I see a lot of posts on this subject that focus on the funny side, about how everyone will see your nakedness and you won’t care, about how you’ll get used to being puked on etc etc. This post isn’t that, there are so many practical things no body ever told me when I was pregnant and I never even thought to ask – You don’t know what you don’t know, right?
So, here is MY personal list of really important things that I should have been told, I’d love to hear yours in the comments!
1. Group B Strep
It’s strange, I was asked several times on the maternity ward whether I was Strep B Positive and I always assumed that I must have been tested or they wouldn’t be asking (after all, they nicked enough of my blood for testing over the course of my pregnancy) I also assumed I must have been all clear or they would have told me. WRONG. It wasn’t until Harriet got her results that I found out what it is and why it is so crucial for EVERY mother to be tested in EVERY pregnancy. (Read her story here)
2. Your birth might not go according to plan
Okay, thats a pretty obvious one and I guess on some level we all know that but what I mean is that no one told me exactly what it was that could go wrong and how that might be resolved. Nobody prepared me for emergency procedures in theatre. I suppose nobody wants to scare a pregnant woman, well, I’m gonna do it. You might have to have major abdominal surgery. You might have to have your lady bits sliced and diced. Your lady bits might rip and you could lose a lot of blood. If you are pregnant I would strongly advise you to talk to your midwife (or relevant healthcare professional) about what you can expect if you need to have an emergency procedure. What the risks are, why they happen and what you have to sign when they thrust the surgical permission slip at you between contractions. It’s going to be easier to take that information on board when you aren’t 15 hours into labour and drifting in an out of consciousness.
3. Packing for hospital stays
I see a lot of posts about hospital bag essentials. I disregarded most of them because they contain bluetooth speakers, tablets and essential oils. I packed a small bag of actual essentials (clothes for me, clothes for baby, nappies, sports drink, vaseline, maternity pads, granny pants, phone charger, hospital notes) which would have been absolutely fine if my birth had gone smoothly and my son wasn’t crazy jaundiced. My poor husband was back and forth with clothes and supplies all week. He doesn’t drive so he was walking three miles to the hospital and three miles home (what a trooper). So, pack a bag for if things go to plan. Pack another, bigger bag for if they don’t. Oh, and hospitals don’t give you shampoo.
4. Tongue tie (and other feeding issues)
This is a huge deal to me and I will be talking about it in more detail in another post soon. I did hear tongue ties mentioned when I was pregnant. ONCE. It was in the following context; “You can’t breastfeed a baby with tongue tie because they can’t latch to the breast”. This is possibly the single worst piece of misinformation I was given. My son had a tongue tie and he latched and fed, just not very well. None of the midwives or health visitors picked up on it and I had no idea what to look for. I was supported by amazing local services which are now facing massive budget cuts (see their campaign here) but I wish I had gone to see them when I was pregnant for some advice and again after my son was born before I was told that his behaviour was normal or that it was my fault.
You are going to be changing a LOT of nappies. I decided to use cloth when I was pregnant but my dinky baby didn’t fit in them to start with. If I had realised just how many disposable nappies we’d get through in the first three months (around 900) I would have invested in some smaller sized cloth nappies. Obviously a lot of people told me that it would be a lot but the actual figures still startled me. If you’re in the UK you can find your local cloth nappy library here.
6. How and when to bathe a newborn
This one was a source of panic for me from around 20 weeks. I asked at an antenatal class but I was shown with a rigid toy doll and no actual water so I was ill prepared. When I was presented with a mucky baby fresh out of the womb I had no idea if I should be washing the gunk off of him and how I might go about that. I avoided it for a while and picked the crispy bits of womb lining out of his perfect hair as best I could. He was eventually washed for first time at a week old by a lovely member of the maternity ward team who talked me through top and tailing. I still had no idea how to give him an actual bath so I just didn’t, for weeks. I’m still not 100% sure but if you’re concerned I hope you find comfort in the fact that it isn’t just you.
7. Dressing your baby
How do you get those tiiiiny little vests over the head of a baby with zero muscle control? (Answer – you put the head hole under the back of their head and pull it gently over the top). As silly as it sounds, no one ever told me or showed me and I had not slept much so how was I to know? It took me a week to figure it out – luckily I have a summer baby. He lived in fully poppered sleepsuits most of the time. Also, everyone kept telling me I needed a going home outfit for him and that is a lie. I needed a clean sleep suit for him to go home in. I did pack an outfit but he was too tiny and I didn’t care one bit, I just wanted to get home.
I’m sure I’ve missed some because… well because my son is two and my brain is mush from all the parenting. As a bonus, I asked my husband what he wished he’d known. Apparently he’s quite traumatised. Here is his list:
Labour is terrifying
Seeing your partner in labour, in that much pain and not being able to help is awful. Seeing them in theatre and having to hold it together when you’re worried you might lose the woman you love and your child is the scariest thing.
Babies are terrifying
How do you hold them with out breaking them? How do you change nappies? Dress them? Undress them? Put them in the carseat? Pick them up? Put them down? HOW?
The weight of the world is terrifying
Your partner just made a small human. She is in no position to do anything much so you’ve just gone from being responsible for yourself to being responsible for you, your wife and your baby… and all of the cooking and cleaning. Two weeks in and you have to work again. It’s a massive adjustment to make and it can be a little overwhelming.
The soft spot is terrifying
Every time you touch the soft spot you think you’ve hurt your child. Absolutely. terrifying.