10 Things That Will Surprise You as a New Parent

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1. You will get very little (or no) sleep the first month. Not much of a nap person? Believe me, that’s going to change. During the first few weeks, you will be sleeping 2-5 hours per night, and that’s if you’re lucky. As your newborn adjusts to the world outside, he’ll sometimes need to eat every hour and a half, sometimes every four. Especially in the first three weeks, don’t try to stick to a schedule — if he’s hungry, you’ll know it. In the meantime, when your baby sleeps, try to take a nap.

2. You will get very comfortable around body fluids (and there will be lots of it.) When my milk came in, I was surprised to find what looked like Dijon mustard in Liam’s diaper: bright yellow with little seeds. Totally normal! Starting on day 1, your newborn’s dirty diapers will be filled with what looks like tar (meconium), then gradually lighten to brown, then green, then to yellow. Your newborn will have a dirty diaper many times a day (if you’re breastfeeding, this can range from 1 to about 8 times), but don’t be fooled by your tiny newborn… the powerful smell of his dirty diapers will surprise you! Oh, and as a heads up, he will usually fart to let you know it’s time to change him.

3. You will lose all awareness of time. When I first got home from the hospital, you could’ve told me it was morning when it was afternoon and I would’ve believed you. Your focus shifts entirely from yourself to your baby and you lose track of everything else. Time loses all importance during the first few weeks. I recommend jotting down when your newborn feeds and how often he has a wet or dirty diaper. You might not be too reliable when it comes down to remembering what time of day it is…

4. You will gladly give up on sleep to watch your newborn in his crib. The first night at the hospital, I stayed up all night watching Liam sleep peacefully. I catch myself watching him as I breastfeed as well. How could I not? His little fingers… his teeny tiny toes… his adorable little lips…

5. The internet will become your best friend. Trust me, you will worry about every little thing. Some gunk around his eyes? Dry skin? White tongue? Less dirty diapers than usual? My phone dies around noon every day because I am on it nonstop. For things that seem a little more serious, though, call your pediatrician. The internet can really freak you out for no reason at all.

6. You won’t believe how loud a newborn’s cry can be. When we first got home from the hospital, Liam hated cold wipes on his tushy. Many times, we were blown away by how loud his voice could get to let us know just how much he disliked it. Luckily, he’s gotten used to diaper changes and only cries when he’s hungry or unable to fall asleep. Thank God for pacifiers…

7. You’ll be in full hibernation mode for weeks. Except for trips to the pediatrician’s office, you will not want to leave your newborn for more than 10 minutes at a time (a.k.a to shower). Not only will you want to watch over him nonstop, but you will also still be recovering yourself. As happy as you will be, you won’t feel 100% like yourself for a little while. Use the time to relax, sleep, and when you feel up to it, tell your family and friends to stop by to meet your baby.

8. You won’t believe how much love you’re capable of feeling for another human being. At the hospital, I kept telling all the nurses how much I loved Liam, how beautiful he was, and how glad I was to have delivered him naturally. Now that we’re home, I take pictures of him constantly. Kiss his little head all the time. Can’t believe how perfect he is. Trust me, you’ll be so obsessed.

9. You will have a new appreciation for nature. The hormone rush after delivery blew me away. I didn’t care what the nurses did to me as long as I held my son in my arms. The stitches, the blood, the constant monitoring… I couldn’t believe how little pain I felt and how little sleep I needed for the first 72 hours after Liam was born. I don’t even remember all of the things that happened! My body took over and made me feel serene and, at times, even euphoric.

10. You will keep feeling more and more confident about being a mom and dad. When you first get home from the hospital, you will panic a little. Don’t worry — as the days go by, you will feel like an expert parent. Diaper changes, late night cuddles when your newborn is upset… It will all get easier and easier. Remember: you are the best parent in the world for your child. Have faith in yourself and enjoy every second of it!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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