Having a baby is a major life changer in more ways that I could have imagined. So I’m proud to say I have two years of parenthood under my belt. Time really does go faster when you have kids. Parenthood has kicked my as$ and lifted me up in countless, unexpected ways. It also totally zapped my ability to work the first year and still limits how much “free time” I have to work in the second year since I’m a stay at home mom (SAHM). Being a SAHM truly is a full-time job around the clock, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had!
What I Wish I Knew About Having A Baby Before I Gave Birth
It’s funny I started writing this post a year ago, and am only getting around to editing and publishing it now. My intention is to write out some honest thoughts I wish I could have told myself while I was pregnant based on the knowledge I have now to better prepare myself for what was to come.
If you’re career driven, an entrepreneur, self-employed, or married to someone who is, you may find my thoughts helpful if you’re journeying towards parenthood. Here’s my reality check on what you should know before having a baby.
1. Expect to feel unprepared no matter how well you plan
I had an intense office job as an Operations Manager for ten years before I got pregnant. During that time I got to know my boss quite well and we had lots of candid conversations. As a dad of three, he used to tell me “nothing can really prepare you for it.”
I shrugged it off at the time, but I totally know what he means now. I was solely focused on a healthy pregnancy and researched incessantly about childbirth, basic newborn care, took classes, and had several thousand dollars of baby gear all ready to go before my son was even born. I couldn’t have felt more prepared.
Once our son arrived, however, I was lost in a sea of endless questions and felt like I had NO idea what I was doing. I was so overwhelmed. Sure, I could have read more books and taken more classes, but it still wouldn’t have mattered that much.
Be prepared to learn a LOT on the fly. It’s normal! Try not to freak out. Take one hour at a time in the beginning, and then one day at a time. So many things won’t become real or truly sink in until your little one comes home. Do your best to prepare of course, but expect to still feel overwhelmed. If I had known this, I think I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Trust yourself and your partner and accept feeling vulnerable. You will both gain confidence in time and will figure more and more things out each day. I’m so much more confident as a mom now than when I first started.
2. It’s harder than you can imagine but the rewards are priceless
Parenthood is so much harder than I ever thought. I’ve been stretched, pulled, and challenged in so many ways I never experienced before. It is an incredible emotional, physical, mental and financial shift in lifestyle too.
There will be bad days, some really bad days, but you will get through them. Get as much help and support as you can, as soon as you can. You will be glad you did. Get your family involved, call your friends that have kids for support, join a parents group, and hire help. We hired a post partem doula for the first three months (aka fourth trimester) and that was one of the best decisions we made. She was amazing with our son and was a huge resource for our countless questions.
Even though parenthood is hard, I feel so blessed to be a mom. It’s made me stronger in a lot of ways. It’s also made me feel like a failure many times too. Celebrate your wins and take as many pictures and videos as you can. You won’t regret having a ton! When I look back and flip through my Photos app, I couldn’t feel prouder about how much we’ve been through and how far our son has come.
3. Just when you think you’ve got it down, things will change
Babies are constantly changing. Toddlers too! Just when you think you’ve got xyz nailed down, something will change and you’ll feel like you’re back at zero. It can be incredibly frustrating!
This was one of the harder things for me to accept but it’s gotten so much easier to embrace with time. The sooner you can “come to Jesus” that your little one will be changing all the time, the less stress you’ll have, and the less you’ll doubt your skills as a parent.
My son was already testing boundaries before he could talk. I naively thought power struggles didn’t start until 2 or 3, but my son’s started around 9 or 10 months. But the encouraging news is those power struggles are positive signs of development. And the things they use to push your buttons at x months old will not last forever. They’ll move on to something else. 😅
4. Priorities WILL shift and you must make sacrifices
A baby truly changes everything. Yes, I realize how cliche that sounds. You may be thinking, “Mmm hmm. Yeah, sure. It can’t change things that much,” but oh yes it will and you’ll figure out how to adjust. Our son became my top priority and took over my brain, body, lifestyle, spending, and heart.
My priorities shifted a lot more than I anticipated and I’m fortunate to have been able to forego working full-time in order to focus on him. Whatever your situation, you’ll face a new set of priorities and that means somethings gotta give.
I really struggled (and still do) with wanting to do the same amount of things I did before, but have come to accept that I’ll never be the same as I was. This can be one of the hardest mental adjustments as a new parent.
I grossly underestimated the amount of work, energy, and time it takes to care for a baby and now a toddler. I’m very fortunate, however, that my husband is a powerhouse who gets things d-o-n-e and count my blessings each day I don’t have to return an office job.
Every day I’m in awe of his superhuman abilities to multi task and hustle through his enormous to do list for work, errands, yard work, house work, driving, and daddy playtime. Even before having a baby I was never as productive as he is and I often feel like I’m stuck in molasses, especially with a toddler tugging on my leg every three seconds. But even though my priorities have shifted and I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I’d like in non-parenting ways, things are slowly getting better.
Whatever your situation winds up to be, you’ll face a new set of priorities. That means somethings gotta give either temporarily or permanently. It can be frustrating not being able to do everything you want to, but try not to beat yourself up. Make the best use of your energy and child free time while you have it.
5. Brain drain, crappy sleep, and sleep training
Sleep deprivation is really, really hard. And there’s a lot about sleep and babies that people won’t tell you before having a baby because they don’t want to scare you, forgot, or had one of those rare babies who is actually good at sleep. I had no idea what sleep regressions were or how noisy and active babies can be at night. If your baby turns out to be a good sleeper, you seriously won the lottery!
I can’t remember the last time I slept eight hours completely uninterrupted. But things are a lot better now than they were during the first four months, and the first year for that matter.
Just be aware that our brains function horribly on bad sleep, even without crazy hormonal changes. Crappy sleep will make you drained, forgetful, stressed and cranky! My best advice is to hire a night doula in the beginning if you can afford it, squeeze in naps whenever you can – even 15 minutes WILL help – and figure out a sleeping arrangement that works best for you and your family.
Keep the faith that all of you will be sleeping better eventually. It might be many months or it might be years, but things will get better in time. And trust your gut when it comes to the whole sleep training madness. There’s no right or wrong way to sleep train and sometimes the more you read the more frustrated you’ll feel. Books make it sound easy but imo it just really sucks. There are a lot of support groups out there for all the various styles though. Do what feels right to you.
6. Baby gear, toys and expenses can pile up fast
My husband used to say I dominated all the space in our house because I had a lot of “stuff.” I disagreed, ha! But now our son dominates most of the space in our house today. We’ve made the house as fun and safe for him as possible. He’s got something to play with in practically every room.
We also quickly accumulated a lot more than I imagined. Some of this is because he’s at home 7 days a week and not in day care so we have a variety of toys to play with and help him learn. I try to get baby gear and clothes second hand when possible and convenient, but baby related expenses still can get expensive, especially in the first several months.
Try to declutter your home long before your baby comes while you have the time. And ask around your network if people have baby or toddler things they don’t need anymore and can donate to you or sell for cheap.
7. Your marriage will change in many ways
Marriage before having a baby was so simple and easy now that I look back. My husband and I rarely ever fought or got into heated discussions when it was just the two of us. We each had more than enough time both together and alone, and with our own social outlets. Our lives were very balanced with endless flexibility and freedom.
When you grow from 2 to 3, your marriage will have to grow too. Since it’s very common for marital happiness to decline temporarily when this happens, try to cut each other some slack. Work through as many existing issues you have now because otherwise they will likely become bigger issues when you are both sleep deprived and juggling so many new balls in the air.
Divide and conquer responsibilities, be open about how you’re both feeling along the way, and try to arrange time each week for just the two of you. Date nights or afternoons are wonderful breaths of fresh air to reconnect and grow closer in so many new ways.
8. Say goodbye to feeling super organized
I love to be organized! So I quickly became obsessed with the KonMari method when the Tidying Up show premiered on Netflix. From the files on my computer, to my sock drawer and the kitchen cabinets – I have a specific place for everything so I always know where to find things.
Unfortunately having a baby threw a huge wrench in my ability and desire to stay organized, especially for the first six months. I felt like I was living in chaos! This year, I feel I’ve got things much more in control again. I’m still not as organized as I was before having a baby, but things are good now. It would have helped me a lot mentally if I knew things would be so disorganized for the first year so I wouldn’t feel like I was constantly failing.
9. You’ll experience new types of stress
A helpful insight my sister gave me in my first week of motherhood was that every parent has their own fears and anxieties about their babies. For some it’s the fear of SIDS, or that the baby isn’t getting enough milk and is starving, or that he/she isn’t growing enough, all of the above or more.
Parenthood can come with a lot of anxieties and stress you didn’t expect and that’s completely normal. It really helps to join a parents group or to talk through what’s on your mind. You may also experience new stresses with your spouse, parents, in-laws, siblings or other caretakers. Everyone has their own opinions on how to care for a baby and if your beliefs clash, tension could ensue. Take deep breaths, try to respect each others differences and do your best to work things through.
10. Remember to be kind to yourself
One of the most frustrating and comforting things about babies is they are all different. Often times I wanted a clear cut answer or method on how to do xyz for our baby, but found myself presented with a gamut of options. This felt really overwhelming. My best suggestion is to open to experimenting. If one method doesn’t work, try another. And whenever you feel like you’re the only one going through a certain situation, take comfort there are many people out there who’ve gone through the exact same thing.
Also expect to have an endless amount questions than you ever thought and embrace the learning process. Babies are always changing and that’s a good thing! When you’re facing a struggle, remind yourself “this too shall pass.”
Most of all, be kind to yourself and your partner! Starting a family is one wild, amazing ride. ❤️