Nothing can possibly prepare you for becoming a mother. And I say that as an incredibly unorganised human who did zero preparation, classes or courses about my foray into this new and poorly paid venture. But regardless of my lack of preparation, I think the majority of education is around pregnancy and birth, not the wild ride that is having to take this new human home and figure out what the hell you’re doing. So I thought I’d write a list for any new mum to get familiar with and any experienced mum to nod along with. These are the 6 things I wish I knew before having a baby, and YES, I might have known if I’d actually done any of the ‘highly advised’ courses my midwives suggested (the only suggestion I took was stocking up on Huggies prior).
- They poop a LOT.
I knew babies pooped, but I didn’t know it could literally be 8-10 times per day. I also didn’t realise how volumous they would continue being. They’re so teeny? How does so much poop fit in them? It’s also incredibly liquidy at times and resembles either curried cauliflower or pasturised pesto. Yummy. I’d heard about the dreaded blowouts friends had experienced with their bubs, and I’m VERY grateful i haven’t gone through that trauma. The Huggies nappies are clearly midwife trusted and endorsed for a reason, they keep the excretions INSIDE the nappy. Because babies also don’t generally like having their nappy changed (mine does the little weirdo), one that contains the poop explosion is essential while your little one bellows at you and tries to kick you in the tit.
- They get VERY sensitive skin.
Speaking of poop… they like to put their feet in it. Probably not deliberately (surely not), but when you change them, they pull their teeny toots up into the faeces, creating a real fun time for whoever is changing him. When I first brought my son home I was using a random small packet of baby wipes on him and couldn’t figure out why his skin was so dry in certain areas. The skin on his feet was literally shedding and his private area looked so uncomfortable. Then I switched to the Huggies Thick Baby Wipes and noticed the difference. He hasn’t had the super sensitive skin on those areas since! Point being, their skin is so delicate so using the wrong wipes can exacerbate skin issues, same thing with nappies that might not be as absorbent as Huggies. I’ve forgotten/couldn’t be bothered to change Lenny’s nappy in the middle of the night and been shocked at how heavy it is in the morning, but guess what? Dry as a desert inside so he’s never sitting in his own damp wee, which could cause nappy rash or make skin more sensitive.
- Babies don’t necessarily sleep.
If you’ve ever played trivia, you’d think babies sleep for minimum 16 hours per day. You’d be wrong. Here’s a list of stupid things I said prior to having a baby (I could write a novel but here’s a few relating to how much sleep I anticipated they would need/want):
“I’m still going to be able to work, I’ll do it when the baby is sleeping”.
“I’ll clean that out after the baby comes because he’ll sleep a lot”.
“Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps so it will be fine”.
My baby doesn’t like to sleep very much. He gets outrageously overtired, and screams at me because he’s so tired, but doesn’t actually like to sleep. Unless it’s on me. Needier than a teenage girl in her first relationship, my baby wants to be on me.
Making sleep and getting anything done virtually impossible.
- Being a mother isn’t easy or natural for everyone.
I love my son but motherhood hasn’t come easily to me and it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. This is something that’s really hard to admit to everyone around you, but mainly yourself. But I think it’s important to say these things out loud so that other mums don’t feel so guilty and alone in their thoughts. Not everyone wakes up and just knows what to do and loves this completely unrewarding job. I’ve always been good with pets and other people’s children so I just assumed being a mother would come naturally to me. It hasn’t and I often imagine making my husband quit and take care of our son so I can go work full-time because I honestly think that’s way easier. My top advice would be to make sure you talk to people. Find like-minded parents to vent with and stay away from anyone who makes you feel inadequate. With all the perfect newborn content on TikTok, it's easy to get trapped into thinking you're doing a bad job when you absolutely aren't.
- You really, really need a village.
And to be honest, I don’t really have one. I get so envious of people who have parents nearby and strong mother’s groups. I have a sister nearby who also has two babies, then a bunch of family and friends who live at least 30 minutes away and all work full time. It’s fine, I have more support than many women, of course, but I do wish I had more people to turn to and lean on when things are tough.
- Sleep deprivation is actual torture.
I’ve suffered from insomnia for the majority of my life, not even my adult life; I’ve had pretty shoddy sleep for as long as I can remember. So I honestly thought I would be fine with a newborn and the constant wakings. Yet again, I was wrong. Very wrong. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture method; it’s so debilitating both physically and mentally. At best, you’re looking at 90 minutes of interrupted sleep before you have to get up and do the whole process over again. It is soul-destroying to feed your baby in the dark (so you don’t wake them up too much) and then you spend an age getting the baby to burp because winding babies is far harder than the TikToks of people playing the drums on their babies' backs suggest. Once you finally get the baby down, do a wee and grab a sip of water, pop in your earplugs (to drown out the small grunts… see below point about noise), lay your head on your pillow, release a sigh of relief and close your eyes. And then the baby squeals. And you do one of these three things:
a) Squeeze your eyes shut, pull a pillow over your head and hope they settle themselves.
b) Get up, grab the baby and resign yourself to another night watching TV on the couch while they sleep on you.
c) Burst into tears and start screaming at your partner that you’re never going to sleep again, and for Christs sake can they get up and take the baby, or you’re going to leave them both and never come back.
My nights are often a magical blend of these three scenarios and I could never have anticipated just how much a lack of sleep would affect my state of mind and mental health. Unfortunately, I don't have a magical trick when it comes to being tired. All I can recommend for sleep deprivation is caffeine. The lord of energy. Make going to the coffee shop part of your morning routine, and enjoy every single sip.
Written by Kelly McCarren, September 2022Kelly McCarren is a content strategist and the co-host of Mamamia’s cult beauty podcast, You Beauty. Known for her self-deprecating humour, Kelly has built an engaged following on her playful take on the day-to-day and is a new mum to Lenny.
Last Published* December, 2022
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