Everything I Wish I Could Tell Expectant Caroline (After 10 Weeks of This Motherhood Thing)

It’s been ten whole weeks – 72 days exactly – since Tillie graced us with her presence. We’ve got two more weeks left in the “fourth trimester,” and we’ve survived. On one hand, it feels like I blinked and suddenly ten weeks have passed. On the other hand, it seems like those first few days home from the hospital were decades ago. Though it’s only been a bit over two months, I’m already starting to understand that phrase, “The days are long but the years are short.” It’s wild how long and hard these early days can seem, yet I still feel like they’re flying by too quickly as I desperately fill up my camera roll trying to preserve every moment.

When I was pregnant, I logically knew that every single day with Tillie would be a learning experience. I really had no idea just how much I’d (need to) learn, and quickly. Every experience is different, and every baby is different, but these are the things that I’ve personally figured out over these ten weeks – and the things I wish I could share with the Caroline of just a few months ago, who was almost as naïve as she was humongously pregnant.

LOL, you actually have no idea what it will be like.

I know you aren’t arrogantly entering motherhood thinking you know exactly what to expect… but you definitely think you have a pretty good idea of how it is all going to go down. After all, you’ve been babysitting and nannying for years, right? Plus, after four years of all-nighters in college, you figure you’ll easily acclimate to less sleep.

Ha. Ha. As it turns out, tending to a screaming baby at 3 a.m. is not remotely similar to studying for an exam at 3 a.m. Being a full-time babysitter is nothing like being a full-time mother. And look, there is absolutely no way to know what it’s truly like until you’re actually doing it… but just know that it’s different than you’re imagining. Give yourself grace as you figure out how hard it really is, and try not to feel like a failure when you (really) struggle.

Your body will not be yours for a while.

You’ve already shared your body for almost 40 weeks, but it definitely doesn’t end when you give birth. When you’re in labor, you won’t care who sees what (or who touches what, for that matter). Once she’s here, strangers will be popping into your room hourly (or so it seems) to poke, prod, examine, and “massage” you, or shove your boob in your baby’s mouth. Once you go home, get ready to be topless 24/7, because Tillie will be clusterfeeding and nipple cream gets on everything. You probably never pictured hanging out in your living room topless with your husband and your mother, but all bets are off during those newborn days.

That big, cute baby bump you got so used to will be replaced with a belly that is soft and flabby and so empty-feeling. Maternity clothes will be too big, pre-pregnancy clothes will be small, and you won’t recognize the body you see in the mirror. Whenever you get overwhelmed with how strange you feel, take a look at that perfect baby you just housed for 40 weeks. Remember how many women would kill to have those pregnancy battle wounds, and try to be grateful.

Breastfeeding is the absolute worst thing until suddenly it’s the absolute best thing.

Of course, you’ve been warned that breastfeeding is painful at first. However, for you, “painful” is a euphemism. You will wake Jeremy up at all hours of the night, sobbing because of the pain. You will dread seeing Tillie’s hunger cues. You will listen to lactation consultants say, over and over again, “If breastfeeding is painful, something is wrong.” They are well meaning and excellent at what they do, but don’t let that plant doubt in your mind. Tillie is doing everything right, you are doing everything right, and you’ve just got to get used to the process. Plenty of women will tell you that they experienced that exact same level of pain, so trust your body and your baby.

Thank your incredible husband and mama friends for repeatedly reminding you that fed is best, which is the absolute truth. However, remember how badly you want to nurse Tillie and keep that in mind during the most painful nursing sessions. Around week three it’ll start getting easier, and by week four you’ll start loving it.

Balance the advice you receive with your maternal instincts.

What would you do without the community of mamas you’ve found? You already know how invaluable their advice was during pregnancy, and it’s even more helpful when the baby is here. Listen to what they have to say! Trust me, they’ll help you so much as you’re figuring things out. Getting help from other moms will also help you not feel so alone as you’re navigating this new chapter on no sleep and a boatload of anxiety.

That said, you will know your baby better than anyone and you will have your own intuition. Take advice, but don’t be afraid to trust your gut. At the end of the day, you’re the mother.

You can take credit for the little victories, but don’t get cocky.

There will be days when she is nothing but smiles, takes long naps, goes down for the night without a single tear, and sleeps soundly for six hours straight. You’ll be tempted to pat yourself on the back and commend yourself for instilling all of those amazing, perfect habits in your infant. Why are other moms struggling so much? They clearly haven’t followed a schedule! It’s all about consistency! I should give them some advice!

The next day, Tillie will boycott all naps, scream her head off every moment she’s awake, wake up every hour at night, and have you questioning whether having a baby was a good decision at all. But what about your perfect schedule and your consistency?! Turns out, babies will have good days and bad days and we’re pretty much all just along for the ride. Don’t get smug on her good days and don’t lose all faith on her bad days.

Be grateful for Jeremy.

Jeremy will assuage your fears when the contractions begin and fan your face when it’s time to push. He will cry when he holds her for the first time. He will cook you meals and walk the dogs and clean the house and Google all of your new parent questions. He will keep you company while you nurse, change her diaper, and swaddle her at 4 a.m., and then wake up at 6 a.m. to work. He will never complain about any of his new responsibilities, which he somehow juggles perfectly alongside his old responsibilities. Not every new mother has this support, so be thankful. More importantly, tell him you are thankful!

Finally, buckle up. Life as you know it is about to change forever, but in the most incredible way. Oh, and get excited because she ends up being really, really cute.

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