The sh*t they don’t tell you…. BEFORE you get pregnant!
This blog has been brewing in my brain for some time…. about 9 months, since that’s how old my son, Bodhi is now.
When you’re expecting a baby — probably more so when it’s your first child — there’s so much info and advice headed your way. Stuff like: “your life will never be the same”, “you won’t be able to do XYZ with a baby”, “Aren’t you doing too much yoga?”, “Ooo, just wait for the sleepless nights”, “You’ll get food cravings”…
Then there’s the clinical professional advice that comes your way. I personally feel like I had great pre-natal care here in France, I couldn’t fault it. We covered in detail female anatomy, the stages of pregnancy, giving birth, I even did some awesome guided meditations with the midwife in preparation for labour. They covered all the usual stuff about what to expect, what will happen if the birth gets complicated (I’m told that this part is downright gruesome in the UK, it wasn’t here). We had lactation specialists on hand before and after the baby was born… so all in all, I felt pretty well prepared!
Ha! Prepared…my arse
Firstly, nobody tells you what it feels like to bring your newborn home. There are a barrage of feelings, one of the most prevailing ones for Dom (my husband) and I being. “Holy crap, I’m responsible for this small human being, what if I break him?”. In the first two weeks, I basically cocooned myself with my little one, no visitors (except the midwife), no plans and — this was tricky — no expectations. With so much input from the outside, I really needed to go inside and feel my instinct.
About a week after Bodhi was born, one of my very dear friends, who was also pregnant, messaged me to ask how it was going. “I’m not going to lie, it is FULL ON” were the words I could muster up between feeding and sleeping. So that’s another thing that you don’t get told… or maybe you do, but your programmed to ignore that stuff when you’re pregnant 😉
Baby on board
But I’m rushing ahead…. let’s talk about some of the stuff that I didn’t get told when I was pregnant. Warning — some of this might be “TMI” and of course each pregnancy is different so it may or may not be relevant to you. I’m putting these out there anyway.
Snoring: In the third trimester I developed a fog horn of a snore.
Farts: Frequent and putrid. Tricky in public places. I would find myself doing weird loitering and sniggering in far flung corners of the supermarket.
Amazing Hair: More on this further down!
Less leg and arm pit hair growth: Bonus!
Pee pee leaks: You do get told about bladder weakness and having to pee loads. What can also happen are little tinkles when sneezing or laughing. The midwife gave me exercises for this, before that, it was bloody inconvenient.
Emotional meltdown: Your hormones are all over the place, that you DO get told, however what you may not realise is how that will play out. There weren’t many melt-downs for me, but my favourite one happened when Dom sliced some courgettes the wrong way for a meal that I had planned to cook. Yes, incorrectly sliced courgette was the end of the world that day!
Constant nausea:This will be different for everyone. I didn’t get pukey, I just had constant nausea for about 13 weeks… which caused the next point on my list..
Food obsession: This was a big one for me because I freakin’ love to eat good food. When expecting your baby, you do get told what foods you should avoid, and this combined with the nausea meant that I was constantly thinking about food — food I wanted to eat, but couldn’t, food I didn’t want to eat because even thinking about that made me feel more nauseous. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner…My waking hours were haunted by my obsession with food.
Crazy dreams: Yeah, apparently that’s a thing when you’re pregnant and I had some real weird ones.
Then the baby arrives
So aside from the overwhelming feeling that I might accidentally break my child because he is so tiny, what else didn’t I realise?…
Feeling primal: I chose to breastfeed and am still doing so at 9-months. One of my male friends asked what it felt like — for me, super primal. I feel a strong connection to other mammals when I feed Bodhi. There is something so ancient and sacred about nourishing him in this way.
Animal kin: This totally blew me away. Ivy, our little dog picked up on my hormones and started lactating (she was not pregnant and has never had a litter). When we first brought little one home, she would lay out next to me, nipples up in case she was required to help feed him. That definitely wasn’t in the post birth information that was presented to us!
Milk Machine: The flip-side to breastfeeding and feeling deeply primal was a feeling of emptiness for me. Deep into the night when it was just Bodhi and I awake and feeding, my tiredness would set in and I would feel like my only purpose was to deliver milk. Of course in those moments that was THE most important thing. I knew that, but it didn’t mean that it wasn’t tough. Looking back, what I was doing was processing this huge change in my life. I don’t mean on a surface level like, you can’t go to the cinema and watch the new Star Wars with a 6-month old baby . What I was processing was this leap into motherhood. The realisation that “I am responsible for this beautiful boy, I am literally responsible for everything he eats”. That was mind-blowing and scary, and in the dead of night it translated into “is this all that I am?”. While I had gained a new role in my life, the other aspects of “me” seemed so far out of reach. That was the emptiness. It did not last!
Euphoria: Labour for most people is painful! My labour was 15 hours and I was stood up for most of that because any other position was excruciating. It was a natural birth with no pain-relief. By the time it came to do the pushing I was shattered. What I didn’t expect to come next was a feeling of euphoria as I pushed out this little creation that had been living inside of me for 9-months. It was an overwhelming wave of satisfaction, excitement, achievement, love, relief and so much more.
Creating life is surreal: Dom and I often look at Bodhi and say “we made him [Bodhi], isn’t that insane”. It’s freakin’ magic is what it is. I am in awe of our little guy every day. That definitely wasn’t something I expected.
Babies are cool: Before having Bodhi, I had always said… “I’m not really a baby person” — that’s changed! Nurturing, observing and encouraging this little being’s development is so fascinating. I didn’t expect that to be so enjoyable either.
Connection to other wonder-women: I have never felt more connected to other mothers. In many First People cultures, they say that child-bearing is a “woman’s initiation”. It feels like an initiation to so many things, including a circle of understanding and empathy. Even those who’s ethics and/or beliefs may not be congruent with mine, on some level it feels like there can be a positive connection. I also have serious admiration for all people who have had children, and those who have had more than one — wow!!
Phases: I thought I’d cracked it: Feeding signs, sleep signs, dirty nappy signs, sleep routines… and then everything changes — often! Bodhi has gone through so many phases in these first 9-months of his life outside of mama’s belly. At first I felt helpless and sometimes a crap parent each time what we were doing no longer seemed to be working for him. It took me a few months to realise it, but everything is a phase and change in Bodhi is constant. I also found that searching the internet for answers, even taking advice from midwives was unhelpful and what it actually did was detune my instinct radar. The best way for me to navigate Bodhi’s phases is to tune back into him without external chatter and TRUST my instincts. Each time I do, any struggle that I might have had going on dissipates.
Hair scare: Oh yeah, so it turns out that your hair doesn’t fall out much when you’re pregnant, that’s why it usually looks full and gorgeous…. a couple of months after giving birth everything that didn’t come out during pregnancy, disembarks…. in clumps and huge handfuls. So that was a surprise!
Piles, pee pee and queefing: Yep, pelvic floor weakness is likely to cause more pee pee leakages and sitting feeding caused piles. Luckily, I’ve got a great essential oil recipe for piles (feel free to message me if you want it!). I’ve never been queefy (vaginal air suction and then vaginal fart) before, but going upside down in yoga poses was ‘interesting’. 10 pelvic floor re-education sessions with the midwife helped with all 3 of these embarrassing things. I learned to activate the individual muscles in the pelvic floor and incorporated them into some of my yoga poses. I feel like that sped up my recovery, the essential healer, though, was time.
Life is the same, but different: Everyone says having a baby will change your life… AKA, it will change YOU. Over the past few years Dom and I have been dedicated to carving out a life that enables me to work and look after Bodhi. Life isn’t all that different — yoga practices are much shorter, going shopping or out for the day is like a military operation that requires planning, and everything takes longer…. What IS different are my (our) priorities. It feels good to be prioritising family life over everything else. On the subject of ME changing, I’m still everything I was before and more!
A new body: Sounds obvious, but actually it wasn’t something that I had really considered — I focused on being pre-natal. Since giving birth, my body feels different. Yoga poses feel different. The way I need to move in my practice has completely changed. What I have learned is that it takes time for your body (internal organs in particular) to physically rearrange into place. You can definitely help and support that process — my Forrest Yoga practices have been essential to me in that way — but it isn’t something to be rushed along. My spine was so stiff when I first got back on my yoga mat, I could barely twist. Deep breathing, a powerful yet safe yoga practice and feeling for creating space in my spine on and off the yoga mat, slowly helped to revitalise my tight spine… I can’t wait to share all this goodness when I start to teach pre and post natal yoga this year.
It just takes a smile: All it takes is a smile from my little boy and everything is right in my world. It is the VERY best Medicine I know.
By writing this, I am by no means saying that ALL pregnant people will experience things the way I did. Nor am I suggesting that you should expect any of these things. I suppose my main point is that whatever you get advised/told, that information is probably the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to feel, experience and navigate through than anyone could ever tell you.
I’ll close up this up with the best piece of advice that Dom and I did receive (thanks to one of my students, Razia — who is a mother herself and runs a family friendly luxury Gite in France). “Sleep when the baby sleeps, the rest can wait”.