parent opinion

"It gets better, I promise." 5 things I wish I'd known before my baby was born.

"Congratulations! Is this your first?"

I was finalising the details with my anaesthetist’s office for my upcoming c-section and the woman on the other end of the phone was uncharacteristically chatty.

"Yes!" I said. "I’m quite nervous."

 Watch: Your questions about childbirth, answered. Post continues below. 


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I had extra reason to be. In early pregnancy, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. 

At the time, adding insult to chronic illness were Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions, ever-changing birth partner rules and, just to squeeze out any carb-filled joy I had planned for my last trimester, a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

I was gearing up for the birth of my first baby and absolutely none of it was looking like what I had pictured.

"Well, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do." The voice on the other end of the line snapped me back into focus.

"I’m sorry?" I asked.

"It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but God it’s hard. I’ve got three boys and having my time over, I’m not sure I’d do it again."

This was the other thing. I kept finding myself on the receiving end of the most jarring admonitions from parents. It was as if the knowledge of how difficult my pregnancy had been was opening people’s unresolved traumas, making way for all their worst experiences to come pouring out onto me at once.

It was baffling. It was stressful. It wasn’t helping.

I was weeks away from meeting my baby and I couldn’t have been less enthused about the whole thing. It was definitely too late to back out, but from what I was hearing, this parenting thing sounded like a waking nightmare.

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Ten months later, and here’s what I wish I’d been told in the dizzying lead up to becoming a mum. 

1. It gets better, I promise!

You might feel desperately homesick in the early weeks. 

Which, of course, makes no sense because you’ll be at home for most of it. But this is the only way I could describe the teary, overwhelmed wave of feelings that would ebb and flow during my early days with my newborn. I call it The Postpartum Scaries. 

And like Mondays, they do pass. 

Having said that, if you feel them beginning to deepen and devolve into something more sinister as time presses on, this might be an indication of postpartum depression or anxiety. 

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As scary as this sounds, it’s very, very treatable. Those people I know who have experienced either one have received help and are now absolutely thriving. 

Requiring some mental health support postpartum does not mean you won’t love your baby, or even motherhood as a whole.

 2. It’s okay that you don’t feel that connected to the little peanut wriggling inside of you.

It’s very common not to feel that overwhelming, motherly love for your unborn baby. 

Particularly if you’ve had a tumultuous journey to pregnancy or a challenging pregnancy like mine. I definitely felt amazed by what my body was doing, and comforted by the frequent flutters I could feel in my abdomen, but beyond that, I didn’t yet feel like a mother. And that is completely fine. Truly.

It is not indicative of how much you’ll love that creature once he’s in your arms. 

3. Yes, sometimes you will feel trapped. 

It’s true. 

Having a baby really does change everything about your day to day at first. 

Brunch is less relaxing, plans are less spontaneous, and travel is sometimes more exhausting than it’s worth. But my God we’re adaptable creatures. 

Think of how different our lives look today compared with January 2020. If you’re in Melbourne like me, you’ve already just survived some of the longest and most restrictive lockdowns in the world. 

Having a baby is far less restrictive and I can tell you, there is still so much you can do with a little one in tow. 

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Better yet, so much of it is new and exciting when done with your baby. 

4. Having a boy when you always dreamed of a baby girl? It absolutely will NOT matter once you meet him.

Boy, oh boy, this was a big one for me. And I wish I could take away the anguish I felt in the lead-up to his birth. 

When I learned I was having a boy, I experienced what is generally referred to as gender disappointment. 

It surprised me how disappointed I was. But it also scared me. 

What if I continued to feel this way when he was born? All I can say is, I didn’t. And you won’t. He is exactly the person that he is meant to be. And despite all the warnings from other boy mums, my son has never once peed in my eyes OR mouth during a nappy change. Winning. 

5. Becoming a mum doesn’t always mean 'losing yourself'.

A lot of mums report experiencing this when their kids are young and a lot of it is down to the fact that our culture places little value on the vital work of child rearing. 

If you’re a passionate career woman, it can feel jarring to spend a long period away from work to care for your baby. If you’re a social butterfly, it can feel like a big change to no longer have the freedom to catch up with friends spontaneously. 

I’ve done some work on this myself and I’ve found that if you reflect on what really makes you YOU, you’ll discover a set of values that will carry through into your new role of 'Mother'. 

Maybe you’re a caring friend, an intelligent problem solver, a creative soul, and a witty conversationalist. You will still be all these things and more when you become a mum (even if your baby doesn’t yet laugh at your witty quip about today’s Wordle).

I hung up on that phone call almost 10 months ago now, dreading what might lie ahead. But I didn’t need to.

The fact is, no one can prepare you for motherhood. No number of warnings about sleep deprivation or rogue nappy change wees can ready you what you will experience. But nine-ish months into the job, here’s my take: 

It’s bloody brilliant, absolutely terrifying, and definitely what life is all about.

Hannah Vanderheide is a writer, actor, and voice artist with a beautiful new baby boy. She's also a body-neutral trainer, eating disorder survivor, and wellness industry sceptic who loves to write about the sensible side of health. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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