Why did no-one tell me about the existence of such a thing as an Episiotomy until I was 3 months pregnant and it was too late to change my mind? It turns out that having a great slash though your most private of parts is not all that rare and in fact, it can sometimes be safer, and quicker to heal than a natural tear but still... I may have had second-thoughts had I known this in advance!
Piles. Another one of those things that nobody warns you about until its too late! Almost every new mum I've met since Lara was born has had problems with haemorrhoids and/or constipation. Its not pleasant to talk about but be aware, it happens, it can be awful, and your GP can help. With free prescriptions during pregnancy and right up to your child's first birthday, there's no point suffering alone.
The average first labour lasts 12-16 hours. I don't think I'd ever really stopped to think about how long labour would last until I started my antenatal classes; everyone knows that it CAN be long and that it WILL be hard work but until you're there you don't really stop to think about the enormity of the task involved and the length of time you'll be in pain. That 12-16 hours (I think mine was officially 14) only counts from when you are first considered to be in 'established' labour and in fact, the whole process can last considerably longer, in many cases, several days. Ug.
Periods. I feel like there's a secret here that mummies keep! I had no idea that my periods wouldn't return to their normal pattern immediately after giving birth. I guess I had a vague inkling that it might take my body a couple of months to sort itself out but I never for one minute imagined that they wouldn't come back at all until after I stopped breastfeeding. I'm still waiting!
My biggest surprise as a new mum (however much I felt I had prepared for it) was the CONSTANCY of motherhood. 7 months down the line, I don't think its any different in terms of the constant demands on me as a mum, but maybe that's just because I've learned how to handle it. In the first few weeks of motherhood I felt like I was running at 100% CPU for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can't escape it, you can't take a breather, you just have to keep on going.
Losing the baby weight takes longer than you'd expect. Maybe I was being naïve thinking that I'd be back in all of my old clothes within 3 months of giving birth! The very wise Claire Lancaster recently told me her mantra – 9 months on, 9 months off and I think we should all be prepared for it to take that long.
I think its common knowledge that when you get pregnant, part of the pregnant 'glow' comes from shiny hair and gorgeous healthy long fingernails. I loved that part of pregnancy! However, I never stopped to think about when this would end. I was overjoyed that the healthy hair and nails didn't seem to disappear straight after the birth and had got used to it. Earlier this month I finally gave up breastfeeding and within a week my fingernails had started to break off. Within two weeks, every single one of them had broken. Damn it! Here's hoping I at least keep my hair in!
Teething seems to last for ever! I'd been prepared for a few days here and there of grumpy baby syndrome due to teething but I was never prepared for it to last for days, or even weeks on end for what seems like eternity. I think I still have months, if not years of this ahead of me. Oh good.
One of the best pieces of advice I had before the birth was to pack my freezer full of home cooked meals that we could turn to during those early weeks when you're too tired to cook. If you follow my twitterings you'll know that I'm a big curry fan so I put aside a whole load of different foods, curries of all sorts and a few less spicy, but equally flavoursome offerings. The trouble is, onions and breastfeeding don't get on very well! Lara had a very upset tummy and struggled with wind during her first 6 weeks. My Mum suggested it could be my diet. We cut out the onions and hey presto, the wind went away. So, next time I am preparing for childbirth, I shall remember to fill my freezer with onion-free meals.
Brain Rot. Its not a myth, mums-to-be and new mums do suffer from mummy-brain! In the weeks following the birth, I honestly felt like my brain had turned to cheese. It is sooooo frustrating to get up, walk half way across the room and then realise that you have NO idea (none whatsoever) why you stood up. I was often surprised at how useless my brain - specifically my memory - had become. I think my turning point was when I went to work at 4 months in for my Keeping In Touch days. It was good for my brain to get the exercise and to get back to doing what its good at – solving complex technical problems. If you're suffering from mummy brain, don't worry, it does get better (although I'm told by my Mum that it never quite gets back to normal!) and for now... live for the list!
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
There are a number of things about becoming a Mum that I feel a little cheated about. Nothing major, just things that I'm surprised aren't common knowledge until you actually get pregnant, and get involved in the mum and mum-to-be community. So, here for the benefit of mums-to-be, and perhaps those people considering taking the plunge, are the things I feel the world kept secret from me!