9 Biggest Surprises the First Year of Having A Baby
My wife and I thought that we were well prepared for having a baby. We had read baby books, baby proofed the house, set up the crib and the diaper changing table, and above all, watched countless sitcoms where people have babies (I’m looking at you Rachel, Phoebe, and Pam). Here are the 9 biggest things that we didn’t know
- Back Labor
Back labor was a surprise to us, although apparently 25% of women experience it. It was a Tuesday when I got home from work, and my wife said that she was experience back spasms. I asked, do you think they are contractions ? And she said she didn’t think so because she wasn’t feeling anything in her stomach. So I asked her to tell me when the next couple were, and saw that they were spaced pretty evenly at about six minutes apart. At that point we decided to call the doctor’s office and we got the nurse on call.
“Is this labor “ we asked, or is it just Braxton Higgs contractions ? “Well you will know that is is labor when your stomach gets hard like a basketball” Was the reply. So I asked my wife, is your stomach getting hard like a basketball? “No, it’s all in my back”. So we waited a couple of hours, and the back spasms kept getting worse, so we decided to go in.
At the hospital, the nurse checked out my wife, and diagnosed her her as having back labor. This was caused by the baby facing the wrong direction. His head was facing forward, so the back of his was was pressed against my wife’s tailbone.
So my wife was in labor, but unfortunately was only 1cm dilated, so the hospital wouldn’t check us in. “Can you give me something for the pain?” my wife asked ? “Well sure” the nurse replied “I can give you this muscle relaxant that will help the contractions that you are feeling” “I’m having back labor though, will it help me ?” “Probably not”. At this point the best advice they could give was to take a warm, relaxing bath.
We asked when we should come back, and the nurse said “Normally we recommend coming in when your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart, but since yours are already 5 minutes apart, you should come in when they hurt so much you can’t walk or talk during a contraction”. Which is clearly very unambiguous guidance.
- Your Water May Not Break
So my wife was in labor, but not far enough along. How long would it take to progress ? Well according to the nurse, it could be anywhere from an hour to a week. So we were premature going to the hospital, clearly we should have waited for my wife’s water to break. We had a towel in the car, and that would be a definitive sign right ? Wrong
We waited throughout the night and eventually decided we had to go back in. We didn’t see any sign of my wife’s water breaking, but maybe we missed it. We went in, and sure enough, my wife was at 4 cm and ready to be admitted to the hospital, but her water had not broken. And in fact never broke until the doctor assisted in that. It turns out this was common too. TV has lied to us
- Check the hospital for a snack room
We were in the hospital for 3 days – 2 nights, and it wasn’t until an hour before checking out that I discovered there was a snack room for the mothers literally across the hall from the room we were in. Up until that point my wife had been eating the hospital food, and food I got from the cafeteria, and asking the nurses to bring us the juice, or cheese or applesauce as a snack. We didn’t realize it was all in a fridge just across the hall that we could help ourselves to without bothering the nurses.
- No Sleep
Before having the baby, my friends and coworkers joked about “Get your sleep in now” but you really never know how serious people are. After all, people complain about changing diapers, but we’ve never found them to be a problem. The lack of sleep is real though. My son is 13 months old now, and he literally has not slept a full night more than 5 nights so far. Fortunately, at 13 months he’s getting up 1-2 times every night, which means we can actually survive. For the first several months when he was getting up every 2 hours we were barely getting by
Sadly, even knowing this, there is not much to do about it. If someone invents a way to store sleep for later, let me know and I will buy one.
- Ear Infections Are Almost Impossible to Identify
In months 5-9 our son had ear infections 3-4 times, and he was put on amoxicillin and they cleared up nicely. But despite the fact that we recognized all 4 ear infections for what they were, we probably had 8 or so false alarms. The symptoms which we thought were sure fire indicators of the ear infection, such as ear tugging, crying when set on one side, waking up continuously through the night turned out to be very hit or miss. So we had quite a few times taking a fussy baby to the doctors only to be told he was teething or there was nothing obviously the matter.
The doctors advised us that the ear infections were most likely to be associated with a cold, but we never really saw a cold any of the times, so really never got good at identifying the ear infections.
- Both the baby and the mom need to learn how to nurse
I guess we expected that nursing would be instinctual. But right from the beginning our son had trouble nursing. With the help of the lactation consultant at the hospital, there were times when it went well, but we had a lot of trouble. So much so, that after day 3 when our son had lost more than the recommended amount of birth weight (lost 11%, greater than the 10% cutoff) the doctor recommended that we start using the finger & tube method for supplemental feeding. I did that for a few weeks until we were able to get a working system with nursing and bottle feeding.
Although with the help of the lactation nurse at the hospital, our son was able to latch onto the bare nipple, we had a lot of trouble with that. What eventually worked for us was using a nipple shield for the first 2-3 months, since that made it a lot easier for him to latch onto. Eventually our son got the hang of it, and we stopped using the nipple shield since it was a hassle to wash it after every feeding. – Side Note – If you use them, see if the hospital will give you a few spare ones before you go!
- Kids can decide they hate to be spoon fed
Right around month 6-7, my son was eating a wide array of different baby food, and a very small assortment of cut up real food. Well, quickly after he started eating the cut up real food, he decided that he was not interested in the baby food at all, and absolutely would not allow himself to be spoon fed by mommy or daddy. And while he was happy enough to have the spoon himself, this did not result in eating so much as decorating the floors.
As a result, we fairly abruptly switched over to all sliced up real foods and ended up with a couple of weeks worth of cans of baby food that we had to give away.
- Kids develop their favorite foods early
I’m not sure if my son had a favorite canned baby food, but as soon as we switched over to real food he had a clear favorite. Blueberries. Basically, he would eat most food pretty well, if he was hungry. Some days he would eat a lot, some days not so much, but on any day he could eat basically unlimited numbers of blueberries. We eventually starting making sure to wait until the end of the meal to get the blueberries out of the fridge, because once he saw them he would not eat anything else.
Nowadays, he definitely has some favorites, like plain, no sauce pasta, or sliced grapes, but no favorites that are quite as strong as blueberries
- Some milestones are very fuzzy, others happen very quickly
When you hear your parents talk about first words you think one day you weren’t speaking, and the next you had a very definitive word. With the baby, it’s clear that’s a much more fuzzy line. Grandma & Grandpa have been quick to attribute many sounds to a first word. ( Yes, he said “Da” when he saw me, but he says “Da” when he sees anyone, and babbles it all the time. Can we count that ?)
For us, we settled on “Bir“ being his first word. Sure it’s missing the “D” at the end, but he will repeatedly and consistently say it when looking at birds out the window, or pointing to birds in a book.
But as fuzzy as the talking milestone was, the walking milestone was crystal clear. One day he was only cruising along the couch and tables, and the next he was taking a few steps, and within 3 days he was perfectly happy walking across the entire room. This was surprising to me given how slow the crawling milestone was. Around month 4-5 we had been consistently predicting that he would crawl any day now, and in fact he could move himself forward by month 3 provided you put your fists behind his feet to push off of. But the crawling took a long time of slow progress until he was good at it, unlike the walking.
So that’s our top 9 surprises for the first year. Undoubtedly he’ll find 9 or 99 new ones for year number 2.