You can spend hours at antenatal classes or poring over parenting books and websites, but nothing can totally prepare you for parenthood. Here’s a few things that you might not expect when you’re expecting.
1. You can function on next to no sleep (but don’t expect to enjoy it)
Before the patter of tiny feet, a night of missed shut eye may take you days to recover from. After having a baby, you no longer have that luxury. The average new parent gets just 4 hours and 44 minutes per night, and this is likely to be much less in the first few weeks. At first, you may wonder if you’ll survive the sleepless nights (can I die from sleep deprivation?) but the strange thing is, your body adapts. And after a few weeks, you find you can go about your day-to-day activities after just a couple of hours in the land of nod. That’s not to say it’s pleasant – but you will survive.
2. You become poo (and other yucky substances) immune
An average baby will need 1,057 nappy changes in the first 6 months of life. That’s a lot of poo to handle, so it’s lucky we become somewhat desensitised. Before parenthood, the thought of changing a poopy nappy – or wiping up vomit - might make you gag. But after a few weeks of cleaning your little one’s bum several times a day, you’ll find you’re pretty much immune to the smell and appearance of their excrement (and to other bodily fluids) - even when faced with a particularly pungent blow out. A word of caution though. You’ll quickly become immune to your baby’s poo, but the same probably can’t be said for changing your friends’ baby’s nappy. That will probably still make you retch!
3. You’re going to need to work on your pelvic floor
Some people think you only need to consider your pelvic floor if you’ve given birth vaginally. But every woman should work on her pelvic floor after birth, whether you’ve had a C-section or vaginal birth. The pelvic floor muscles stretch in pregnancy to make room for your growing bump. By the end of your pregnancy, the muscles will have weakened from being weighed down and you’ll need to fit in daily exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, also helping you regain control of your bladder and bowel after birth. Well-toned pelvic floor also enhances feeling in your vagina, making sex feel better.
4. You can use baby wipes for just about anything!
These days, you can find baby wipe formulas gentle enough to use on a newborn baby. So, from the moment your baby arrives, for a few years to come, you’re likely to constantly have a pack (or two) on your person. Baby wipes are designed to clean up baby’s bottoms, sticky hands and face, and any other icky kiddie messes in a flash. But did you know they have a whole host of other uses? Some parents swear by keeping a pack in the fridge to use as a cooling face towel, while others say they’re the best for tackling dust. Other uses include removal of hair dye stains on skin, a great shoe cleaner - the list goes on. Just look for wipes that are plastic-free so you’re not contributing to single-use plastic pollution.
5. You’re not the mum you expected to be
Before your baby arrived, you told everyone you’d be a stickler for sleep training but actually find you prefer to co-sleep. Or maybe you wanted each day to go with the flow but suddenly find routine works best for you. Whatever the case, don’t beat yourself up about it. Parenthood is a roller-coaster ride of unexpected twists and turns and highs and lows, and some days the journey can be particularly bumpy. Expert advice can be a helpful tool, but every family is different, and you’ll learn to trust your own instincts and what works best for you. So embrace the journey. Motherhood may not be quite as you expected it to be, but you just might find it’s even better.
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