I have someone dear to me in my life who is newly pregnant for the first time. I don't want to come off all preachy to them, but of course I am dying to foist my advice on some unsuspecting person, so I decided to do it here instead.
1. This is your pregnancy. Trust your body. If it wants ice cream, give it ice cream. If you get morning sickness, force yourself to eat constantly. Eating is self-defense. Don't worry about the weight gain. It will go away afterwards, and if you nurse, it will go away even faster. Until it does, your body will be softer to snuggle your child and that's a good thing.
2. Avoid negativity like the plague. You don't need it. Avoid listening to people's horror stories about birth. Here's the truth about childbirth - although you may have an ideal indoor mind, any birth that results in a living baby and mother is a good one. If your childbirth is easy that is good, but if it is very hard, it will make you stronger. It will give perspective to everything else you experience for the rest of your life, and that will make all other suffering easier. So even if it is horrible, it will have value. And once again - healthy baby and mama = good.
3. Know what you want in terms of a birth experience and fight for it. A doula or midwife can help you find your voice. Also be willing to change the plan when you actually start the childbirth. Don't' shame yourself. It's not what you think it will be like most of the time, so be gentle with yourself.
4. Go to La Leche League before you give birth. If you have confidence about nursing, if you know you can do it, it is more likely that you will. Formula is not poison, but you will get all these great hormones from nursing and plus it's great for weight loss. Of course it is better for babies, but there's so much Mama shame that I am focusing on why it is best for you. It is better for mamas. But here's a tip - it's hard. It hurts at first. But I have done both and breast is easier and I am lazy. A good lactation consultant is your best friend. I went to a nursing group three times a week for months. I didn't find it easy, but I am so glad I did it. There is a feeling of empowerment in knowing that you can sustain human life with your body.
5. If you are poor, try cloth diapers. You will save thousands of dollars, your house will stink less, and its really not a big deal. If you nurse and cloth diaper, your baby is close to free. Don't worry about clothing - they won't wear it anyway. Both my kids preferred to be as close to naked as possible, year round until they were five.
6. Babies don't sleep. Anyone who says they do is lying. Do you know what sleeping through the night means? A five hour block. Not an eight or twelve hour block. But don't worry - it's ok. You will learn that you don't need as much sleep as you think. You will look back at all the times you cried over being tired before you had kids and you will laugh. But when you are up at night rocking a little one, be comforted to know that all across America there are thousands of mothers doing the same thing.
7. Seeing as the baby will never sleep, don't worry when they poop the minute you finally get them to sleep. Coat their bottom in vasoline at the last diaper change, and don't wake them up to change them. They will wake up in two hours anyway. This bit of advice was given to me by a nurse. An RN and a mother. It sounds horrible now, maybe even abusive, but you will understand. The minute they fall asleep they poop and then you change them and then they cry and then you nurse them and then they sleep and then they poop.
(if you followed my advice to cloth diaper, you can cut up strips of fleece to use as liners inside your diapers which protect the diapers from the Vasoline and have the benefit of being disposable if you really need them to be.)
8. You will feel like a failure, you will be exhausted, but you will also be exhilarated and flooded with love. It's worth it. You will be great at it.
9. We ALL have strong opinions on parenting. It starts with breast/bottle then there is cloth/disposable diapers then sleep, then it goes on and on. You need to parent your child according to the baby's need and your needs. Each baby is different and so is each mother.
10. Keep the baby close by. Think of the first three months as the fourth trimester. No, I don't know the latin to correct that statement. I liked the Close and Secure Sleeper for cosleeping, but there's a bunch of options. You can even put the crib in your room. They wake up a lot, you will be happier if they aren't down the hall. Cute nursery wallpaper aside, my kids were never in their bedrooms except to play.
11. Dining room tables are better than dressers. You can see what you have before they outgrow it. You can use it as a changing table with a pad. You don't have to put stuff away only to have to race down the hall after a diaper explosion.
12. The best advice I got when I was pregnant was to be gentle on myself and my choices, that no matter what I think I want to do before I have kids may suddenly change after the kid is born, and that's okay. Allow yourself to grow into the parent that is natural for you, and don't be afraid to let go of preconceived notions you had before children.
Top Four Things You Can't Live Without (really):
1. A selection of different baby carriers. I used a front carrier with two shoulder straps, a hip hammock, a sling and a mei-tei and all have different uses at different times. If you go to La Leche League (see #4) people will show you how they all work and the different styles. Wearing a baby promotes all kids of good brain stuff but the most important thing is that they cry less. Baby-wearing Mamas pretty much all like to talk about baby carriers and why their favorite is the best one ever invented. Skip registering for plastic baby crap, instead register for cool baby carriers in a variety of colors and styles. A stylish baby sling can dress up a dirty t-shirt and jeans like nobody's business. The Baby Wearer website is chock full of good advice.
|See how the baby is now a fashion accessory?|
Buy my favorite carrier, the Hip Hammock here but don't tell them I sent you, they don't know who I am and might not want to be affiliated with me.
2. A glider with a gliding footstool. Don't question it, you just do, and make sure you register for one that comes with a gliding ottoman. This fine one is on sale at babiesrus.com
image source: amazon.com
3. The My Breast Friend pillow.
Image source amazon.com
The name is stupid, but it is the only one that actually works. Don't believe the hype about the boppy. It's crap and pops off you while nursing and is frustrating and stupid.
4. A car seat that snaps into a stroller. I used a cheap light weight snap on stroller, because I wasn't smart enough to know I needed one before hand. You do. Go for light weight over cute fabric.
Everything else is gravy. Each baby is different. Some love the bouncy seat, some hate it. Some hate strollers. No matter what you get ahead of time, your baby will be the one baby that hates it.
I loved these books, if people even read paper books anymore:
I don't care if it's old and everyone recommends it. It's a great book.
2. American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring For Your Baby and Young Child
This will save you hundreds of calls to your doctor's office at 2:00 am!
We were so sleep deprived when we found this resource that we had to watch the DVD as we could no longer read words on paper. Do yourself a favor and buy it now.
4. La Leche League's Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
A great resource. Also write down the phone number for the local helpline. They don't mind if you call them and cry on the phone over latching issues, even if you cry rather hard for a long time. Trust me on this.
Although I could go on for hours on the topic, these 12 bullet points, 4 items you can't live without and 4 books you should buy pretty much cover it. You'll figure the rest out as you go.