Real Talk with Real Moms: 15 Things Moms Wish Someone Had Told Them
The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. - 'Osho'
Contrary to the popular scenario, where a woman is portrayed as a flawless model kissing on the tip of her baby's nose, motherhood is a struggling experience for most women, especially those pregnant for the first time. Even if you're fully prepared for your motherhood journey, there are so many new experiences that sneak up on you during those initial postpartum days.
We spoke to some real moms who revealed their physical and mental changes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Here's what they had to say:
#1. Breastfeeding is Not Easy the First Time
Successful breastfeeding takes time, courage, preparation, patience, perseverance, and support. It requires three people – mom, baby, and another supportive adult (e.g., your partner or doula).
Breastfeeding is often displayed as an easy and natural thing that hardly a woman would ever question about it. However, the bitter truth is that it is a learned art and doesn't come naturally. Some moms don't produce enough milk, whereas some babies have trouble latching. Sometimes breastfeeding is a painful experience for the mom, and sometimes the baby refuses to suckle. The problems are countless!
Breastfeeding is not just about shoving your nipple into the baby's mouth. It's more about getting a proper latch and feeding the baby to the fullest. In my case, I was producing enough milk, but my little one was unable to latch onto the breast. My mother-in-law and nurses tried several things, including expressing and using a silicone nipple shield, but eventually, I had to switch to bottle-feeding completely. I wish that I was more prepared to tackle the difficulties of breastfeeding!
#2. Cluster Feeding is a Thing
If you wear your nursing cover backward like a cape, then everyone can see you're a breastfeeding superhero.
Cluster feeding, also called bunch feeding, is when the baby nurse much more frequently (at least 8-12 times in 24 hours) to ensure she is getting enough milk. It is the time when you feel like you're not supposed to laugh, sleep, or meet visitors; all you have to do is feed her. It can happen to both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mothers.
Since I was not aware of cluster feeding, I got surprised why my newborn suddenly shifted to a pattern of feeding every hour. I thought if there is a problem in my milk supply and therefore called my lactation consultant. She told me there is nothing wrong with my milk; it's just something that some infants do. I wish someone would have said to me about this weird breastfeeding pattern!
#3. You Can Experience Back Pain After an Epidural
If you get an epidural, you can experience back pain after childbirth. It is not necessary, but in most cases, the ache strikes back. It stays for the first 6-7 months, and you discover it on your own. It is like a spasm that fades away over time. You may feel it when you lift your child or some other equivalent or heavier stuff.
My doctor didn't inform me about it, and I had to deal with it independently. I had no idea that I would get backache after the epidural. It persisted for about six months, and I was not prepared for it at all. I wish my doctor had told me about it beforehand. Thanks to stretching exercises that helped me a lot to combat this pain.
#4. Mother-Baby Bond Takes Time
Studies have found that about 20% of new parents feel no real emotional attachment to their newborn in the initial hours after delivery.
Moms don't always feel a real emotional attachment to their newborns in the initial hours after delivery. Instead, the maternal bond gradually strengthens as you spend quality time with your little one. It can even take a few weeks or months to develop a bond with your infant. In particular, when the baby starts making eye contact, the maternal bond begins to strengthen. The feeling of seeing and holding your baby for the first time is fantastic, but the first few months are crazy because your little munchkin is crying, pooping, and breastfeeding round the clock. Also, you are battling emotional upheaval and hormonal changes during this period. It might sound brutal, but so is the truth. I wish I knew that before childbirth.
#5. Your Skin Will Change
9 out of 10 women experience a change in their skin tone during pregnancy.
A woman's skin goes for a complete toss during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes. Of course, taking good care of the body can prevent it, but certain things are unavoidable. For instance, acne and pigmentation are quite common skin problems during pregnancy.
Moreover, you can experience permanent skin disorders too. They vary from one woman to another. In my case, I got permanent moles while one of my friends got freckles during pregnancy, which never went away. Also, we should not forget the stretch marks. I wish I were familiar with these skin problems so I could take precautions!
#6. You're More Vulnerable to Thyroid and Diabetes
Although thyroid and gestational diabetes are common health issues during pregnancy, some new mothers are also at higher risk of being diagnosed with thyroid and diabetes after childbirth. Most women are unaware of this fact, and I was too.
A couple of weeks after delivery, I got tested and found the thyroid levels high. I had to go on medication, but it stayed for the next two years. It's now under control because of prescribed medicines, but I still need to get tested every three months. The thyroid problem contributes a lot to postpartum depression as well. Nobody told me about it!
#7. Postpartum Depression is Real and Difficult
Postpartum depression (PPD) is more common than you think - affecting nearly 22% of women during the first months after childbirth.
When you suffer from PPD, you lose your ability to take care of yourself and your baby. You don't sleep, don't eat, and don't shower. Instead, you experience intense irritability, feel hopeless, and have difficulty bonding with the baby.
Most Indian hospitals do not allow a family member into the delivery room, and unfortunately, mine was one of them. I had a long labor, followed by a C-section, which I think led to postpartum depression. A month after the delivery, I felt a strong sense of distress and realized it was quite difficult for me to take care of my child.
I immediately told my gynecologist, and she referred me to a psychologist. She prescribed me some medications, and a couple of months later, I was able to take care of my child. Nobody told me about this serious mental issue. Even my doctor didn't tell me that I was at a higher risk of getting postpartum depression since I had thyroid.
#8. You Can Develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
According to a recent study, approximately 31-62% of pregnant women experience Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common side-effect of pregnancy, as a result of which you feel pain, numbness, and tingling in your hands and arms, especially when you keep them in a single position for a long time. New moms usually experience this condition when breastfeeding their babies in the same posture for a long duration.
When I became a first-time mother, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome two months after childbirth. Whenever I used to feed my little one, my hand would go numb, and I would need somebody's help to switch positions or lift the baby or lie her down. Thankfully one of my close friends soon suggested using a feeding pillow, which helped me quickly recover from this painful condition. However, my doctor still says it was not caused by pregnancy.
#9. You May Feel Pain and Contractions After Childbirth
You may continue to have contractions even after childbirth, primarily if you've delivered your baby through C-section. It happens because your uterus is bloated for the next 4-6 weeks post-pregnancy. As it is gradually contracting back to its original size, you can get pretty painful contractions, worse than menstrual cramps. In such a case, you need to be very careful with your uterus as it is still in the healing stage. As per my experience, breastfeeding can sometimes put the contractions into high gear.
#10. You Cannot Escape from Stretch Marks
There's a strong association between your genetics and stretch marks. If your mom or grandmother got them ever, the likelihood of developing them is higher.
There's nothing you can do to prevent stretch marks; hence it would be better for you to get mentally prepared, for they are there to stay after childbirth. No one talks about them, and some would even say that it does not happen. From your doctor to your mother-in-law, everybody tries to shove them under the carpet.
My doctor didn't tell me about stretch marks or any solution to prevent them. When I asked her, she said, 'there is nothing you can do about it, and all ads are fake. They don't go away, and there is no cream, lotion, or oil to cure them.' I wish I had known about stretch marks so that I would be mentally prepared for them.
#11. Your Menstrual Cycle Can Change for Good
Your menstrual cycle goes for a toss, and it can change for good post-pregnancy. Depending on your body type, childbirth can lead to regularity (or irregularity) in periods. However, you will bleed profusely initially after delivery, and you should be mentally prepared for that.
I had had irregular menstrual cycles with intense pain before I got pregnant. Every month during menstruation, I had to take a painkiller like Meftal to survive those tough days. However, after giving birth to my first baby, they became regular with bearable pain. Nobody told me about this interesting fact!
#12. You Can Have an Unexpected C-Section
1 in 3 women gives birth via C-section. This number has tripled in the last decade.
Expect the unexpected! Some C-sections are planned and scheduled for medical reasons, but many are done to avoid unforeseen emergencies during planned vaginal delivery. No matter how 'normal' your pregnancy is, anything can happen during labor and delivery. Unfortunately, the truth is that no one can promise you a perfect vaginal delivery.
Everything was fine during my pregnancy, and my doctor assured me that it would be a normal delivery. However, at the last moment, the doctor told my spouse that there is no option other than C-section because the fetal heart rate was rapidly dropping.
Since I expected to welcome my child into this world with natural birth, the sudden change was scary. We were helpless at that moment, but we tried not to panic and said yes to the C-section because we wanted a healthy baby. I wish my doctor would have given me a clue about C-section; we could be mentally prepared for it.
#13. You May Get New Allergies After Pregnancy
Pregnancy can do weird things to your body, and allergies are one of them. After childbirth, you may unexpectedly develop new allergies (either temporary or permanent) or experience an increase in existing allergies. The most common allergic reactions in women post-pregnancy are a sudden onset of food sensitivities, increased seasonal allergies, and an allergic skin rash, called PUPPP.
Being exposed to allergens, immune imbalance, and hormonal fluctuations are often blamed for causing allergic reactions. The good news is that none of these allergies are dangerous to the baby; however, they can affect the quality of mom's life for a temporary period.
While most allergies clear up on their own within a few months, you can consult a dermatologist to speed up the recovery process. In my case, I developed eczema a few months after pregnancy. I went to a dermatologist, and he recommended me taking frequent tepid baths, followed by emollients and topical steroids. Luckily, I got rid of eczema soon.
#14. No Matter What You Do, You Always Feel Guilty
After childbirth, you may experience the feeling of guilt, known as mom guilt. It has many origins, from personal insecurities to expectations from your baby, spouse, and family members. You can feel guilty just about anything, including being irritable towards your partner, feeding formula milk, using screen time to get a bit of peace, not caring for your child correctly, and so on. The feelings of guilt can intensify when you're suffering from postpartum depression.
In my case, I used to feel guilty for whatever I was doing or not doing related to my baby. For instance, if my child was crying, I used to think I'm not giving her enough attention. Conversely, if I was to embrace all his stubbornness, I used to think I'm taking too much care of her. Even whenever my child slept next to his father, I felt jealous. Altogether, I used to feel guilty about everything related to my baby, and no one told me that this happens to many new mothers.
#15. The Body Immediately Changes, Forever
No one told me my belly might never be the same as it used to be before pregnancy. That means if you were previously blessed with a flat, toned stomach, pregnancy might kiss it goodbye. That's because the abdominal muscles separate during labor, and it takes time and effort to get them back to their original shape post-pregnancy. Unless you consult a post-natal specialist, it's nearly impossible to return to your pre-pregnancy shape. Forget those celebrity moms who still show off their flat abs; they are in a completely different world.