10 Things No One Told Me Before Having a Baby

This post won’t be for the faint at heart. Or for people who don’t like hearing (or talking) about bodily fluids, pregnancy and childbirth. If that’s you, I warned you.

If that’s not you, and you have a curious and open mind to the best mama advice I’ve got, I hope you enjoy the next 4 minutes of your life as you read over this list. And maybe share it with a friend who needs it. Lord knows I wish somebody had told me all this stuff.

Secret # 1:

Your blood pressure will drop significantly after the baby is born and YOU WILL BE FREEZING COLD. I recall being in a hoodie and sweatpants underneath 2 blankets in July, sitting in our leather recliner with my 4 day old baby. It was super strange.

Secret # 2:

If you have a C-section, it’s totally normal to pass a blood clot the size of a cantaloupe. I literally pulled the emergency cord in the hospital bathroom because I thought my liver fell into the toilet. When the nurse came running in to see if I was dying, she explained all this with that “Bless your heart” look about her. I didn’t find it very funny at the time, but will admit I felt much better after freeing this mass of dried blood from my body. Not to mention, several of my husbands MALE coworkers were in the hospital room and heard the whole thing happen. Kind of them to show up with Chick-Fil-A? Yes. Would I have preferred to experience that alone? Most definitely.

Secret # 3:

Breastfeeding is REALLY hard in the early days. But it gets easier after 2 weeks. The desire to throw in the towel will come early on, but if you set small goals to just make it through one feeding at a time, before you know it you’ll be on your way to painless, beautifully enjoyable and bonding nursing sessions with your tiny human. Lean on your support (by support I mean, all those friends you have that have done it before, ask them. Women who breastfed their babies usually LOVE to talk about their experience and will help you in a skinny minute). Have tons of grace with yourself. If the lactation consultant tells you to try a different position, trust them. If they suggest you try the nipple shield, try it. If your nipple looks like a tube of lipstick when the baby stops drinking, you’re doing it wrong and they can help with that. Trust me, it hurts like hell to keep letting them make lipstick nipples out of you.

Secret # 4:

Postpartum depression is NO JOKE. Be vigilant about noticing changes in your emotions and make sure your partner is aware enough to recognize changes in your mood and behavior, too. Locking yourself in the bathroom to cry with a newborn in your arms is OK, even if you have a house full of people waiting to hold the baby. But staying in there all day and doing it again the next day could mean it’s time to call your doc. Placenta encapsulation was a game-changer for me the second time around. If you have considered this, my advice is: It’s the best $200 you will ever spend on yourself. Just don’t forget to tell the nurses you want to keep your placenta. They may throw it out pretty quickly otherwise.

Secret # 5:

With regard to #4, saying NO to visitors is OK and encouraged. It’s a big life adjustment and you need all the alone time with the new human you just pushed out that you can possibly get. I am pretty sure my precious Grandparents are still upset with me because they were at our house in the driveway when we pulled up with our first baby six years ago. Grateful that they were there with lunch and cared enough to come visit? Of course I was. But having time to get in and get settled would have been nice, too. I’d have been much more engaged and present during their visit had it been just a few hours later. I had no idea what I was doing as a parent and had literally just been cut open from hip bone to hip bone 3 days before. (Love you Granny and Papa – please forgive me for seeming ungrateful. I promise I was just trying to figure out my new life and needed some space.)

Secret # 6:

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says that, I know. And it kind of sounds like annoying advice before you actually have the baby, but it really is true. While I was on maternity leave, I was slightly delusional to think I’d craft like Martha Stewart, start a business, and have a hot dinner on the table for my husband every day when he came home from work. I was lucky if I showered every other day and yoga pants and maternity tanks were the only laundry I had to worry about for myself. For 3 months.

Secret # 7:

If you have a C-section, you may experience the most gruesome pain AFTER you get home. I remember for at least a week after coming home from the hospital, every time I would sit down on the toilet to pee, a terrifying pain would shoot from my tailbone up to the middle of my back. The first time it happened I literally wailed as if I was being stabbed. It happened 2 dozen more times but seemed to lessen in severity over a week or so. I was told this was an after effect of the spinal block given to numb me before the incision, but I didn’t expect it. (I could see how an epidural would cause this also, but it didn’t happen to me with my second delivery.)

Secret # 8:

If you are fortunate enough to exclusively breastfeed your baby, know that it’s normal for them to go several days without pooping. And when they do poop, be ready. Hot, yellow, vinegary mess of a load it will be. But no need to be alarmed if a week passes between BMs. The way it was explained to me: breastmilk is so nutritious, there is very little waste for them to get rid of. Their bodies use almost all of your milk.

Secret # 9:

When you change their diaper, if you use a changing table, alternate the direction you lay them each time. They will naturally want to look at you while you change them, and if you lay them the same way ever time, you run the risk of causing their head to flatten on one side. Using the couch or bed and laying them directly in front of you works well, too.

Secret # 10:

When you go into labor, it may feel like you have to poop. With my second, I woke up at 3AM, rolled my giant body out of bed and waddled to the bathroom “to poop”. And then 20 minutes later…again. And then 10 minutes later… again. After an hour, I texted my husband who was sleeping upstairs because I was beyond the point of being an enjoyable bed partner, to tell him I thought I was in labor. After pacing laps around our living room and kitchen for another hour, my water broke and we had s baby soon after.

Don’t let any of this stuff freak you out. Having a baby is the greatest miracle I’ve ever known. It’s all worth it in the end, I promise.

How Sadler Got Her Groove Back (And, Her Name)

Sometimes, parenting is really hard. Sometimes, it’s like looking in the mirror at our selves. Tonight offered one of those nights and I’d be remiss if I didn’t document the memory.

Sadler (my 6 1/2 year old daughter) is very sensitive. It doesn’t take much for her to cry, and it can come on quickly. Ask her to please move over and share the sink space with her sister while brushing her teeth, she may cry. Ask her not to fuss at her sister for taking a snack she had her eyes set on, she may cry. Tell her she has to go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning, she WILL cry. Ask her to give back a toy that she took from her sister, she may cry.

All of the above happened today alone.

After the dentist and before the chiropractor, we had an hour or so to spare, so I took the girls to my office so that I could get some work done. It’s times like that when having 2 cell phones with You Tube Kids is something I actually appreciate, and a giant white board with lots of fun colored dry erase markers for drawing and practicing Eureka math comes in handy. They were content for a little over an hour and it was quite nice if I am being honest; I was able to get a good bit done. But toward the end of the hour, I turned and looked behind me and noticed something Sadler had written on the white board.

“I am sad and want sum won to macke me happy so I won’t be sad.” She had even taken it an extra step and drawn a perfectly shaped broken heart under these words. Alas, in black marker.

In that moment, I tickled her, asked her why she was sad and she was cheered up in no time it seemed. But flash forward to bath time a few hours later when she cried for being asked to give her sister back the toy, and I may have overreacted.

“Sadler, you seem to be sad an awful lot lately and cry for no good reason.
You’re using a whole lot of good energy and wasting tears. Why are you so sad?”

I brought up the note she wrote on the white board earlier in the day and told her that people don’t “make us sad”. That we have a choice to be sad or to be happy and that sometimes (or a lot of the time), our feelings can trick us into going to a place in our minds that we shouldn’t go. I told her that while it’s okay to feel sad or to feel mad or to feel embarrassed, we shouldn’t build a house there — we can’t stay sad or mad or embarrassed forever.

Fast forward to bedtime. Tonight’s books chosen to read: On the Night You Were Born and Where Ever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. (Side note: I am beyond grateful that when our family hosted a beautiful baby shower for us before Sadler was born, they requested guests to bring a signed book rather than a card. Oh, the book collection we started before this child was even born! And a shout-out to my dear friends Melissa and Nicole for gifting us those 2 precious books – xoxo)

As we were reading On The Night You Were Born, after I read the words “You are a miracle…” she said, “Hey Mommy, what’s a miracle?”
“A miracle is something that happens that you thought never would. Something that only God knows how and why it happened. And you’re MY miracle.”
She furrowed her brow.
“Mommy’s doctor told her once that my body wasn’t working like it should and I would never be able to have my own kids.”
Her eyes lit up.
“Well, that sounds like a pretty silly doctor. And that’s pretty cool. My friend Miracle has the same name as a miracle,just like my name means that I’m sad.”

I may have stopped breathing for a second. Or maybe my heart stopped beating for just a tiny bit. I don’t know. But I knew I had to stop reading to straighten up a few things for her. My spirit was crushed that my little girl had taken her name and labeled herself as sad, and I was crushed to think that she actually believed it.

“Sadler, has Mommy ever told you where your name came from?”
Grins. “No. But tell me.”
“When Mommy got pregnant with you and found out you would be a girl, I asked GaGa what her Mommy’s name was. And her name was Cecilia Sadler. The moment I heard it, I knew that would be your first name. And my Mama Dot’s name was Dorothy Mae, so that’s how you became Sadler Mae Terrell.”

She smiled, a big smile. And then she wanted to know how her sister got her name. I told her that I had a friend in college who named her daughter Everly and I just loved the name, but that Everly’s middle name (Jean) came from Great Granny Betty (Betty Jean), GaGa (Debra Jean), my aunt Linda Jean who lives in heaven and Ga Ga’s daddy (Gene) who also lives in heaven.

“Mommy, Everly and me are SO LUCKY.”

“You sure are, my sweet girl.”

That moment will be one I never forget for as long as I live.
The joy I saw in her eyes as she listened attentively to her namesake was precious in every way. And the realization that she’d never have to identify herself as “sad Sadler” ever again, for now she knew the truth about how she came to be Sadler Mae.

We talked about how she could respond if someone made fun of her name and called her “Sad” — and boy is she ready! She repeated back to me (almost verbatim) what I told her, and even remembered that a “silly doctor told Mommy that her body was broken and she couldn’t have a baby, but she did.”

What a miracle you are, Sadler Mae.
What a blessing you are to your Daddy and I.
What an incredible big sister you are to Everly Jean.
What a gigantic heart you have.

You think you’re lucky. You have no idea how lucky I feel that God chose me to be your mama.

And as I tucked the girls in and we said our prayers, I asked her what she wanted to pray for:
“For Daddy to get home safely tonight and not to have mud on his shoes.
For me to never have to eat mushrooms again because I don’t like them.
And for God to give me a brother or a sister.”

Oh, dear.