I have a lot of pregnant friends right now. It’s basically amazing. This summer and late fall there are going to be so many brand new babies I’m going to want to play with!
I won’t pretend to know everything; I don’t. Below are just somethings I wish I’d known during my pregnancy and for the first few months of my Petey Pete’s life.
- Take a birthing class: I highly recommend the Bradley Method. It does emphasize drug-free birth, but I had an epidural and still think it was worth the time, money and effort (we had to drive an hour each way to our classes). I loved the way it was a weekly reminder that exercising and eating well during pregnancy is absolutely necessary. They teach you stretches and exercises that alleviate pregnancy discomfort. Also, maybe I’m just clueless, but I had no idea about the different stages of labor and delivery. Being informed about this brought me a lot of peace before and during labor. Knowledge is power, people!
- Exercise and nutrition are essential during pregnancy: Most people complain about their third trimester being physically unbearable, but I didn’t have many complaints, even though my third trimester was in the late summer months and we didn’t have AC. I firmly believe that swimming every couple of days and doing stretches every few hours made me much more comfortable and relaxed. The more active I was, the better I felt. If I missed a workout, I felt awful. Also, if I hear one more person say that you’re eating for two, I’m going to punch them in the face. You’re eating for one and… depending how far along you are, a teeny tiny human, not a grown one! Eat when you’re hungry and try to make it healthy.
- Learn all you can about breastfeeding before the baby gets here: While formula is certainly not horrible for baby, every single authoritative source says that breastfeeding is healthiest for mother and baby. The longer you can do it, the better. In other words, it’s something that’s well worth your time now to learn about now. I don’t know anyone whose breastfeeding career started out flawlessly. Most people have a few kinks to work out initially. Having the names and numbers of local lactation consultants ready and a vague idea of problems that could happen made my life a lot easier. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a book seriously worth it’s weight in gold; at 8 months postpartum I still use it as a resource. Find a copy of it on Amazon and at least flip through it a little. What you have to realize is that once breastfeeding is going smoothly, so many other things fall into place. My dear friend Madeline wrote a great piece on breastfeeding at her blog that’s also worth checking out!
- Do not have anything planned for the first few weeks of your kid’s life: Seriously. Just don’t. Your one and only concern during this time is that sweet little one. Maybe you’ve heard this before and chosen to ignore it. DON’T. You’ll never get these few months of recovery and learning back. Birth is akin to running a marathon in terms of a physical event. Your body needs time to rest and you will pay for it later if you don’t! Also, this is the time for you to work on breastfeeding. I spent a lot of the first few months of Peter’s life topless in the upstairs of our house figuring out breastfeeding. I wish I’d known then that that was absolutely the right thing to be doing. I kept being frustrated with myself because I did not want to be one a frumpy mom and I wanted to get to the gym to start losing the baby weight. I was wrong. Give yourself a few months to be frumpy and then you’ll be ready to bounce back to your classy self. In the mean time, order stuff you need online, so the only time you have to go out is to Mass on Sunday!
- Nothing is permanent, this too shall pass: Life with a brand new baby can be tough, I think pretty much everyone agrees on that. It’s important to remember that it only gets easier. If you’re feeling beyond frustrated and at your wits end, put your baby somewhere safe, close the door, and just take a few minutes to take some deep breaths. I never had postpartum depression (which is real and if you suspect you have the symptoms, begin by talking to your OB), but there were a few times where I was just so exhausted and frustrated that I put my crying baby in his bassinet and took a shower. The white noise meant I couldn’t hear the crying and it gave me a couple minutes to refresh and pray.
- Relax, a little crying never hurt anyone: Hearing my baby cry made me feel really overwhelmed and anxious. Is he hungry? Does he need a new diaper? Am I doing everything in my earthly capacity to make sure he’s perfectly content? All of this worry and anxiety was completely unnecessary and totally wore me out. To this day, I have to remind myself that a fussing baby is not cause to move heaven and earth to comfort. I am not by any means advocating ignoring your baby or letting him cry for long periods of time. I am simply saying that if your baby is fed, clean and safe you should feel relaxed and that you’re most likely doing an amazing job. Sometimes babies (and mamas, for that matter) just cry for no reason and that’s ok!
- Trust your instincts- and your husband: If you think something’s not working for your baby, then don’t do it. If you think your baby seems off and you think he should see a pediatrician, give them a call. Also, there is a reason God gave babies two parents! Someone once told me that having a baby makes a marriage stronger because your husband is the only person in the world who will ever love that baby as much as you do. It’s true! John and I have had (and continue to have) so much fun playing with Peter together and laughing about the funny things he does. Your husband is a really important person in your baby’s life and he wants to be involved!
- Talking to your baby will make you feel like an idiot, do it anyway: Study after study has shown that babies do best when they’re talked and sung to… and initially you might feel a little ridiculous. What really helped me was to narrate what I was doing and our plans for the day, “now we’re doing to go for a walk and then we’re going to make dinner”. When I didn’t feel like talking, I’d turn on my favorite music and just sing along. Peter loved and continues to love that. Everyone says you should read to your baby, but when they’re squirmy and don’t like to be still, that’s not always realistic. I really struggled with what to do all day with a newborn, and singing and talking helped me constructively shape my time.
- Spoiler Alert: Milestones don’t really matter: I have some really competitive mom friends who like to brag about their kid who crawls early or their kid who was walking or talking early. It made me anxious for awhile when Peter wasn’t hitting those milestones “on time”. But, guess what? Those are estimates for when babies should be doing things. They have no impact on that kid’s character or future. Worrying about them is a waste of time, especially since early on you have appointments with your pediatrician every month or so. You can ask them and make sure your little cherub is looking healthy. Also, don’t sweat having to record every single first. I am basically the most nostalgic person on earth and even I don’t care about when I rolled over for the first time as a baby. A friend of mine recently told me that my job as a mom is to, “help find what talents and character your child has to offer God and help to develop them and serve God.”. Your job is not to be his PR consultant and make sure he’s better than all the other babies, it’s to help your baby grow into a wonderful human being.
- Enjoy it! Do things with your baby that you love doing! All your baby wants is to spend time with you and love you… it’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me!
Motherhood is amazing. God literally made you to fulfill this incredible role, don’t doubt your capacity!