How can you ever really prepare for motherhood? Sure, you’ve gone to the prenatal classes, decorated your nursery and you might have jumped on the hypnobirthing bandwagon, but what about when your baby – the entire human being that you have just birthed – arrives?
No one tells you to prepare for the bleeding, the lack of a pelvic floor, the intense emotions that will wash over you in those first few weeks and the fact that you will only ever dress your newborn in onesies.
To find out exactly what those expecting need to know, we aske mothers to give us a little insight into what they wished someone had told them when they were pregnant, below.
Take those pelvic floor exercises seriously
“I can’t run. I can’t jump. Well I can. But if I do, my bladder quickly shows me its disapproval. It’s a nightmare, it’s debilitating. And it’s embarrassing. Why? Because no one ever told me just how seriously I should take my pelvic floor exercises – both while I was pregnant and also, for the months after my three natural births.
“While I worried about stretch marks and which buggy to buy, what I should have been thinking about was my pelvic floor. So, mums to be, I’m passing this to you. If you’re standing at the bus stop, if you’ve got five mins, hold in your bladder like you’re holding in a wee. Do it multiple times daily. Do pilates during and post birth – otherwise 10 years on, like me, you may be scared to sneeze in public. And it so easily could have been avoided.” – Deborah Joseph, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour
Don’t worry too much about the birth
“Don’t sweat the birth. It can be such a big focus when you’re pregnant with huge pressure to go natural but in the grand scheme of your child’s life – and your experience as a mother – birth pales in comparison to the wild, weird and wonderful experiences that lie ahead for you both.” – Celia Pool, co-founder of DAME
Be prepared for how overwhelming the first weeks can be
“I really wished someone had told me that labour was the easy bit. I felt really ill-prepared for everything else that followed. Taking a newborn home from hospital at 2am (!) and being completely responsible for a new life felt so overwhelming. We were struggling with breastfeeding, timings, new feelings, new sensations in the body and the reality of taking care of a baby who was completely dependent on you.
“The ‘baby blues’ was only really briefly mentioned in antenatal classes but I remember the first time my husband left my son and I alone to pick up some supplies, I was so fearful and panicked for his well being as well as ours. I really wasn’t ready for these unfamiliar feelings or the isolation that followed and in hindsight wish I’d gone much easier on myself, had more family around and not tried to follow the ‘rule-books’. Thank goodness for walking in the local parks though, that really helped my sanity and anxious feelings.” – Hana Sutch, Co-founder & CEO of Go Jauntly
It’s okay not to love every single minute
“I wish I’d been told it’s OK to not love it every minute of every day, and miss little bits of your old life – it doesn’t make you a bad mum or mean you love your baby any less!” – Vicky Baggott, owner of Hubalu
Onesies are all you need for newborns
“You won’t dress your baby in anything other than white onesies with poppers for at least the first three months of their lives. You will be constantly changing them as nappies leak or they spit up their food, and you will want a constant stream of easy to whip on and off onesies that are soft and the same.
“So save buying any gorgeous clothes for at least 3-6 months at the earliest. And if friends and family are wanting to buy the baby clothing as gifts, it’s so important to check which season they will be in at the age. I had my baby boys in autumn and was gifted so many gorgeous knitted woolly jumpers aged 3-6 months by the time they were old enough to wear them it was warm and they were in t-shirts.”- Camilla Newman, Publishing Director at Glamour
You can expect bleeding for up to six weeks post-birth
“I have five children ranging from 2-21 years of age, having given birth to my first at 18 years old. It wasn’t until I became a midwife and had more children that I really began to realise how clueless I really was as a first time mum. One of the biggest memories I have is thinking ‘why didn’t anyone tell me I was going to bleed for six weeks after having a baby?’. I honestly thought that it would be over and done in the first 48 hours and no one ever told me any different.
“I didn’t attend antenatal classes back then but I’m not sure I would even have gained knowledge about what to expect postpartum, as so much emphasis is put on the birth. It’s not just me though, I once had a mum call the postnatal ward from home panicking because she thought she was haemorrhaging as she was still bleeding after three weeks. Postpartum bleeding is now one of the things I make sure I talk about, to all of the clients that I care for and on social media.” – Marley Hall, midwife and educator (@midwifemarley)
Your life will change drastically (for the better)
“I wish people had explained to me that – for most of us – life changes radically when you have a baby. I think I thought the baby would just slot in around our lives, but everything changes, not in a bad way but it does change.
“I went from jetting off around the world for work to it taking me an hour to even get out of the door with my daughter! No more lazy blissful lie ins, no popping out for a drink after work – my days, my life really, revolve around my children. But honestly, no one tells you just how much you will love them, and it’s a shift that just works. But I do miss those lie ins!” – Diana Massey, Operations Director of The Massey Partnership
Intense emotions are completely normal
“I wish someone had told me about the continuing intense emotions of motherhood. Not the initial rollercoaster in the first few weeks of postpartum. I mean the guilt, the worry, the intense love and frustration.
“I would also say to never wish away your baby’s first year. We are all guilty of thinking ‘when will I hear them say mamma’, ‘why are they not walking’ ‘will I ever be able to go to the loo on my own again?’. It all goes ridiculously fast and before you know it they’re in secondary school and you have a whole host of worries you don’t want.” – Sima Sthanakiya, founder of The Curious Pixie
Take is easy for the first few months
“Don’t push yourself in the first months after giving birth. If you want to breastfeed the best thing you can do is stay put, eat plenty of wholesome food and drink lots of water and milk yourself. If you get dehydrated this can contribute to a shortened supply. So drink plenty. Also, breastfeeding is about supply on demand. So the more you feed and the more you pump, the more milk you will have.” – Claire Wares, Advertising Director at Glamour
Don’t freak out if you’re having twins
“I wish someone had told me just how easy twins would be once they started sleeping through the night. When you’re pregnant with twins you really have to avoid certain people, the ‘how will you cope?’ or ‘what are you going to do?’ brigade! I breastfed them at the same time and they went through all the stages together – the competition between them meant that spoons were snatched, no airplanes like with my oldest son.” – Karen Martin, founder of Holiday Cottages Noss Mayo
Take in the small moments
“I never realised how quickly they grow and develop into their own beings – someone once said to me enjoy them between 7-11 as these are the easiest years, post-baby phase and pre-teenage dramas, which struck me as odd at the time. But now with teenage years incoming I get what they meant. It’s so hard to see clearly sometimes when you are in the fog of parenting, careers, marriage, home making and now homeschooling, but the cliches are true, they really do grow up fast and within 10 years they’re half stepping out of the door into their own lives.
“So take those moments to hug a little tighter, sneak in when they are asleep, take the day off to go to sports day and share those experiences – those will be the memories you cling onto when they have all but forgotten. I already know I’ll miss them when they’re gone.” – Camilla Kay, Beauty Director and Deputy Editor at Glamour