An open letter to moms in the making.

Dear Mom-to-be,

You are about to embark on the craziest adventure of your life. It will be the most challenging and also the most rewarding task you'll ever undertake.

In the beginning stages of creating a new life, it's tough to not really see the changes on the outside of you, but to have to feel their effect. I remember exhaustion hitting me so hard from about week 10 through week 16 it was all I could do to throw one load of laundry in the washing machine before collapsing on the couch after work. I felt so useless and so not my self. I didn't know that just a tiny amount of caffeine could cause my heart to race for hours after, ultimately ending with an ER adventure the day before Thanksgiving, a we-can't-find-the-heartbeat on the sonogram nightmare (which thankfully ended with the finding of a heartbeat after about 5 minutes of agony) and a stern lecture about Red Bull. (It has less mg of caffeine than coffee people- and you can have a cup or two a day of coffee.... it seemed logical....) It's a struggle trying to decide what to wear when your belly big enough to make your favorite regular jeans feel like a vice, but your crisp new maternity jeans (that you bought in week 4 because you figured they'd fit in a week or two, right?) won't yet stay up. It's also a struggle when you see people give you that look. You know the one- the "is she getting fat or is she pregnant?" look that makes you wish you had 12 tank tops femininely embellished with the words Baby, along with an arrow on them.

Time marches on, and you enjoy the typical calm of the second trimester (hopefully- some of you I know still suffer, and I'm so so sorry!). You have a little bit of your energy back, you still sleep through the night, and you can watch a movie without more than one restroom break. Life is good. You think about registering and you review the online lists that tell you everything you need for baby's arrival, and everything you need for your hospital bag (secret: you don't NEED 80% of that stuff, really!). You might even enjoy a baby shower.

The third trimester rolls along (rolls- pun intended- they may have accumulated just above your ankles by now- oh wait, that's just me? Oh. Bummer. Moving on...) and the waiting game is on. If you're like I was you get caught somewhere between "Can this be done now? Let's meet this baby! I want control over my body again!" and "Let's just let this play out- I know my life is never going to be the same once I have this baby..." By now, you're also enjoying the lovely words of perfect strangers. They say such wonderful things as "Are you sure you're not having twins?" "They must be wrong about your due date- like, months wrong." "I can tell you're having a girl, because you look tired- and you know what they say- baby girls steal their mom's beauty!" You grit your teeth and bare their unwelcome comments because really, you don't move as quickly as you did, and waddle-waddle-punch seems a bit ridiculous. (Ok, and because you're a lover not a fighter- but, hey, it's my blog, and I think having a little fun with it should be allowed) As the weeks pass by you get bombarded with 54,602 suggestions on how to kick start labor- people tell you to drink castor oil, eat pineapple, eat spicy food, take long walks and then take more long walks- but honestly- truth is- when baby's ready- baby's ready. And you can walk until your cankles have baby cankles (trust me, I know) but if they're not ready, they stay PUT.

And then, the time finally comes. You waited and you're in labor on your own, you're being induced, you're having a c-section- regardless- the baby is coming and you are staring down at the fear that tells you this will be one of the most painful experiences of your life. Listen to me: YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT. It's not "fun", it's not comfortable, but you CAN do it- and most likely you'll even do it again voluntarily. You may have a perfect picture in your head of how things will go, and you will have daydreamed and maybe even written a birth plan- but one way or another- the baby is coming, and you may or may not be in control of how. The one thing I wish I had known more than ANYTHING about this phase is simply this: advocate for your needs. No one knows what you are feeling/experiencing like you do. No one can read your mind and assume that because some people ask for a certain thing, that you want it too. Speak up for yourself and control the things you can control that will make the experience as positive as possible. Kindly, respectfully and firmly (if necessary) make your needs known. That is the single greatest thing I would have changed about my own experience. It would have set so many things off on a better note.

When the moment finally comes, and you look your new little one right in the eyes- you may feel instant love, and like you've known them all along, or you may feel like this is a little stranger that you do not know, but want to get to know. The spectrum of feelings is so wide- and I think in general, society loves to tout the idea that all moms fall instantly in love with their babies, their hearts swell and the bond is immediate- and, if that doesn't happen- that something is wrong. The relationship between you and your new baby is as unique as each of you are. Don't put your feelings in a box- let things come naturally. Life as you know it has just changed and you deserve the opportunity to absorb that and adjust at your own pace- not anyone else's. I was not the mother who felt the instant bond. I was scared, I was recovering from a c-section and multiple days without sleep. I'm not even sure what I felt- as I honestly was not super aware by that time! But I know the love I feel for my son now has grown into the love I've always imagined.

When you come home with your new son or daughter- set boundaries for yourself and family/visitors. Leave yourself time to rest and time to bond quietly as a new family unit. All of this parenting "stuff" is new to you and your significant other. Don't forget they have feelings and need time to adjust too. So much is new and different- give yourself the peace to explore it and the rest to heal physically as well. I'm sure you've read "sleep when your baby sleeps" oh how I wish I'd followed that advice! Consider it. It's sound. If you simply insist on being awake when your baby is asleep- you might want to consider reading. There were two books that helped me more than anything else, especially in the first months of motherhood.
1. The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp
2. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
I can not tell you enough how much these books helped me. The practical and loving techniques they taught brought me from a place in which I was ready to BEG my own mother to adopt my son, to feeling like my husband and I COULD do this after all. If you had to pick a book to read first, start with The Happiest Baby. But, I did find both to be wonderfully helpful. So much so, that I think they should just hand them out to all new parents as you're leaving the hospital (assuming you delivered in a hospital).

In writing this letter, which has become rather lengthy, I realize it is impossible for me to summarize all of the things I wish I'd known coming into motherhood, as it is such a learning, growing and at times overwhelming experience. If you take nothing else from this, please remember the following things that I think are the most important.

Things I learned myself:

1. Be your own best advocate. Being assertive and being aggressive are not the same. If you need to be assertive to be your best advocate- do it.
2. Read The Happiest Baby on the Block. If possible, read it right before baby comes and have it handy once they are home. (Seriously- I can't tell you how helpful this book was!)
3. Be a team with your partner. Make time for just the two of you to connect. Work together, learn together, be together.

Things I was told that proved to be invaluable:

1. When you feel overwhelmed, just think of 5s. In 5 minutes, what you're feeling now will have passed a little, and you may be a tiny bit calmer. In 5 days, today will start to feel more like a memory, and you will have learned from the past 4 days what works well and what doesn't. In 5 weeks, you will know so much more and be feeling more comfortable in your new role/life. In 5 months, this will be feeling like second nature. As you go through the days, just focus on small increments of time, things will get better/easier! -my Dad*
2. You know your baby better than anyone else, trust your gut instincts.-my Mom*
3. A baby has one instinct and that is to SURVIVE. My dad told me "no baby ever starved itself to death." Try not to panic over every tiny detail (he/she only pooped 2 times today, but this book says 3 is normal! He drank fewer ounces today than yesterday!) babies are heartier and stronger than we give them credit for. You can worry yourself sick over every tiny detail. If you're unsure of something, call a veteran parent, call your pediatrician, and then, try to RELAX :-) -my Dad*
*Side note: My parents, really know their stuff I've realized.

Sincerely,
A mom who's continually learning, and wants to pass on the knowledge she's earned-
(if it saves one mom from some of the stress I felt- it's served it's purpose!)**



**Disclaimer: Pregnancy/Labor&Delivery/Being a new parent is obviously a situation that is experienced differently by every mother/family. Please take this letter as it is intended- as a summary of things I learned (some the hard way) that I think may help other new moms. It is not intended to be a catch all for every issue for all mothers to be, nor to supersede the advice of professional physicians etc. I don't think I know everything about motherhood- in fact, I am continually learning everyday. However, if anything mentioned above could be helpful to someone else as it was, or hopefully in the future will be to me- I felt it was worth sharing. After all, Madeline Albright said "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." ;-)

2 comments:

  1. ;) We need a 'Like' button on Blogger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Honey, I thought this was absolutely beautiful, well-written, & straight from the heart. (And that was before I got to the parental quotes toward the end.) I'm sure this will be helpful to chart other moms' paths. Lovely. --ms

    ReplyDelete

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