What I wish I had known before having a baby
Little things you’re not always told about before becoming a parent.
I know I’m stating the bleeding obvious here, but having a baby is a major life-changing event. The positive pregnancy test alone marks a new era in your life. You know it will never be the same again.
Holding your baby in your arms for the very first time very definitely marks you out as a grown-up. It brings with it a range of emotions: you can feel excited, proud, nervous, overwhelmed and terrified in equal measure.
According to a new survey by Kiddicare, nearly four in 5 new parents find the first 3 months of parenthood harder than they expected.
Some of the main challenges include lack of sleep, getting out of the house and the inevitable strain on finances and your relationship as a couple.
Reading those statistics makes me think about what I wish I had known about before having a baby. I was prepared for sleepless nights and feeling exhausted, but there were other things that I didn’t know about and looking back, I wish I had.
NCT antenatal courses are about more than just giving birth.
I never took an NCT course when I was pregnant. I considered it to be a complete waste of money when the NHS provides antenatal classes for free.
However, I’ve learnt that an NCT course is about much more than just the antenatal information you get. It’s also about lasting friendships. I’ve seen friends and acquaintances post pictures of themselves with their NCT buddies years after first meeting.
Unfortunately, my NHS-funded antenatal course was a one-day crash course. This means everyone is much more on getting in, learning as much as possible and then getting home again. It’s hard to make lasting friendships in that sort of environment.
The 20-week scan is about assessing the health of the unborn child, not about finding out the sex.
OK, so this is something I already knew, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of potentially finding out the sex of your baby that you can forget sonographers are actually looking for foetal abnormalities.
When I was pregnant with Olivia, my husband and I went along to our 20-week scan eager to see our unborn child and find out the sex. We were convinced that the baby was growing well and there was nothing to worry about. So it came as a real shock when we were told that our baby had bilateral talipes.
Breastfeeding is not as easy as midwives make out – some women may not physically be able to do it.
This is without a doubt the biggest nugget of information that I wish I’d known about before I became a mother.
When you’re pregnant you get a lot of information about breastfeeding – I even attended a breastfeeding workshop while I was pregnant to learn more about technique – but hardly anyone will admit that breastfeeding can be difficult. In some cases, it might be near impossible.
I’ve written a little about how my daughter and I were hospitalised when she was one week old because my body wasn’t producing the milk she needed.
I found the whole experience traumatic, mainly because I felt like I was completely failing my child because breastfeeding should have been so easy. I even encountered terrible judgment by one midwife because I refused to ignore the paediatrician’s instructions to bottle feed.
So here’s my advice – if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason, don’t let yourself be made to feel guilty. Yes, breastfeeding is beneficial to baby, but you’re not a bad mother if you bottle feed. The choices you make will be in the best interests of you and your child and that is the most important thing.
Your washing machine will become your best friend, your iron will not.
It’s a truism that relationships change when you have a baby. For couples, friends and even your relationship with kitchen appliances!
You will develop a true dependency on your washing machine as load after load of dirty baby clothes, muslins and bibs need cleaning every day.
You won’t be able to comprehend how your cute, little baby can create such a never-ending pile of laundry.
You may, at times, find yourself praying that your washing machine doesn’t break down under the strain.
And forget about the ironing.
When Olivia was a baby I was adamant that all of her clothes would look pristine at all times. The ironing board was rarely away and yes, I even ironed her bibs!
After the first 6 months I came to my senses and stopped. By the time William was born, I knew better than to bother in the first place. There are much better things to do with your time than worrying about creases in your baby’s vest, bib or muslin.
It’s OK to admit you don’t know what you’re doing or to ask for help.
According to Kiddicare 90% of new parents exaggerate how well they’re coping with parenthood. About four in ten say they wouldn’t ask for help because they worry it would show they weren’t coping.
You know what? It’s OK to admit that you don’t have all the answers. No-one does. Babies don’t come with a parenting manual (oh how much easier it would be if they did!).
If you do feel like you’re not coping, please tell someone about it. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength.
Kiddicare has launched a new website, What I wish I’d known… to gather tips and advice from parents based on their own real-life experiences.
What things do you wish you had known about before becoming a new parent?