Having a baby is a big decision, and while you ought to be prepared to give it all up in an effort to be the perfect mama, saying goodbye to those precious moments of respite you savour when trying simultaneously to juggle a career, a household, a rockin’ bod, a social life and a full refrigerator (unless your husband actually does the groceries?) isn’t always as easy as it seems. Once your little one makes his/her arrival, all your minutes are instantaneously redirected towards feedings, diaper changes, doctors appointments, and bouncing up and down like a maniac trying to soothe a crying baby. They say this will only last for a little while (I’ll let you know in another month or so).
The point is, people don’t really tell you what exactly you’re giving up as a woman once you decide to have a baby (and it’s a good thing, otherwise human procreation would surely come to an alarming and immediate standstill). This is of course because the pay-off (a super cute, loving, minion sized bundle of joy) is totally worth at (and because woman have a biological component that deletes the trauma of birth and the time that immediately follows). Whatever the reason, there are a few things I wish I’d known before taking the dive into motherhood – not that I wouldn’t have done it anyways, but at least I would have had a better idea of what the first few months had in store. So, here it is; the stuff that every woman should know before dropping the pill and pinning their legs against a headboard in the hopes of sending swimmers to meet their mate. Do these things while you can ladies, and savour them for all of us.
*note: drinking wine is excluded because after giving birth I immediately reinstated a glass or two every other day – let’s be honest, that’s just responsible parenting.
Let’s start with the obvious. At present, you may believe that if you get less than your much needed 8 hours beauty sleep, you’ll turn into resembling Charlize Theron’s character in the movie Monster. Well, after you’ve had a baby, 8 hours will be considered sleeping-in. You will never, ever, ever sleep 8 full hours again. Ever. At least that’s what it will feel like as you wake up every two hours to feed during the first few weeks. You may get a 3 hour stretch here and there and if you’re lucky, you have a baby that goes back to bed after having been fed. If not, well, that’s when you go downstairs and perch him/her on your shoulder and rock back and forth until both you and he/she have fallen into a slumber that lasts an hour or so… until they wake up and you do it all again.
Taking a bath
You know, I wanted to write “shower”, but that just seemed cruel, plus hopping in the shower while your baby naps or is entertained for 10 minutes in their swing is plausible, taking a long, drawn out bath full of bubbles and accompanied by a big glass of wine and a good book? Not so much. Along the same vein, we may as well and “shaving” to the list. Don’t worry, since sex also goes out the window, there’s need to look that pretty anyways.
Reading a book
In the first few weeks, this may be something you don’t altogether miss, since you were likely reading “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” or something along the lines of “How not to kill my child within the first few hours of bringing it home”, but give it a month or so and umpteen thousand episodes of whatever you’re filling your time with and you start to wish the little monster would just nap already so you can finally crack open the page of that new book you’ve been wanting to open… since the 6th month of your pregnancy.
Blow drying your hair
I suppose this really should include “grooming rituals of any kind” but in an effort to avoid entering into a full scale rant, let’s stay focused on the age old blow dry. If you’re lucky enough to shower once you’ve had a baby, chances are good you’re running around the house with wet hair. Why? Because there is no hope in hell you have time to stand there and blow dry it unless you’ve come to peace with letting your newborn “self-soothe” – a nice way of saying “let him/her cry himself/herself to sleep until you’re finished”.
Struggling to choose an outfit because all your clothes fit
The good news is, if you love leggings are a huge fan of Lululemon stretch pants (despite the recent campaign to bring down founder Chip Wilson for claiming that women’s thighs are the reason that some of the company’s pants don’t fit right) then you are going to LOVE the aftermath of having your body expand for 9 months and then push out something the size of a bowling ball through something the size of an egg. If you want a little variety in your wardrobe, be prepared to go shopping (which isn’t as fun as it sounds when you’re buying pants up a size or two from your pre-baby bod) otherwise enjoy the two pairs of pants that fit and try your best not to freeze your plump little butt off as the temperature drops and your stubborn self remains convinced that you’ll be able to squeeze into your old jeans soon. Trust me, you won’t.
Dropping everything to grab a bite with a group of friends is a luxury that only the baby-free can enjoy. Imagine receiving a phone call from your buddy wanting to meet you in 45 minutes for coffee down the street. Seems like no big deal, right? Wrong! While you used to just throw on your jacket, grab your keys and fly out the door, now you have a baby to worry about and babies operate on a clock. They eat every 2-3 hours, need constant diaper changes to avoid diaper rash and have fussy times that make being sociable a time-specific activity. Not to mention, you have to prep a diaper bag and check twice that you have extra outfits (in case of diaper explosions), wipes, diapers, a change pad, soothers, diaper cream, receiving blankets, and the list goes on. Inevitably you forget one thing or the other and have to race back inside, wasting the precious time after which your baby enters a milk coma (and has, of course been burped and dressed for the weather). You then pack him or her into the car and hope they fall asleep for the entity of your rendezvous. Trust me, spontaneity is dead.
After 9 months of continual belly growth, you may be dying to get back into the gym or onto the pavement. Doctors suggest taking a 4 week hiatus until you’re all “healed up”, but what they neglect to mention is that even after 4 weeks, you’ll be far away from meeting any fitness goals you might have set for yourself in the weeks following D-Day. Not only will you not have the time (sleep trumps gym, it’s as simple as that), but you also won’t have the energy. Between breastfeeding and trying to maintain a sense of hygiene (and possibly shave that forest growing on your leg), it’s tough to find time to get to the gym, enjoy a work out and make it back before having to dive straight into bed. All this being said, if you have the occasional babysitter willing to stand in for an hour or so at a time, you might just sneak in the quick fix once or twice a week. Or, if your gym offers a childcare service, you might be counting down the days until your baby is an acceptable age for drop-off. I took my little one to Goodlife at 7 weeks and was greeted with a surprised look of a volunteer who exclaimed “Oh! We normally don’t get them so young!”. That felt good. I figure I’ll wait until Luna turns 3 months to pay a return visit. 3 weeks and counting…
Staying up past 9pm
You remember those days of staying up late watching movies, planning your next whirlwind adventure or catching up with your partner over your favourite glass of red wine and a home cooked meal? The good news is, if you can fit that all in before 9pm, you’re golden! If not, you’ll be dropping most nighttime activities sooner rather than later. This was hard for me – I’m not a daylight sleeper so that whole “when the baby sleeps – you sleep” thing kind of went out the window. This of course means that any sleep I can get once the sun goes down, is precious. I’m talking precious like Lord of the Ring precious, not just “kind of nice”. Needless to say, this cuts down tremendously on free time after “working hours” particularly if your partner works remotely past the strike of 6; all of a sudden you’ve gone from 6 hours of free-time to somewhere around 2 or 3. Chances are, in those hours you’re catching up on all the things you have to do (laundry, tidying up, checking voice mails and that sort of thing) instead of things you want to do. If you do dare to socialize beyond bedtime, you’ll constantly be checking your watch thinking about tired you’ll be tomorrow since, unlike your baby-free friends, you can’t sleep in the next day to catch it up. It takes adapting your schedule, being at ease with the fact that your house may be messy for a few months, and learning to say “no” but eventually there is a balance to be struck. Just be patient and enjoy burning the midnight oil, while you can.
No more dancing around to Sinatra and whipping up your favourite meal by candlelight I’m afraid! The simply truth is once you have a baby, you never know if/when you’ll have time to cook. Maybe the baby sleeps for a few hours and you have time to prep a soup in the crock pot, or maybe your baby decides to have a fussy day and you forget to eat entirely. It’s a bit of a gamble this one, but one thing is sure – don’t plan on experimenting with new cuisine or cooking gourmet dishes to celebrate the new arrival. Chances are good you’ll be sticking to the bare minimum from now on or relying on your partner to lend a hand in the kitchen (or hold baby while you take to the stove).
Last but not least is …