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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 03-Jul-15 11:14:41

Guest post: "No baby book is going to tell you the whole truth"

The realities of life with a newborn took MN blogger Like Real Life by surprise - here, she shares what she wishes she'd known.

Want the low-down on all things baby-related? Find out more about Bumpfest - our one-stop event about pregnancy, birth and beyond - here.

Like Real Life


Posted on: Fri 03-Jul-15 11:14:41


Lead photo

"Black stringy baby sick was definitely not in any of my pregnancy literature"

The day after my first ever positive pregnancy test I went into town and bought myself a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Over the course of my pregnancy I also stocked up on baby magazines and hypnobirthing CDs, attended antenatal classes, breastfeeding classes, massage in labour classes, and generally felt that I was the most prepared person ever to have a baby. I was totally 100% ready.

Somehow, in all this preparation, I missed out the fact that after you have 'had the baby' you actually then have a baby – a real tiny human, to take home and look after and feed and try to stop from screaming.

In the end, my labour was more bloodbath than hypnotic birthing pool. When it was all over, instead of being able to sleep off some of the trauma I spent the night awake mopping up lots of black stringy baby sick. Black stringy baby sick was definitely not in any of my pregnancy literature.

In fact there were quite a few things that my books and teachers failed to mention. That my boobs would morph into blocks of concrete, for example. Swelling I expected. Tenderness? Sure. But Jesus Christ! What are these things? And since when did my underarms count as boobs too?

I also seem to have skipped the chapter on the insane inconsolable crying (from me, not the baby - although she was making a pretty good effort too). Around day three post-partum, a temporary personality transplant took hold. The real me disappeared for a few days, replaced by a sobbing, shouting, super-dramatic version of myself who would think nothing of crying because I'd "run out of BREAST PAAAAADS WAAAARGH AAAAAAAAARGH RAAAAAARGH!!" I had no idea if the crying was normal, whether it should really feel this bad and – most importantly – when it was going to end.

No one wants to scare a pregnant woman. No one wants to tell you about how you might dread each bloody feed and cry on the toilet alone. You will not find that in a baby book.

No one gave me a heads up that in addition to the gifts of babygrows and cuddly toys, I'd also be presented with a brand new vagina. Well, new in the way a patchwork quilt is new - made out of lots of little cut-up bits of a previous item, sewn together in a decorative way. My midwife made me look at it a few days after delivery so I would know where all the tears and grazes were. It kind of looked like a steak that had been caught in a sewing machine. Peeing through it was another good reason to cry.

I didn't quite clock that breastfeeding might be more complicated than it looks in those follow-on milk ads – and I didn't realise that 'complicated' would mean that the first few weeks of it were quite literally the hardest and most painful thing I have ever done in my life. Although breastfeeding should not hurt if your baby is latched on well, I struggled and got confused about the correct latch. I developed nasty cracks on my nipples which were then reopened with each feed. In the early hours of the morning, faffing about with pumps and nipple shields and with my little baby screaming, I just felt so desperate and alone. Eventually we got the hang of it, and the internet – along with Lansinoh cream – was my saviour.

I could go on about each little thing that I found hard but my main point is this: no book is going to tell you the truth. No one wants to scare a pregnant woman. No one wants to tell you about how you might dread each bloody feed and cry on the toilet alone and want to tell all of your well-meaning guests to just fucking well fuck off. You will not find that in a baby book.

I have met plenty of mums who described their post-partum experience as 'floating on cloud nine' or 'the easiest thing in the world'. I am genuinely pleased for mums who enjoyed those first few weeks, but those who didn't need to know that feeling like shit is okay too. Struggling does not equate to ungratefulness, and feeling awful because your body is a wreck is not something that takes away from the love of your child or something we need to feel guilty about or lie about.

I felt like shit after I'd had a baby. There, I said it. If you didn't, I am pleased for you – but if you did, you should know that you're not alone.

If you want to go beyond the books and find out what happens 'after the apocalypse', join us at Bumpfest, Mumsnet's one-day event dedicated to all things birth and baby-related.

By Like Real Life

Twitter: @abioborne

eurochick Fri 03-Jul-15 13:29:30

Peeing through your vagina means something went quite badly wrong in the stitching up process....

TheOriginalWinkly Fri 03-Jul-15 13:46:50

I don't know what the blogger was reading or who she was speaking to, but everything I read and everyone I spoke to described having a newborn as a hellish torment. I ended up surprised to find that I didn't cry all day every day, and rather enjoyed a lot of early motherhood, even with exhaustion and pain.

Psycobabble Fri 03-Jul-15 14:15:12

It surprises me that people don't realise that having a baby might be quite hard work?

9 months of pregnancy , pushing aometging the size of a watermelon out your vagina / having your stomach muscles slice through to get the baby out

Broken sleep all night for weeks on end

A whole new person to be completely responsible for

Not being able to do what you want when you want

Luckily I'm quite the pessimist so in actual fact I found it less horrendous than anticipated smile

StAlphonsosPancakeBreakfast Fri 03-Jul-15 14:50:28

Now that I'm pregnant with my first, nobody has been able to resist the urge to tell me my life is over, that everything from here on in is misery, exhaustion, pain, and bodily fluids. Christ, some people are moaners.

Why does anyone bother if it's that shit? hmm

Psycobabble Fri 03-Jul-15 15:07:12

Yes same as when I was first pregnant ! There's nothing wrong with been realistic about it because of course it's a massive life changing thing but people love to try and heap their misery on to you , sometimes playgroup was like a competition to see who was the biggest martyr Eughh

I actually really enjoyed the newborn stage to my surprise but shhh don't tell anyone if you do too or they'll accuse you of been smug or lying!!

Candycoco Fri 03-Jul-15 15:15:04

People bother because first time you don't really know what you're in for. And then eventually the memory of how hard it all was fades

Thurlow Fri 03-Jul-15 15:19:05

You know, I do think I went through the whole 9 months of pregnancy not really thinking about what it might be like to have a baby at the end of it. Blissful ignorance and all that.

I do agree though. People tell you it's going to be shit, which is charming in itself. But no one can tell you which actual bit you are going to find shit. It's a completely unique experience. And even if you know you're going to be exhausted, no one can quite tell you how you are going to react to being that tired.

You know it, but you don't really know it, not with your first baby. And I'm sure second and third and fourth babies continue to throw their own surprises at you.

I was pregnant and had a newborn before I really got into MN. I do remember being surprised by how extreme my reaction was to a lot of things that the books described as, essentially, mildly unpleasant. Milk coming in would be sore, not 'dear fucking lord don't even breathe within four feet of me'. The day 5 blues would be a tearful day, not sobbing hysterically for 45 minutes in a hospital bathroom barely able to breathe.

It's not people just complaining that it's "that shit". It's just that some things surprised, upset or overwhelmed them more than they expected.

Wolfiefan Fri 03-Jul-15 15:46:53

Of course no book will tell you the whole truth because everyone has a different truth. I only needed a couple of stitches after my DS. Bit sore but nothing awful. Yes birth was hard work but it was a lovely water birth.
I did wish someone would have mentioned the black sick though and the fact that not everyone can bf. (It doesn't just magically happen for everyone.)
Cold was shit and of course having young children is hard but then they smile at you or just gaze into your face. Blissful baby cuddles! smile

SolasEile Fri 03-Jul-15 15:48:27

I had the opposite experience, funnily enough. Everyone warned me the newborn phase would be awful, no sleep would drive me crazy and the baby would cry all the time and I wouldn't even have time to shower, let alone eat.

In fact I was fortunate in having a relatively content baby, had a horrible delivery but recovered from it ok thankfully and we actually coped much better than I expected.

What hit me like a train were the toddler years. I had naively assumed, based on what everyone had told me, that the newborn stage was the hardest and it got easier from there. Oh how wrong I was! The year from when my DS was about 18 months to 2.5 was far far harder than the newborn stage. It was like we were at war with one another whereas at the newborn stage at least it was clear what he needed: usually, feeds and sleep and cuddles in that order wink

Thanks for sharing your experience. I do think there it's true that no literature that can ever prepare us for parenting!

Stillwishihadabs Fri 03-Jul-15 19:06:00

For me it was the primary school years..(I know this is very unusual) .I loved being pregnant, enjoyed breastfeeding. I have done years of night shifts so found maternity leave very relaxing. I really like 1-3 years olds. However nothing prepared me for the hell that is the hours between 7 and 9 am and 4-8pm with tired, grumpy children who need clean uniforms,games kit, sheep costume, packed lunch, something for the harvest festival, reading with every night and homework. As well as the meals and bedtime routine you were doing before. I felt like I never had time to just be with them anymore.

StAlphonsosPancakeBreakfast Fri 03-Jul-15 20:13:36

I probably am being a bit cranky actually. grin

I dare say there's no harm in being prepared - but if you try to prepare too much - by being miserable in advance about how awful it's going to be - aren't you just blighting your whole pregnancy? Surely it's going to be hard anyway, why make life harder by pre-empting it all?

I'm normally an anxious person by nature, I over-think everything, and I feel really blessed that the hormones are making me zone out a bit. I was genuinely worried that pregnancy would make me so anxious - waiting for the baby to be born and my life to END FOREVER that I wouldn't cope at all with being pregnant.

Does anyone really go into this thinking the baby will sleep 18 hours a day, wash itself, that everything will be painfree and glowy, and that they will be getting manicures and playing dress-up with their little doll? In this day and age?

Lilipot15 Fri 03-Jul-15 22:11:41

StAlphonsos - I hope your hormonal calmness persists. Like you I am a natural worrier and I found this much better when pregnant (on the whole, of course I had my moments!) - I didn't get that stressed about a house move which was a pleasant surprise.
And now I'm breast feeding, that really seems to help too - so it isn't all doom and gloom.
Some people seem to take a perverse pleasure in telling you "get your sleep while you can" (I couldn't as my reflux, bladder and toddler saw to that in pregnancy), "your life will never be the same again, no freedom for 18 years...." - again, who would think that life with children would be the same?!
Forums like this are good for realising that everyone has different challenges, there are people to talk to and helpful suggestions.

avocadotoast Sat 04-Jul-15 05:21:03

Does anyone really go into this thinking the baby will sleep 18 hours a day, wash itself, that everything will be painfree and glowy, and that they will be getting manicures and playing dress-up with their little doll? In this day and age?

I think there's a massive difference between knowing you're going to have a tough time, lack of sleep etc, and actually living through it.

For me the lack of sleep wasn't so much an issue; it was every other bloody thing that made it so hard. Hormone crash and uncontrollable crying coupled with wailing every time I went to the toilet, then the agony of "your episiotomy stitches have come apart and you have an infection", and DH meaning to help but asking me why I was crying (in a nice way!) and me feeling like a fool because I couldn't articulate why I was so upset.

DD is 6 weeks now and it is getting a bit easier, we're coming out the other side. But even now, it's 5:20am and she's been awake on and off since 3; she'll sleep on me and wake when I put her down, and I'm so tired I could just start crying all over again!

angelicjen Sat 04-Jul-15 08:01:36

Well now I'm looking forward to it!
I don't think anyone kids themselves it's going to be easy, but at 36 weeks I have to stay excited about the good bits (there must be some good bits??) and enjoy this special experience. I think it's good to know that it's not normal to have it easy and it's essential to know where to go for help, but I'm getting sick of people banging on about how bloody awful the whole experience is. No one mentioned it through the years of ttc, which would have been a more appropriate time to put me off!

NorahDentressangle Sat 04-Jul-15 08:08:30

I think the problem is partly that we have a health system and immunisations so we are not at all used to our bodies being uncomfortable, ill, not being able to sleep, in pain etc etc

Also we can work, play do whatever without a second thought pre babies.

A few generations ago childbirth was dangerous and, also, all around you, so you prob had a good idea what you are in for. And it wasn't that great!

Now we choose to become pregnant so it's harder to complain about and easier to feel a failure. And we are used to freedom so being tied to a tiny is a huge change.

Then there's the media -pics of stars and their partners in parental bliss!!

My first had colic so I would say that it's def the most miserable time of my life! But if I'd try to explain all the crying to someone without DCs I doubt they'd believe me or they'd assume I must have been doing something wrong.

avocadotoast Sat 04-Jul-15 11:21:02

angelicjen oh it is a special experience though, there's no doubt about that. For every tough moment there's a moment of absolute joy when you look at this perfect little being you've created.

I would never, ever want to put anyone off, because having my daughter is without a doubt the best thing that's happened to me. I just think people maybe talk about it being so hard because at the time you just don't know how to deal with it. Emotionally, it can be pretty brutal. It passes, but at the time it can feel all-consuming.

But then, my DD has started smiling now, and when she follows my face and looks at me and smiles, my heart completely melts and it's all worth it.

Usernamesarehard Sat 04-Jul-15 13:06:22

I'm sitting here with a 3 week old really relating to the op. It all well and good to say "yes but you get smiles and coos and it's all worth it". But that just proves that you've forgotten that actually, they dont happen til after 6 weeks. I'm finding it really hard and it would be nice to not feel ashamed of it every times someone asks if I have a "good" baby. It's hard.

Usernamesarehard Sat 04-Jul-15 13:09:06

Hasten to add my post isn't directed at anyone in particular-I cross posted w avocado

RabidFairy Sat 04-Jul-15 14:27:40

I have DC3 asleep on me right now. She's 2 1/2 weeks old. I'm shattered; she's congested so is barely sleeping at night time and DH ended up in hospital for a few days in the middle of this. Even before the congestion DD2 is a fussy madam for a few hours usually from around 10pm, manifesting in shouting and screaming from her. I was not prepared for any of this, having had 2 quite placid babies previously and I definitely couldn't have expected being on my own for days.

And there I thought number 3 couldn't possibly surprise me!

ADogCalledLamb Sat 04-Jul-15 17:58:07

Totally relate to the OP. I found the first 6-7 weeks awful, truly awful. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. All new parents should know that you don't have to love it, it's ok to just get through each feed, each day, each night.

squizita Sat 04-Jul-15 20:11:57

The best piece of advice I was given was eat prunes and brave yourself ... you'll be using those pushing skills again for the dreaded "first poo". Ugh.

wonderstuff Sat 04-Jul-15 20:43:56

Everyone told me it would be hard, but I thought everyone has babies, how hard can it be? LOL. As it happens my pregnancy was so unspeakably awful, I was sick and depressed throughout, then a cloud lifted as she was being born, and I was so elated to not be pregnant anymore, that joy of being able to eat without vomiting got me through the first six months. Ironically an easier late pregnancy and less challenging birth denied me that initial euphoria with dc2 and the first few months of his life were a real slog.

It does get easier, kids get more complex, but you don't have to deal with them through a fog of sleep deprivation. Mine are 7&4 now and I love being their mum, I've always loved them, but it took quite some time to love being a mother.

stantonjulie Sat 04-Jul-15 20:51:49

I can relate to the post but for my 2nd. Everyone told me would be easier than 1st and with my 1st being 5 years old would be a doddle as I had a helper. I had a terrible birth (1st one was bad enough) and an emotionally blackmailing 5 year old who HATED me breast feeding and regressed into toddler territory. I then sank into PND and dreaded every day.

So I gave up breast feeding at 10 weeks, baby slept through 2 weeks later, and now he is 20 weeks my 1st finally plays with him. My 5 YO however is still harder to deal with and wakes me up in the night once a week on average for random reasons.

MrsFrankRicard Sat 04-Jul-15 21:17:37

Yeah everyone's experience is different so it's hard to be prepared for the shit bits! I didn't experience black sick for example, no idea what that is about?

The things I wasn't prepared for with my first was... everybody said oh once the baby is out then that is it, pain over etc, I didn't even think about 2nd degree tears, stitches and the pain of weeing, delivering the placenta, afterpains and being unable to sit comfortably for a couple of weeks. I wasn't prepared for the anxiety that came with suddenly being responsible for another tiny human and how I couldn't really think about anything else, couldn't even watch a tv programme and give it my attention. I wasn't prepared for the pain of breastfeeding, biting down on something to get the latch. Bleeding, cracked nipples, crying with pain while feeding baby and completely dreading each feed. Other than all that, I actually did enjoy it ;)

2nd time round, more prepared for most things but had ELCS so there were some differences... nobody told me I would have a bed bath afterwards, have my pads changed by midwives, stingy pain of getting catheter out and then having to pee into bedpans afterwards to make sure I had weed enough. Nobody told me that my baby might be full of mucus which is common for CS babies that would get spewed up all over his bed/the floor. I didn't experience any anxiety as was already a mum, so it's always there anyway! Enjoyed the newborn stage a bit more and was definitely able to focus on other things better than the first time. Breastfeeding was hell to begin with again, but went slightly better.

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