What I wish I knew before becoming a Mom

Becoming a Mom is so wonderful yet completely overwhelming at the same time. Working with babies for years made me think that it would be so easy! I was so much more worried about birth than what would happen afterwards, and didn’t really understand how much having a baby would rock our world. Here are some tips on what helped me during this time, and what I wish I knew before becoming a mom.

What I wish I knew before becoming a Mom

Don’t just read about pregnancy and birth!

Everyone tells you to sleep as much as you can and enjoy time with your partner (and alone) and this is true, but hard to imagine until you are truly sleep deprived and can’t shower when you want to. Do the things you love doing and revel in them. I was someone who focused entirely on learning pregnancy and birth, and obsessing over the nursery. If I spent as much time reading about baby sleep patterns instead of obsessing over Little Unicorn swaddle patterns, I would have saved myself a lot of stress. There is no time to read baby books once baby comes. Birth is (approximately) one day.

Everyone told me this, so feel free to eye roll and read another pregnancy book. My favorites were:

This is probably obvious coming from a photographer, but take photos of yourself! I didn’t do a maternity session, and I regret it. I wanted to take weekly photos of myself, but time went by. I have a few great images of myself while pregnant, but I truly regret not having more. Whether you pay for a maternity session or snap images on your iphone, document this time! It feels like forever, but it goes by so fast.

Birth hour podcast

My birth story is a little crazy. The one minute version is that things progressed quickly and just as we were about to leave for the hospital, I started pushing (involuntarily) so we called an ambulance. After going to a different hospital than planned, Oliver was born 20 minutes after admission.

My favorite birth resource was the Birth Hour podcast. I still listen to it, 4 months after Ollie was born. I am now obsessed with birth, and credit my ability to stay “calm” during the stressful time when I thought my husband was going to deliver our baby in the bathroom, and kind of knew what to do.

Maternity Photos are important!

If I could do anything differently during our birth, I would have hired a birth photographer (and left for the hospital way earlier–maybe.) Again, I know that this is skewed coming from a professional photographer, but everything happens so quickly and you are in such a fog that remembering to take any photos is impossible. My husband took one photo of me during labor (screaming during a contraction in the ambulance) and I treasure it. The photos of Ollie on my chest right after birth are amazing, but I wish I had a (professional quality) image of the first moment I saw him, and Sean’s reaction, photos of the three of us, etc.

If we have a second baby, this will be a priority for me. I would love to start offering birth photography, but now that I have a baby of my own, I’m not sure how I could make it work!

Postpartum is a shit show.

Guys, this time is really hard. Sleep deprivation changes everything. Try to remember, this is just a tiny blip in a long love affair (quote from my mom.) Take any help that friends and family offer and enjoy the snuggles. Everything else can wait. When you can and feel ready, give baby to someone you trust and take a nap.

Overall, give yourself a break and time to adjust. I went into motherhood thinking I knew everything about babies because of my job. I was only worried about birth, and thought that having a newborn was the easy part. I wonder how many of my clients have laughed at me after a session when I said, I just wish I could have a newborn forever! There are great and terrible things from every stage. Try to enjoy the great things and remember the terrible things are temporary.

New parent support groups are the bomb.

When you’re ready to get out of the house, find a local mom’s support group. Everyone there also has a newborn, so no one cares if you’re late, if baby is crying, or if you feed or change diapers, so it’s a wonderful transition to getting back into the real world. I loved the BI (FREE) mom’s groups in Dedham, Milton, and Chestnut Hill. I also did Rachel Hess’ “Getting Started” class in Roslindale. I cannot recommend this enough–a small group, a general topic every week, amazing advice. I wish I could keep going forever.

Get the newborn photos!

Broken record here, HAVE PEOPLE TAKE PHOTOS OF YOU WITH YOUR BABY! Whether you pay for a newborn or family session, or just ask your partner and friends to take photos, get in the picture! I have 1000000000 photos of Ollie by himself. I have 1000 selfies where I look terrible, but at least I’m in them. I have a few AMAZING professional quality images that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hired 2 photographers for newborn sessions–one studio session and one lifestyle in our home.

I’m planning on doing a family session when he’s about 6 month old and every year (maybe twice a year.) I take my own photos with my real camera every week and every month, but I want images of me and my husband and my baby together! Whenever we see friends or family we try to remember to ask them to take a photo of the three of us, and even if I am wearing sweats and haven’t washed my hair in a few days, I am happy I have them!

What I wish I knew before becoming a Mom

Sleep deprivation is rough

After about a week of sleep deprivation, my entire life revolved around strategies to get more sleep. My husband and I did shifts overnight with baby for the first few months. We slept in separate rooms so whoever didn’t “have the baby” could get real sleep. It sucked not sleeping in the same bed as my husband, but it worked for us to maximize sleep. Again, do whatever works for you! Another thing we found very useful at about 2 months was giving a “dream feed” bottle of pumped milk when we went to bed. We knew he was getting a good feed and we think that helped to get a longer stretch of sleep for everyone.

My favorite sleep resource is Taking Cara Babies. We used her “ABCs of sleep” method of sleep training at 7 months to get Ollie in his crib in his own room, and he now sleeps 12 hours a night!

You’ve got this!

Overall, my mantra is do what is right for you. You know your body and your baby better than anyone else, and you have to do what works for you and allows you to survive. Good luck and enjoy this stage of your life!

What I wish I knew before becoming a Mom
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Whitney O'Brien is a Boston newborn photographer with a studio in Dedham, MA. She specializes in natural, timeless portraits of motherhood, including maternity, newborn, milestone, and family sessions.


She serves Boston neighborhoods such as Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park, as well as Dedham, Needham, Newton, Brookline, Westwood, Norwood, Walpole and beyond.


To see my latest work and photos of my own kids, follow me on social media!

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