Pearls of Wisdom. Really.
Okay, so I’ve had two different but connected experiences lately. Some women I know are pregnant for the first time, or just had babies, and I desperately want to give them unsolicited advice. I know, everyone gives unsolicited advice to pregnant and new moms. But mine is so good! Mine isn’t all intrusive and fucked up like all that other advice, really! Except I think I just weird people out. Just like I was weirded out when people told me seriously random shit about their horrific childbirth experience, or post-partum healing, or whatever. When it’s your first time, all you want to do is stick your fingers in your ears and go, “LALALALALALALA!” And honestly, that might be the smartest thing. Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and new parenthood is totally different. And the advice-givers are more interested in validating their decisions or sharing their trauma than helping. Hmm. That might apply to me as well.
The other thing is I keep daydreaming about getting pregnant again. It would have to be an immaculate conception because David will move to Mexico to be a dive instructor before he gets me pregnant and signs on for another 1.5 years of Crazy Alternate Wife. I think some of it has to do with wanting to get another shot at doing it right. Which is nuts for more reasons than I can count. Also, my hormones (a.k.a. Continuation of the Species Chemicals) tell me there is nothing more beautiful and desirable than getting pregnant right before a fucker of a hot summer. Because they lie and they hate me.
So I give you, “Stuff I wish I’d know/done/ignored before and after birth” in the hopes that I will no longer feel the need to brain dump on unsuspecting pregnant women or beg my husband to knock me up again. I’ll let you know how that works out.
Pregnancy stuff I think you need/should know/do
- Don’t listen to advice unless you ask for it. Change the subject or ask them to stop.
- Don’t listen to birth stories unless you have asked to hear them. They just make you crazy and paranoid and have no relevance to your birth. At all.
- Don’t freak out about/over prepare for/ spend a whole lot of extra money on the birth. I wish I had taken all the money I’d spent on my doula and used it for a post-partum helper. That $750 would have gotten me a lot of naps.
- Prenatal Yoga is The Bomb. It helped me physically and emotionally. I got support from the other ladies, respectful advice, and made some good friends who have become my primary mama support group. Physically, it made a huge difference. Start when you get pregnant and keep going until you can’t move your toes any more. That being said, try different classes until you find one you like. There are some great tirades way back in this blog written after going to classes I didn’t like.
- Get The Snoogle. Dear God, I hate that name. But you can wrap it around you multiple ways and you’ll need that as the baby grows and your body doesn’t work the way it used to. It will allow you to sleep without setting up a mountain of pillows you have to dismantle every time you have to get up to pee, which may be many, many times per night.
- If you’re going to take a babymoon, don’t be an idiot like me and take it in the first or third trimester unless you’re one of those freaks who never gets nauseous or swollen or uncomfortable. Aim for the golden second trimester when you’ve got energy but you’re all cute and pregnant looking.
- This is really for after, but get the My Brest Friend Deluxe (oh dear God what an awful name) nursing pillow and put it in your overnight bag for the hospital. Just do it. Nothing sucks more than trying to learn to nurse on those awful hospital pillows. This thing will make your life infinitely better. I promise. And if you want more nursing boob advice, I’ve got it. Nursing is no joke, the adjustment period can be formidable.
- Don’t stress out about it. It will happen however it happens. Learn about the process, but don’t try to predict the outcome or craft your ultimate birth experience. You will probably remember very little of it. To me anyway, it was a tiny blip on the massive radar screen that is new parenthood. And my blip lasted 36 freaking hours long. But do you know what’s worse than 36 hours of labor? The tandem stomach flu the three of us got last fall. Way worse. In spite of the hairiness of my labor, I still felt super powerful at the end, and glad I hadn’t tried to script it in any way. Kid healthy+ me healthy = Good. Basta.
- Get as much help as you can for the first few (and I mean six) weeks. Call in all your favors, save your pennies. Grandparents, friends, night nurses, post-partum doulas, whatev. It was super overwhelming at first for us, and we had a lot of help.
- If you’re feeling freaked out, talk to someone who you know will be supportive and non-judgmental. I don’t know how I got the idea that I would be a perfect, balanced, competent parent but I was WROOOOOONG. It was exhilarating, terrifying, blissful, and painful, sometimes all at once. I went back to therapy two weeks after having Lillian. I have other friends who joined new parent support groups that really helped. You feel like everyone has done this, why is it so hard? Because it’s hard for everyone. If it’s not they’re catatonic or lying.
- Stuff. Most stuff you need for the baby can be borrowed. Other than a crib, nothing you use in the first six months to a year will be in the rotation for very long. Bassinet – incredibly useful for the first three months. Dust catcher after that. Swing – dude, you need a swing. But only for about six months. Bouncy chair things – the only way I could take a shower for six months was to strap Lillian into one of these things. Then she started crawling and it was done. So either buy them at a resale store and sell them back, or borrow them from a friend who is between kids. The only things in our house that are semi-permanent and worth the investment are our IKEA crib (very cheap) and our BOB Stroller (very not).
- Books – just throw them the hell out. Once you get on the milestone train, it’s a long way down. Comparing your kid to the “average” kid in America (regardless of your actual lineage) may make your child seem like a giant/midget/freak of some kind and he or she is not. He or she is just your kid. It’s hard enough to tune into the blaring radio station of mother instinct without eating yourself alive with self-doubt. Bringing a bunch of “experts” into the mix who want to sell books does not help.
- Find a pediatrician you like and trust. My therapist pointed out at one point that I was avoiding taking Lillian in to have something checked out because I was afraid of her doctor. Doh. I switched doctors. Much better.
- Stay away from the interwebs. I’m not saying that a little research can’t be useful when you want to check something out, but stay away from Dr. Internets in the middle of the night when you’re feeling sure that your kid’s 101 fever is actually spinal meningitis, mkay?
- Advice. Random strangers, well-meaning relatives, innocent bloggers (ahem) will tell you all sorts of crazy shit about the validity of your parenting, the health and well-being of your kid, and other stuff it would never cross your mind to say to another human being. Ignore them. “But they mean well…” No, they don’t. If it makes you feel bad, it’s not useful. It is so hard to feel confident about this terrifying, epic, massive job of creating and raising a little human being. Just don’t let people fuck with you.
- Be flexible. Your kid is totally unique and so are you. We made mistakes in the beginning by expecting Lillian to follow “typical” patterns that blinded us to her actual needs. I think everyone does this at first. But your kid will communicate what she needs, and you have to be listening to figure out how to respond. And then her needs will change, and you’ll have to respond differently. Forever. Don’t get so attached to a school of thought that you stop observing and responding to your kid.
Wow, that was fun!