Okay, stuff I wish I had known prior to pushing out a baby...
1.) Babies have an immature central nervous system. I know, duh. This is stated in like every baby book on the planet, but it didn't hit home until Dr, Awesome's one month appointment with the little pork chop. This makes ALL of his behavior completely unintentional. Babies have no concept of self. They don't even know they have arms. They don't know what they want or don't want, they only know how to feel distress (hunger, pain) or comfort (soothing behaviors like sucking, swaddling, etc). They are like little heat seeking missles that are simply trying to get their needs met. They don't have preferences or ideas or opinions, they just have needs. Period. And they cannot soothe themselves, you have to do that for them.
Babies are also so unbelievably helpless...I mean, they just don't get it. Because they have an immature central nervous system (I'm really trying to hammer this point home). Case in point: SwaddleGate (more about this later). Brian and I have run the gamut of swaddles - blankets, SwaddleMes, Kiddopotumus's, etc. And little baby Scotty over here is master of them all. He breaks free wtihin minutes. Maybe this is user error, but I just think he's like a baby Hercules or something. (He smacked me in the face the other day and it hurt. People are going to think Brian is beating me. And then I'm going to blame it on the baby, making it totally look like Brian is beating me). Seriously, though, every time little Hercules breaks free of his swaddle, he promptly throws his hands up (startle reflex called Moro) and hits himself in the face. And then wakes up. I cannot tell you how many times a night this happens. Over and over and over again. I finally sat down with him and told him, "Listen, Scotty, those are YOUR arms. You are hitting yourself in the face with YOUR arms. They don't belong to anyone but you. You can control this. You just need to not hit yourself." He looked at me blankly and then promptly spit up in my armpit.
See? He doesn't get it. Rationalizing with a baby doesn't work. They are all feeling and no thought. Maybe in the next life I'll design some kind of contraption that looks and feels like a real uterus, so new moms everywhere can stuff their kids in it and get a good night's sleep.
Also, after our arms discussion, I just looked at Scotty and thought, if we were in the wild, you would totally have been eaten by something by now. He has zero survival skills and would even put himself at risk by crying and potentially alerting predators to his location. Yet we are the top of the food chain...how? A mystery. Thank goodness for opposable thumbs.
2.) Babies are loud little sleepers. That whole 'sleeping like a baby' comment? Unless the person is grunting, snorting, breathing heavily, and occasionally crying out in their sleep, they are not sleeping like a baby. I've now been sleeping next to Scotty for over a month (me in bed, he's in his bassinet), and I can't tell you how many times (again) he's woken me up. If he's not breaking out of the swaddle, he's grunting and pooping while laying down. Quite a feat, and a loud one at that. (are you starting to understand why I am so sleep deprived?)
This leads to my third point...
3.) I had no idea that I would want to be so close to the baby at all times. We did the standard prenatal purchases - crib, glider, etc, but I said no to the bassinet since Scotty's room is just down the hall from ours. I knew I had misgivings about it as soon as we brought him home from the hospital and I kept referring to the crib as 'that death trap.' (it was just so big and omnious. I didn't even use a bumper since I was so freaked out). Anyways, after his NICU stay, my sister and her husband sent us a bassinet and it made a world of difference. He would stay downstairs with us during the day, and then at night, he sleeps 6 inches from my face. And I NEED this to be reassured that if anything happens, I'll be right there to help. I had no idea I was going to feel like this, but I highly recommend a bassinet for the first few months of the baby's life.
4.) I also wish I had known just how traumatizing birth is to a person's body. I don't think you can appreciate it until you've gone through it, but the first two weeks post partum are truly, truly physically miserable. My body had just gone through an incredible experience and really needed a solid few weeks to just heal and restore itself. Yet Motherhood is a catch-22, b/c just when you need the most sleep, you are getting the least. But without getting too graphic, I was not prepared for the pain, the soreness, the bleeding, the night sweats, and the overall physical exhaustion (and that first bowel movement...ladies, let me tell you: pure terror.) I once ran a half-marathon and that marathon was a 2 on a scale of one to ten compared to birth (with birth being a 10).
Which leads me to wish I had known...
5.) STAY IN THE HOSPITAL AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. Some may disagree, but unless you are going home to a palace with servants (or at the very least, some helpful relatives), stay in the hospital and try to continue to recover while you still have people bringing you food and cleaning your bathroom for you. We were discharged after a mere 34 hours -- and it was only that long because of my bladder situation. They would have kicked us out after only 24 hours if CatheterGate hadn't happened. I thought getting home would be a relief, but it wasn't. We had a house to clean, laundry to do, we had to unpack, feed the cat, and then attempt to feed ourselves. I cannot tell you the sinking feeling I had when I told Brian to make hamburgers out of the ground beef in our fridge, and he turns to me in absolute sincerity and says, "How?" It's my own fault since I've done 99.9% of the cooking in our relationship (with the .1% going toward the occasional frozen pizza Brian will throw in the oven), but when you are 3 days post-partum, you do not want to be giving your husband culinary lessons or showing him how to work the washing machine.
6.) And finally, it should be mandated that all women within a 50-mile radius are required to bring over a hot dish to the new mom. (this isn't something I wish I knew for myself, but it's something I wish I had known when all of my friends gave birth). Eating - and cooking - is nearly impossible with a new baby. I thought I would breast feed, put the baby down, waltz into the kitchen and whip up a meal. Nope. During the times the baby slept (all 40 minute intervals), I wanted to either shower or sleep. The idea of actually dirtying a pot - only to have a clean said pot - was more overwhelming than I could handle. Having a dish to just pop in the over, wash whenever, and then hand back to the person who gave it to you seemed like a little piece of heaven. Because as a new mom, you are hungry, exhausted, hormonal, and overwhelmed. Food should be the last thing that stresses you out.
7.) Okay, one more before I finish --- I wish I had known that feedings start from the time it BEGAN, not the time it ended. So when the doctor tells you to feed the baby "every two to three hours," they are talking about from the start of the first feed to the start of the next feed. So, for example, if the little guy started eating at 1pm, he would need to be fed again by with 3pm or 4pm. Now, for those of you that are breastfeeding, this can take a REALLY long time, especially in the beginning. In my case, Scotty would hang on the boob for up to 45-90 minutes (now I know he was just using me as a pacificer - see #1 above - he wasn't really eating this whole time). So I would start at 1pm, do a diaper change, feed him, do another diaper change, and attempt to rock him back to sleep, the whole process would take upwards of...two to three hours. So be the time I had finished all of my stuff, it was time for him to eat again. This is how new mothers peter out pretty quickly. And FYI - you are doing this 24 hours a day. There is no 'down' time. He ate, and ate, and ate, and ate...which gave me absolutely no time to a.) sleep, b.) shower, c.) eat. And that's how I lost 43 pounds in 8 weeks.
Okay, I have more to say, but this is a preliminary list. I'd be curious to hear what other moms have to say (if I'm accurate, if I'm batty, etc). I do want to offer a #8 quickly -- and it explains itself -- but I wish I had known that I could both love my husband more than ever while at the same time being homicidally angry at him, for the most irrational of reasons. Like, because he can't give birth (so next time, HE can go through this I can be the coach). And he cannot lactate, putting all of the responsibility on me. And because he gets to sleep through the night while I hear our newspaper hit our door every night at 4:15am.