Mother and Baby

What Would You Tell Your Pregnant Self?

Section: Week by Week

However much you research birth and babies, some things are only ever learned on the job, says new mum Bryony Gordon

When I found out that I was expecting Edie, my first baby, I bought every (and I mean absolutely every) book on pregnancy I could find in the hope I might have a vague clue what was going to happen. But now, with a one year old, I’m still not much clearer on the crazy, amazing journey that is motherhood. But I do know this: everything I thought I had sussed, I soon discovered I hadn’t… 

Pregnancy can be a pain

Nine months of wonder and always getting a seat on public transport? Nope, I got chronic heartburn, meaning I couldn’t sleep and, when I did, I’d wake up half an hour later wanting to vomit. Plus, I was paranoid about the health of my baby, spending most days with the heartbeat monitor I’d bought clamped to my stomach. And everything hurt, from my head to my ‘downstairs’. So. Not. Fun!

What I know now

It’s a short stage and one that you end up being strangely nostalgic about later when you remember those incredible kicks, or seeing that little heartbeat on a scan. And when it does end, it is all so worth it.

You probably won’t be an Earth mother

I had grand plans during my pregnancy. This former chain smoker and tequila slammer was going to come over all eco-friendly, using only cotton wool and water on her baby and certainly nothing chemical-based. My child was going to be as pure as the day she were born. Which would obviously be in the bath using not so much as a puff of gas and air.

What I know now

Although I hugely admire women who are bringing up eco-babies, I’m just not that person. For me, wipes are essential. And those nappy creams like Sudocrem or Metanium? They actually work! So, relax and do what works for you.

You WILL sleep again

‘Get your rest while you still can,’ said one parent I knew, as if sleep was something you could actually stockpile. ‘You’ll never have lie-ins again,’ said another. As someone known to like her kip, I was terrified.

What I know now

OK, the midday lie-ins are definitely gone, but newborns sleep loads at first. And maybe I’m one of the exceptions to the rule but, honestly, I get better quality sleep now than when I was out partying until 6am. Thanks to becoming a mum, I’ve finally mastered the art of the early night – oh yes, I’m under the duvet by 9pm.

Obsessing about birth is pointless

Again and again, I was advised to write a birth plan, as if I’d have any control over my body during labour. So I did, to the last detail, and told everyone I wanted a water birth. Then ended up getting induced and having an emergency c-section, all of which made me wish I’d saved some energy and spent it buying Percy Pigs for my hospital bag.

What I know now

Over-preparing for your birth is like going on holiday and reading a guidebook that only tells you about the flight. Read up and plan for it, of course, but also spend time finding out about how to change a nappy or swaddle a baby. Because it can be a real shock when you’re faced with taking home your little person with no idea how to look after her.

'Jerry Hall told me: "It's like really bad period pains and doing a poo"'

Labour isn’t always that bad

I was convinced giving birth would be a terrible experience. But halfway through my pregnancy, I interviewed Jerry Hall. She told me that having a baby would feel like nothing new to me. ‘It’s all familiar sensations, honey,’ she said. ‘Like really bad period pains and doing a poo.’ I was (slightly) reassured.

What I know now

I actually enjoyed my birth, even though I ended up being wheeled into theatre. Some women are so focused on having the ‘perfect’ birth that any intervention feels totally devastating. As long as the baby comes out healthy, it’s all fine.

Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally

I assumed it would be as easy as fixing a bottle to a tap (but slightly more tender, obviously). After all, I had breasts and they would make milk. All good to go.

What I know now

That does happen for some women, who blissfully breastfeed for years. But I was surprised to find the whole process very difficult. I barely made any milk and I spent hours trying to pump it out. Delirious with fatigue, I gave up at three weeks and used formula. But whether you go for breast or bottle, the best thing for your baby is often what’s best for you.

You may not fall in love immediately

I imagined a switch would be flicked the second my baby emerged, but I remember looking at my newborn daughter and feeling a bit, you know, meh. ‘I’m not sure I love her yet,’ I told my husband, an hour after she was born. ‘Go to sleep,’ he replied. ‘You’re off your face on morphine.’

What I know now

It’s normal not to enjoy the first few months. I was tired, uncomfortable and overwhelmed. But then my baby turned 10 weeks, and was smiling, and I forgot what it was I was getting all het up about. In fact, I can’t imagine a life before her.  

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