Parenthood is a long journey, beginning with the ups and downs of pregnancy and then the big event – the birth of your child. It seems like the hard part is over and you now have a wonderful, adorable bundle of squishy cuteness to love.
But then the bundle poops. And it cries. And it chews on your nipples. Its head is a funny shape, and it has weird spots on its face. And for the love of God, why won’t it sleep? Suddenly you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. Plunket is on speed dial. So is your GP, your midwife and your mum.
You’ve got a baby – now what? Here are five tips about what to expect when you are no longer expecting:
1) You will need help
No matter how independent and capable you were in your “former” life, everyone needs help with a new baby. You will need someone to take the baby when you need a nap or a shower. You will need help with housework and meals. If you’ve had a C-section, you’ll need even more help. Accept all you can get.
2) You will feel different
Your body has been through some tremendous changes. Expect it to take all of three months or longer before you start to feel remotely like your old self again.
Emotionally you will have highs and lows. Many women experience “baby blues” in the first few days after birth, which is common and passes quickly. Post natal depression is a more serious condition and usually develops in the first four weeks of having a baby. If you think you have it, tell someone and seek further help.
3) Bonding might take time
Maybe you were over the moon to be pregnant, but you have mixed emotions now baby is here. Being a mum is hard. Don’t worry if you don’t feel an overwhelming connection to your baby immediately. This develops with time and is easier to establish once sleep and feeding routines are settled.
New dads can feel a bit underwhelmed at first too. Baby doesn’t interact much in the early months, and mum usually takes care of all the feeding. It helps for dad to take on another responsibility like bathing or changing nappies to encourage bonding.
4) Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t always come naturally
Expect to be sore. Expect tears. Expect to discover what nipple shields are. Expect to be really, really grateful for the little tube of lanolin ointment in your bounty pack. Expect to add your lactation consultant to the speed dial list.
5) Baby’s milestones make it all worth it
The pride and pure joy you feel when your baby first smiles or laughs cannot be fathomed until you’ve experienced it. It’s okay to be unsure of yourself at times during your parenthood journey, but remember that being a parent is the most natural thing on earth. Trust in your gut instincts. Listen only to the advice that suits you. Endure the hard times knowing they won’t last, and relish every delectable moment that makes it all worthwhile.