Even after reading books about pregnancy and parenting and working with parents (both new and seasoned) on a daily basis as a physical therapist, I STILL felt thrown off when my expectations and assumptions about the postpartum era and reality didn’t match.
Here are a few of the parenting surprises I wish I’d had on my radar going into pregnancy:
- It can be surprisingly difficult to connect with other freshly postpartum moms. I’d envisioned happily pushing strollers in the park with other parents and babies. This can happen, and I highly advise you try to build these connections. Yet, babies’ schedules are all so different from each other and always evolving. So, even if you plan a get together for next week to walk with a friend at 10 o’clock in the park, your 3-month-old baby might decide that 10 o’clock is their hungriest hour of the day and keep the meetup from either happening at all (or being as meaningful as you hoped). Honestly, my largest friend group the first two years postpartum were women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s who had this era of their lives behind them and had predictable control of their time. I call them my angels.
- The profound effect of compounded sleep deprivation + constant vigilance for your baby’s safety and wellbeing. Yes, it’s called “mom brain” but wow. Exhausting. Please be careful when you drive as new parenthood can certainly dull your attention span and reflexes.
- Naps are so unpredictable. Well, sleep in general is so unpredictable. While pregnant, I read about how newborn babies sleep an average of 15-16 hours a day and thought to myself. Oh wow. That’s a lot. I’ll have so much time to read, write, etc. At least in my case, those first 3 months we never got more than 3 hours of sleep at a time.
- Eating rarely without interruption. It’s nice to have high-protein snacks around (like almonds, eggs, protein bars) for when you need additional calories/energy/nutrition.
- Feeling thrown off about not being able to finish even the smallest tasks without interruption. As a generally pretty methodical task-oriented person, this was a very new experience for me. Before postpartum, I wasn’t even used to picking up a magazine without reading every page, thoroughly and sequentially. Now, I’ve learned that folding 3 shirts, attending to baby, then coming back to fold 3 more shirts is OK.
- It is very likely that you can forget if you’ve brushed your teeth or not.
- Time goes too slow and too fast simultaneously, more than ever.
- Sometimes, you long for your baby to fall asleep to give you a little break. But then, as soon as they do, you miss them terribly and spend your time without them looking at pictures and videos of them.
- Sometimes your kids don’t get as excited about what you think they will, when you think they will. (Like, eating corn on the cob for the first time).
- Potty training can bring out emotions of pride and embarrassment in your child.
- Some days, you feel like you’ve saved your child’s life 1,000 times—just that day. You’ve kept them from being choked, prevented a fall, from them running out into the street….and it’s a LOT.
- Little boys really do just innately love trucks.
- Onesies are easy to get emotionally attached to.
- You’ll never need as many baby blankets as people give you.
- It makes you think about all the hours that someone spent watching you grow as a baby.
All experiences of parenthood, including our time, our frustrations, and our self-care, are different. I just want to encourage us all to keep sharing honestly with each other. Hearing the honest experiences of other postpartum parents can make a huge difference in early parenthood.
Monika Patel, DPT, CSCS has a passion for empowering women to prepare mentally and physically for a safe, well-balanced journey into motherhood. She has applied her knowledge toward preventive medicine and established Train4Birth, an affordable online education and beneficial movement course with a built-in accountability and support feature. She is also the mother of a truck-loving toddler and couldn’t be happier digging with him in the backyard.