What they don’t tell you about having a baby!
Sometimes motherhood feels like a conspiracy, with no one telling you about the many sleepless
nights you are going to have or the marathon breastfeeding sessions that you undertake, writes
MINAKSHI, a new mother, about the trials (and joys) of the first three months
During my pregnancy, I only did research on how painful childbirth would be. I have a few tattoos that I didn’t find painful when I was having them, and some women claim it hurts no more than getting a tattoo. So, I figured I had a good pain threshold. I was all gung-ho about having a natural birth.
Fast forward to the day of my delivery and, two minutes into my contractions, I was practically begging
for anything to take away the pain. I even told my husband that the only way I would even think about
having another child was if they gave me an epidural right at the beginning. Despite that mind-numbing
pain, I can say giving birth was the easiest part about having a baby. Everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone tells you breastfeeding is the way to go. Everyone tells you to enjoy the newborn stage.
Everyone tells you to enjoy motherhood and be grateful for the bundle of joy in your arms.
What no one tells you is you are so sleep deprived that you can have levels of anxiety that you didn’t know were possible. You wonder if you have postpartum depression because you can’t stop
crying. No one tells you that you have to manoeuvre the baby in such a way so that you can hold
him and use the bathroom at the same time because he refuses to be put down. No one tells you
about cluster feeding. No one tells you breastfeeding is so hard that you need support from your
family and partner. No one tells you that you can’t even pour a bowl of cereal for yourself because the
baby’s needs come first. No one tells you that you cannot have a long hot shower because you can hear the baby wailing for his next feed.
The day of my delivery I honestly did not know what contractions were meant to feel like. I thought I was having a bad stomach ache from the pizza I had had the previous night. Two hours later, I was in tears and wanted to smack my husband who kept trying to coach me through the breathing. When that pain hits, no childbirth class and no calming husband can help you.
You just want that epidural and you want it fast. After that, everything was a breeze. We watched TV as I dilated further and pretty much played the waiting game. Six hours of labour, two popsicles and nine pushes later, our son was born. I was so exhausted that my first thought was food and then the baby! What no one tells you about labour and delivery is that you lose all inhibitions. You have nurses and doctors prodding you and your insides till you deliver. Once you move to the mother and baby
room to recover, you need the help of a nurse to pull your pants down and hold you while you pee.
While they might tell you doctors are amazing, what they don’t tell you is that nurses are the real heroes in labour and delivery.
The first two nights in the hospital were only the start to the rollercoaster of a ride they call motherhood. You don’t know why the baby is coughing up weird liquids. You don’t know if he’s getting anything while breastfeeding because he won’t stop suckling. But you are grateful for the husband who seems a proat swaddling and calming the baby.
It’s a different story two months later when he can sleep through at night, despite the loud wailing of a baby. Once you get home from the hospital, the real adventure begins because you don’t know the difference between night and day and neither does the baby. You don’t know if you’re eating breakfast or lunch or if you’re getting a meal at all. So I shout out to my mum to make sure I get my khichdi (lentil and rice dish) and dahi (yoghurt) that I could eat every single day because they are such comfort foods.
Why does no one tell you that breastfeeding mothers are real champions because you spend upwards of six hours in a room feeding your baby and sometimes all night when they are going through a growth spurt and want to nurse non-stop? On the bright side, the baby gains over one and a half ounces a day. Why does no one tell you breastfeeding babies digest food faster which means over 10 diaper changes a day and going through boxes of diapers like it’s nothing?
The first two weeks are hard. They are harder than hard which is when you are thankful for the husband’s two-week paternity leave so you have some time to take a quick nap or soak in the bathtub to ease pains you didn’t know you could have. Honestly, you are so exhausted from the feed, change diaper, put to sleep cycle that you forget you had a human rip through you. He also has a head size in the 93rd percentile which would explain the multiple stitches I needed.
Most importantly, why does no one talk more about postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety?
When my doctor mentioned this to me before my delivery, I almost laughed because I’ve wanted to be a
mother my whole life. Why would having a baby make me sad? But it’s real. The anxiety and stress is real. It’s easy to put up pictures on Instagram talking about your bundle of joy while you’re crying with frustration because the baby has been crying for three hours straight and you don’t know why. Why does no one tell you sleep deprivation is a form of torture and that would explain why you cry in the shower for two weeks straight because you’re so exhausted?
While I know I didn’t have postpartum depression, I most certainly had postpartum anxiety because I would stress about feeding the baby, stress about when he would wake up, stress about if I could get him to calm down, stress about what was making him cry. And all of this with probably one of the easiest and most chilled out babies I’ve ever come across. What about those mums whose babies are colicky? Or those mums who have toddlers to deal with? I have newfound respect for my own mother who had to manage a two-year-old and newborn while my father travelled for work. And, unfortunately, I am a micromanager which meant that I just couldn’t sleep knowing the baby was crying even if my husband was doing his best to calm him down and get him to sleep. But then I read something that just flipped a switch inside me. Your little baby has been inside you for nine months. You are the comfort they know. They find comfort in that baby wrap with their legs pulled up close because it mimics the womb. The loud sounds and bright light are a stark contrast to the comfort of your heartbeat and the calm of your belly. They cry out because that’s the only way they know how to communicate. “Some cuddles first. Mama, this feels nice. When I feel you holding me while you gently rock me and when I can smell and feel you, I feel safe. I can feel your hand on my back and my ear is placed just right on your heart. Mama, this is home to me. Do you remember back when we were always together? Sometimes I miss that time. It was so nice to be close to you. I hear you whisper to me, ‘Everything is okay, little one’. Mama, will you just hold me a little longer? I’m tired and feel so relaxed in your arms. I will soon learn, Mama. Soon, I’ll be there for you.” They call this the fourth trimester for a reason. It is a period of change for your newborn as they adjust to the new world and you are their home. Despite the ups and
downs, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The little coos, the grins, the smile when he sees you, the excited kicks when you sing to him. My son has made motherhood the most tiring but the most fulfilling adventure yet.