When you're pregnant, you will get unsolicited advice at every turn. You'll hear stories of other moms' pregnancies and child-rearing tactics; you'll choose to watch, read and research a lot of it on your own. Yet, there are still plenty of things you won't know until you experience it for yourself. Here are a few of them now:
1. Birth plans are subject to change at any time. Writing a plan is more of a preparation exercise rather than an actual plan of operation. Deal with the disappointment of things that “went wrong” with your birth. If you ended up with a Caesarean after planning a natural, unmedicated birth, it is OK. The end result is a healthy baby in your arms. Go into the birth with an open mind and come out of it with joy. If you can’t let it go, bring it up to your doctor and find out about resources to help you feel better.
>> Read more: Making the Best Choices for Your Childbirth
2. Post-delivery, the nurses will push down on your uterus — like, hard. This is a technique that helps the uterus “contract down.” They like to call it a massage.
3. Stitches on your lady parts are likely. The average first-time mom gets a second-degree tear from a vaginal birth. This requires a few stitches, which will later dissolve. The doctor might add a few more between the labia and clitoris, which might need to be removed a few weeks later.
4. Babies are as audibly gassy as an old man. If you don’t know this, it will take you by surprise. There’s no real medical reason for it, and it normally doesn’t stink.
5. Breastfeeding isn’t the only way. For whatever reason, your milk doesn’t come in, don’t freak out. Perhaps you’re already breastfeeding, but you don’t enjoy it. Hang in there and find a good supplement match for your baby.
>> Read more: A New Mama's Guide to Breastfeeding
6. Your heart will swell 10 times the normal size. Medically, this is not true, but emotionally, oh my goodness. You will feel love pouring out of you at an uncontrollable pace every time you think about your baby.
7. Going to the bathroom will take at least 10 minutes and involve a squirt bottle. Especially if you have a vaginal birth, you’ll be very sore down there and equipped with pads. You can’t wipe your lady parts after you use the toilet, so the hospital will give you a squirt bottle. Feeling European? Then you have to pad-up again and the whole process is slowed down by soreness.
8. Stool softeners, anyone? You’ll get some at the hospital and need them for at least the first week home. You don’t want to think about pushing anything else out of you!
9. Hair loss is normal, and it will grow back. Usually around the third or fourth month, you’ll begin to lose hair. It will come out in gobs. You’ll think you’ve lost at least 40 percent (you haven’t). But it stops, and it does grow back in little stick-up fly-aways.
>> Read more: 9 Reasons Your Hair Is Falling Out
10. Your baby will have no concept of day and night. They’ve been growing inside your dark uterus for nearly nine months, so you can imagine how light is a new concept. Babies don’t understand that darkness signals sleep and light signifies being awake. Give it a few weeks.
11. Poop does not discriminate. It is limitless and unbounded. Poop will happen anytime, anywhere and in any amount. It will find its way out of a diaper and onto the furniture, into hair, stuck in jewelry, all over the walls and toys. Poop is everywhere.
12. There is nothing wrong with snuggling. Trying to get your baby on a schedule from day one is a tough feat. Don’t stress about teaching your infant what time feels like. Just snuggle that little bundle as much as you want! Schedule, smedule.
13. You don’t need a diaper bag. By diaper bag, this means the Mary Poppins kind of bag that’s stuffed to the brim with items you won’t really need (floor lamps?). For quick errands, stuff your purse with a couple diapers and travel wipes, maybe a toy. If you need more than that for a 45-minute trip to the store, reassess. Click here for a list of the most used items seen in a diaper bag.
14. Don’t base baby’s milestones off of timelines from the Internet. Blogs and forums will tell you your child needs to have cereal by four months and table food at six months. Ignore that. Even your pediatrician will tell you to be aware of your child’s cues and needs. Some kids want purees sooner than others. Some babes wait to crawl. If you’re at all concerned, talk to your pediatrician.
15. Cut your to-do list down, down, down. Limit your to-do list by time and by trips. If you need to go to the dry cleaner, grocery store, library, consignment and pet food store, pick two. Expect a meltdown or a poop-spolsion to happen otherwise.
16. Find a mommy group. Whether it’s a walking group or a virtual group, find one that fits you and communicate with them. Share and learn from these women who are experiencing the same adventure as you. Click here for some tips on finding the best group for you.
17. Newborns don’t always wear newborn clothes. The average newborn weight is 7.5 pounds, which means that they’ll be wearing 0-3 months right out of the gate, and wearing size 1 and 2 diapers pretty quickly.
18. Your non-mom friends will be scarce. Sorry, it’s true. It comes down to a simple “out of sight, out of mind” issue because you’re so busy being an amazing mother. Your non-mom friends are busy with jobs, socializing and whatever else it is they do. It’s tough to find enough common ground.
19. Mommy guilt is for real. It’s an overwhelming feeling that stems from the chemical bond you have with your child. It starts out emotionally but grows into a physical condition that can make you feel heavy and sick to your stomach if you ever need to leave your baby, even just for a run.
20. Expect an identity crisis within the first year. Your life pre-baby compared to life with your baby is apples to oranges. Your role is totally different. You are mom. You will have moments when you aren’t sure if you have a first name anymore. You’ll adjust.
21. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is a lie. Unless you’re a robot that can flip the switch to “sleep mode” whenever the baby dozes off, this is an absurd concept. Not all babies like to nap, and sometimes they decide to nap 20 minutes at time. Nap when other people are around to watch the baby, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
22. Intrusive thoughts and emotions will trickle in. Say you’re driving over a bridge and all of the sudden you’re thinking of how you would go about saving you and your baby’s lives if you just fell off of it. Whoa. That’s intrusive. Big waves of protective feelings and empathy will overwhelm you, so be careful of what you watch and expose yourself to, especially on the Internet.
23. You are the best parent for your child. There will be days when you feel like a loser mom, but don’t believe it. You’re an amazing mother and your child has no reason to think otherwise. Don’t let objects or products, milestones, parenting styles, or anything else define your level of awesome. You are the best possible mother for your child.