You can read all the parenting books from Amazon, you could watch One Born Every Minute till you feel a little bit weepy and you can take your niece to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon - but nothing can prepare you for having a baby of your own.
Any mum will tell you it's the hardest, greatest, most emotional time of your entire life and that the sheer amount of love that erupts your entire being is indescribable. But what else? What was the one thing that shocked women most about becoming a mum?
We asked 16 mums to tell us the thing that surprised them most about growing their own tiny human (and their answers were incredible!)
"How having a emergency c-section is literally debilitating for the first few months and how much you of a difference having a good strong support system at home makes. Also how important it is to get out and meet other mums!"
'How naturally being a mummy comes to you when you've had zero experience with newborn babies. When I was pregnant I always thought 'how do you look after a baby' but it did just come naturally'
"Nothing people tell you when you’re pregnant means anything until the baby arrives. In the early days EVERYTHING is about sleep. I got raging sleep resentment towards my husband while he merrily slept (and conveniently didn’t wake while the baby stirred!) I’d literally stare at him angrily and clock up more minutes sleep I wasn’t getting and he was! No one really tells you about your sore bits after giving birth and the fear of having your first poo! Buts it’s all truly a joyous time..."
"Nobody tells you that it's like the 9 months of periods you missed returning all at once! I bled for about six weeks after my first (but not so much after second!)"
"Labour isn’t scary and was rather enjoyable! Don’t get me wrong it hurts, but then I got to 8 cm dilated on two paracetamol and decided I might need some more pain relief... but as an experience, it was honestly lovely and I was amazed how my body kept finding reserves of energy to help me keep breathing though the contractions (and even finding the comical side of labour!) Which in general was probably one of the most exciting and indescribable experience i have been though. My advice to women would be embrace your labour and be proud never fear it"
"As a mum of twin boys aged three and a half years old, I never knew how hard it was going to be, but at the same time I am experiencing a deep love that I never knew existed!"
"That ‘Mum guilt’ is a thing, feeling guilty for leaving your child for work/ mummy own time etc even though you know she’s absolutely fine with family & close friends"
"Postnatal depression is f**cking horrible and so much more common then anyone will tell you.
On a lighter note when your milk comes in, your boobs become footballs and they are rock solid - I milked myself in the bath"
"No matter how long, how much pain you went through, what your body went through it so worth it when you hold your bundle, your baby has more things and takes up more room than you think, when you go out it feels like you take everything and the kitchen sink!!
"Nothing can prepare you for having a baby. It is the hardest but best/ most rewarding thing you'll ever do in your life! Sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult things to deal with.. that bundle of loveliness is solely dependant on you for everything and for a long time!"
"How strong mother instinct is! It's like you can sense when your baby is about to wake up or you can sense if something is wrong (like when they aren't very well). You wouldn't know what was actually wrong if you weren't the mother, but mother instinct usually tells you.. you can even sense when they need a feed! Its hard to explain, but it's like you can feel what they are feeling its so amazing!"