). You cry for no reason. You also cry for a lot of reasons. You’re exhausted, even if you have help. You’re bleeding and changing diapers of your own. Any routines that you had go to shit, and any routine you want to try to create just to make yourself feel in control won’t work for the first few weeks. Your house is a mess of baby gear. You’re either half naked or in pajamas all day. Cut yourself some slack and just try to remember to take a shower. I literally did not take off my pajamas for the better part of a month and I have no regrets.
Speaking of Being a Mess…
Compression wear is everything after you get home. I had a vaginal birth so I can’t speak to a C-section, but from the moment I got home, I wrapped myself in this postpartum belt (which I liked but quickly it became too big) and compression socks. I literally wore this combo all day (super chic), sometimes with a Spanx Bodysuit as my first layer, and even slept in it most nights. Once the postpartum belt was too big, I upgraded to a waist trainer. All of this helped fast track getting rid of all of that extra fluid and losing 25+ pounds after I delivered and I also think it helped me get my core strength back sooner rather than later.
Take Five Minutes For Yourself
To feel more like myself, I made a conscious effort to bookend my days with “me” time in the first weeks. In the morning, I wake up excited to drink a coffee, so I made sure to always make myself a fat iced coffee with my Nespresso and Simply Inulin frothed in. At night, I kept up my skincare routine (lots of moisturizer and oil to stay glowy, even though I was exhausted). Even though all I wanted to do was collapse into bed, the extra five minutes in the AM and PM for myself kept me sane.
It may feel like a never ending cycle of poops, pees and sleeps – but when you’re exhausted, it’s hard to remember if that dirty diaper was yesterday or today. Using an app to track everything (I use Baby Tracker) as it happens makes it so much easier to spot any inconsistencies. figure out your baby’s natural patterns, and answer questions when your pediatrician asks.
Ask Everyone For Help
This is hard for me because I very much like to keep it moving – but you have to ask for help if you need it, or at least take it when it’s offered to you. Whether it’s asking someone to drop off a meal or asking a friend to do your food shopping for you, or outsourcing your laundry for a few weeks, while you’re superwoman for having a baby, expecting to do it all isn’t realistic. Figure out where your husband, family or friends can pick up some slack – and ask them to.
Put The Baby Down and No One Gets Hurt (I Promise)
One of the biggest takeaways from our amazing baby nurse was to put down the baby. Yes – from the very start, you have to put down the baby. While it’s tempting to snuggle all day long and let the sweetest smelling newborn sleep on you for every nap, you’re eventually going to have to put him down so that you can, ya know, eat? And if that babe is used to constantly being held and suddenly you need 30 mins to yourself… you see where I’m going with this?
Enjoy every cuddle, snuggle and minute you spend sniffing them – but also put them down whether it’s in the Dock-a-Tot, bouncer, or just on the bed while you fold laundry next to them. I think AJG is a content baby (thus far) for many reasons, but I’m convinced that him being able to independently chill out is because we gave him the space to do so from the beginning.
You’re Going to Need a Mom Tribe
I don’t have a ton of friends or family members who have kids yet. While I adore my childless friends for asking how things are, it’s a lot of eat, poop, sleep, repeat, which isn’t all that interesting, even for me. No one really wants to hear how I’m talking in a baby voice for 20 hours a day and they can’t truly commiserate about being spit up on for the hundredth time that week. And god, how boring is that to talk about?
Finding a mom tribe, whether it’s in the form of Facebook groups or in real life, has been key for me to feel normal in this messy new world.
Facebook groups have been my savior during this time – whether it’s the Support Group for Moms on Call, new mama subgroups of my favorite podcasts/blogs, or Respectful Sleep Training/Learning, these groups are an amazing resource for information, product recommendations, troubleshooting, or asking even the silliest questions. If you can’t figure out why your baby keeps leaking through their diaper, this group has 15 potential reasons why and answers on how to solve it.
Being in COVID times, I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to find my in-person tribe of mamas since baby classes and such no longer exist in their original form. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands: I wrote in one of the smaller, local Facebook groups that I’m in and organized an outdoor, socially distanced group of babies within AJG’s age range that meets in my backyard each week. While we just started meeting, just being around a group of moms who are also in the thick of it is so important to have around.
You Don’t Need The Fancy Stuff
Let me be clear: There is a lot of great, very useful stuff for babies out there that our parents didn’t have. Whether it’s a Bluetooth rocker that can predict when your babe is about to poop or a high chair that looks like a rocket ship (and also costs as much as one), it feels like you need to have it all in order for your mini to be happy. The truth of the matter is that you don’t.
Let the first few weeks of motherhood play out before you open every gift, or order every gadget. You’re going to realize that some things are “nice to haves” and some things are “must haves” – and if you go full speed ahead with unpacking it all, you’re going to end up with a lot of clutter and excess that just takes up space. A great example is our bottle sterilizer, which takes up a shit ton of space on our counter, but we hardly use. You can shop my must haves (so far) here.
Create a Baby Bar Cart
This was one of my most genius ideas (if I do say so myself). This tip is a great one, especially if you have multiple floors in your house. Since I didn’t want to spend all day schlepping across our house to the baby’s room, I took a plain craft cart and turned it into a moveable #BabyBarCart with all of the essentials so that I could keep it in our den. This is also great if you have your mini sleeping in your room at the beginning for easy access during those late nights.
Here’s what I keep on mine:
💛 Burp cloths & bibs (tip: use cloth diapers as a burp cloths – they’re more absorbent)
💛 Pump, pump parts, pump wipes (if you’re breastfeeding/pumping)
💛 Haaka (if you’re breastfeeding/pumping)
💛 Pre-portioned formula (if you’re formula feeding)
💛 Water bottle & individually wrapped snacks (whether it’s for while you pump or for easy access while you hang with babe)
💛 Extra onesies
💛 Wireless headphones (so you can listen to a podcast/TV show on your phone during late night feeds)
💛 Folex Spot Remover (to instantly treat floor/couch spit up situations)