I was reading a blog post yesterday morning, written by a woman expecting her first child. She was commenting on how nervous she is, wondering out loud if she could manage without an epidural, and she finished by asking for any advice. It was when I went to leave a comment that I realised there was simply so much I could have said.
So here we are. With over eighteen years and four children worth of things I have learned, I will share some of the snippets I feel are most worth passing on.
1. Baby showers. You don’t have to have one. Unless you really want one, or you have a pushy best friend that you would rather not argue with. Close family and best friends will always buy beautiful things for your baby when it arrives, and grandparents can usually be counted on to chip in for the big ticket items, (especially if you know how to drop a hint). But judging from the baby showers I have been to, mostly you will end up with HEAPS OF CRAP. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Trust me when I say that you do not NEED any of the following: a bassinet (either go straight for the cot, use the pram bassinet, and you might even try co-sleeping), hair brush, bath “ramp”, anything with the words gym or exercise in it, change table (helpful but not essential), five million rattles, thermometer (it will just make you nervous, even a mild fever is unmistakable, and I have never owned one), enough exotic sounding bath/body gels and lotions to make you envious, a shopping trolley cover (is your child too precious to sit on a folded baby blanket?), and my personal pet hate: the baby monitor. Listening to every snuffle, snore, cry, and fart is maddening if you are trying to sleep. It’s also a bit ridiculous if you have a small house, and even in a large one, I’ll bet there isn’t a baby out there who won’t make themselves heard when they want you. Trust me on this one.
3. Please do me a favour and DON’T read “What To Expect When You Are Expecting”. (Though by all means watch the movie, it’s actually very funny). But the book will talk down to you like you are a complete moron who doesn’t understand the simplest thing. There are books you SHOULD read though, anything by Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Janet Balaskas, Sheila Kitzinger, in fact just about anything you can’t find in your local bookstore. But the best preparation is working out any fears you may have, as fear WILL hold your body back. Look into any forms of relaxation and/or meditation, which will do much more to help you stay calm and focused in labour than all the breathing lessons Lamaze can offer. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, but I’m pretty sure you know how to breathe by now.
4. Don’t expect too much from your husband during labour. Yes, he wants to be there. Sure, he wants to do all he can to help you. Sometimes you hear of a husband who really made a difference. But like the obstetrician, he’s really just there for the main event. Not so much for the blood, pain, and swearing, and he will definitely find himself feeling utterly useless as things intensify. My advice here is MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR MIDWIFE. Even if she’s flat out busy, every time you see her ask for suggestions. Then listen to them. Sometimes she will ask you to go against every instinct, but she does know what she’s talking about.
5. Don’t expect breastfeeding to look like the posters. At least not for about six weeks or so. If you start off small in the cleavage department then by the end of your pregnancy you may well be loving the added extra. But if, like me, you started with a generous pair, then by the time your milk comes in you may well be in tears. My bra size a week after my first child was born had me thinking that they used basketballs for the mold. You want the honest size? 16G. Then it settled at F for a couple of weeks, then E, and it wasn’t until he was about three months old that I got to DD. Your will also notice prominent blue veins, leaking (hello sexy breast pads), and tingling when your baby cries. If you really want to do it, just keep plowing ahead. It really DOES get easier, and by about six weeks your breasts will be a less porn-worthy size, flow should be established, and the convenience is second to none. If things are hard, get help. There are lactation nurses, and the midwives at your local baby clinic have tons of helpful advice. And if you decide on bottle feeding it’s nobody’s business except your baby’s, who doesn’t give a shit as long as he is fed SOMETHING.
6. Sleep. Yes, you know there will be some of it. Lots of it will be broken. Just keep in mind that the sleepless nights WILL PASS. I have calculated that SOME of my kids (not mentioning any names) cost me up to three years of broken sleep. There were nights when I cried from exhaustion. BUT IT PASSES. I promise. You may also land a great sleeper, and if you do, and if your best friend hasn’t slept in six months because her child STILL hasn’t learned the difference between day and night, LIE.
7. Learn to ignore everyone. Including me (but not til you finish reading this, because number 8 is really good). You will be bombarded with helpful advice on doing things the “right” way. This will usually mean the way in which your grandparents raised your parents back in the stone age, the way your parents raised you, the Croatian way, the Aussie way, the modern way, the expert way, the natural way, you get the idea. Learn how to paste a smile on your face while nodding and thinking of something else. It’s a bit more polite than what I did: grit my teeth and roll my eyes while shouting “IT’S NOT 1974 ANYMORE!”. And please ignore the grandfather who swears it’s healthy to eat dirt for the iron content. The same dirt from the same garden he grows veggies in. And puts manure in. And slug repellents.
And finally, number 8. RELAX. Let me say it again, RELAX. Whether it’s during pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, teething, sickness, tantrums, long drives, or cleaning spaghetti off the floor AGAIN, it’s probably the most important thing I could pass on to you. By relax I mean not sweating the small stuff, and honestly, it’s pretty much all small stuff. It means not stressing out that baby only took 85 mls instead of 120. It means that it doesn’t matter if you delivered baby in the garden while planting soy beans or in a fully tricked out operating theatre. It means remembering that one day they will be teenagers and you will probably hate their guts, so enjoy their cuteness while it lasts. It means remembering that TV and DVD’s were invented so people would WATCH them, and your kids are people after all.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten things I wanted to say, but since this has turned out to be a not-so bite sized post (and I can’t be bothered to change the title), I’ll leave it here.
I would love to hear from all you Mums, what advice was the best you ever got?