If you are already visibly pregnant, you may have already noticed that social boundaries are beginning to change as friends, family, and even complete strangers put their hands on your belly - sometimes without even asking! Over the course of the next few months, you’re going to hear from just about everyone that your life is about to change in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. The barista at Starbucks will warn you about the sleep deprivation and tell you to get lots of sleep now (as if that’s going to make you feel better when you’ve been up for days with only a few hours of sleep – “Oh, I’m so glad I got all that sleep last month!”). The lady behind you in line at the supermarket will tell you all about her own (or her sister’s, cousin’s, best friend’s or neighbor’s) pregnancies. Some coworker will recount every gory detail of her first pregnancy, from morning sickness to crowning.
The good news is that you won’t be pregnant forever, and the belly groping will eventually stop. The bad news? Once your baby is born, the unsolicited advice will overflow as you will become fair game for every well-meaning man, woman, and child to tell you everything you’re doing wrong and why their way is better.
So, what makes me think you want to hear my advice now? Well, maybe you don’t, but these are the things that I wish people HAD told me when I was pregnant, rather than telling me about their sister-in-law’s failed induction that led to a c-section or why I must get the epidural. The following is my unsolicited advice:
1. You're reading the wrong books
When I was pregnant, I read lots of books: What to Expect When You're Expecting, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, and even Belly Laughs, by Jenny McCarthy. It was fun reading about my baby's weekly development, and I felt reassured that all of my wacky pregnancy "symptoms" were normal. It never occurred to me to read some baby books as well. Seriously. There I was, thrilled to be pregnant (despite the water retention, swollen hippo feet, acne, and frequent trips to the bathroom), just giddy with excitement about having a baby, but I was so caught up in the pregnancy part that I forgot to read ahead to find out what was coming next. Well girls, all that free time you have to read while you're pregnant is going to be a distant memory once your bundle of joy arrives, so take advantage of it and read up a little bit on burping, spit-up, colostrum, umbilical cord care, sleep, and poop (it's amazing how interested in poop you will become in your first few weeks as a new mom). I highly recommend The Baby Book (along with just about everything from the Sears Library), Sleeping With Your Baby, by Dr. James McKenna (even if you don't plan on co-sleeping), and The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley.
2. Do your own research
In addition to reading the baby books, I encourage you to once again take advantage of the free time you have now and do some research. Think your doctor has told you all you need to know? Think again. I believe that most doctors really do have good intentions, but too many of them are not up to date on current recommendations or may not have taken the time to fully educate themselves and then their patients. The burden is on you, so do your homework. Find out what you need to know about medicated birth, vaccines, circumcision, and breastfeeding. You will need to make decisions about all of these things and you will likely feel more comfortable if those decisions are informed.
3. Keep the receipts
Nesting during pregnancy inspires many trips to the local baby store. I remember marching (well, actually, I was waddling) up and down the aisles with my husband, armed with our barcode scanner registry gun, convinced that we needed everything in that store. We spent months agonizing over choosing the right crib, stroller, bottles, and the rest of the obligatory baby gear. Well, I can tell you that our beautiful (and expensive) crib has yet be slept in, Monkey spends more time in a sling, wrap, or carrier than in a stroller, and once we had established breastfeeding, he refused bottles.
4. Attend a La Leche League meeting
It’s no secret that I’m a lactivist and want every baby to be breastfed, so I’m going to skip the part where I tell you all about the wonderful benefits to both baby and mom (I’ll save that for another post). You probably already know most of that stuff anyway, right? What you may not know is that breastfeeding, much like most aspects of parenting, is not without its challenges, and may not come “naturally” to all mothers and babies. This is especially true for mothers who have endured highly medicalized births such as inductions or cesarean sections. The best way to combat these breastfeeding challenges, should you encounter them, is to arm yourself with knowledge before they occur. Yup, I’m telling you to do more homework. Go to a La Leche League meeting near you and talk to other moms. Moms-to-be attend all the time, so there’s no need to feel weird about possibly attending without a babe in arms. Listen to the moms and meeting leaders and ask them any questions that you may have. You may find that some of them delivered in the same hospital or birthing center as you and they may have specific advice. LLL meetings are great for growing your circle of mom friends and for getting the support that many breasteeding moms seek.
So, there you have it. I hope that this helps you along as you fumble towards motherhood. Just one more thing:
5. Enjoy every minute
I know, I know, the hippo feet, the nausea, the aching back, the hot flashes, and the exhaustion… I haven’t forgotten. But I promise you that you will have moments when you miss being pregnant. That amazing feeling of your baby moving around in your belly is unlike anything else in the world. It’s the beginning of the unique bonding that takes place between mother and baby, and it really is amazing. Remember, it only lasts for about nine months – a blip in your lifetime – so take the time to enjoy it.