This is certainly an aberration from my normal blog fare, but as my son approaches his second year of life (that went fast!) and as I was reminiscing this morning in the shower (my only private place for a contemplative moment), I thought, goddamn, a lot happens from conception, pregnancy, birth, adjusting to a newborn, becoming a full-on mother, and the myriad of milestones your little one hits as he makes his way to toddlertown. The growth never stops. They literally metamorphasize before your very eyes all the time. There are always new triumphs and challenges. That lil’ fledgling life is coming into his own day by day as you try to stay ahead of the parenting learning curve. Let’s be honest, you don’t always know what you are doing; some days are damn hard; gone are the days of free time and putting your needs first; and lost are the nights of eight hours of delicious, uninterrupted sleep. When it comes to parenting, you simply have no choice but to jump in the saddle, take the reigns and navigate the landscape as best you can. Some days you rock it. Other days, not so much. You make mistakes. You lose your cool. You feel awful that you aren’t a perfect parent. But the love you have for your lil’ p’nut is genuine, beautiful and fiercely stronger than any felt before and that’s what’s most important.
I remember feeling quite alone during my pregnancy in the states. I didn’t have a male partner going through the process with me. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time to afford a full-time midwife or doula. I often navigated things on my own using books, the internet, a handful of wise women in my life, and my gut. To be fair, I had heaps of help and support in terms of being gifted just about every baby accessory under the sun; I had a few excellent mommy friends who I turned to with inquiries; and my mother, who has always been my rock, was very present for the birth and early months and is, to this day, a very hands-on granny. But still, there were things I wished I’d known or maybe even things I did know because some kind woman passed along the information. So, in an effort to pay it forward, here are my 10 tips for first time mums who are scared shitless for what they’ve gotten themselves into. Don’t fret ladies. I promise. You’ve got this!
- Capture creatively. Pregnancy is such an incredible experience and while there are aspects of it that seem unbearable and unending, it does in fact end, and quite quickly at that, and then it is gone forever (unless you go back for seconds and thirds) so capture it while you are in it. It’s a sacred time when your senses are heightened and your emotional, mental (0kay, maybe not so much mental..hello, pregnancy brain) and spiritual aspects are expanded. You are in the process of making a little being! Pregnancy is truly an incredible journey and time in your life and I highly recommend you capture it before it’s over and you forget the particulars. Whether you start a pregnancy journal or a baby book or write letters to your unborn child, let that pen flow! Paint, do a photo series, make henna art on your baby bump, cast a plaster mold. Whatever inspires you to creatively capture and celebrate your pregnancy!
- Birth plan. By all means, plan your birth. Do you want a home birth, water birth, birthing center, or hospital? Who will be in attendance (partner, midwife, doula, videographer)? What elements would you like present (music, candles, Tibetan chanting)? Do you want to deliver naturally or with pain management? Once you’ve completed your birth plan, take it outside, preferably under the light of a full moon, and torch it. Yep, light that bad boy on fire. 99% of the time, a woman’s birth does not go exactly as planned. Rather than suffer the emotional and spiritual disappointment of this, accept that births are going to be what they are going to be despite your preferences. Set your intentions, certainly. But do yourself a favor and surrender to what will be, go with the flow, and be okay with that.
- Read less. If you are in the west, it won’t take long for you to notice the glut of information there is about pregnancy, birth, newborns, parenting, et al. It’s truly overwhelming. Sometimes too much information is a problem. It distracts us, confuses us, and can downright frighten us. Pick a few essential reading materials and leave the rest in your rearview. Don’t miss out on the present moment now by spending too much of your waking hours sifting through reading materials about what’s to come.
- Stool softeners. The moment has arrived! You are in labour. Within a matter of hours you are going to be face-to-face with the greatest love of your life! Ladies, this is a big one. As you pass through the phases of labour and immediately after giving birth, make sure you are staying hydrated and taking some serious stool softeners. Don’t go easy on ’em either. That first postpartum shit is a killer. I mean straight torture. I’d venture to say it’s even worse than birth itself. Not kidding. Stool softeners. They are your friends.
- Active pregnancy. Even if it’s only walking and swimming, I highly recommend you stay active in pregnancy and commit to some form of daily exercise. Let’s be real, you are going to eat what you want, over-indulge at times, and gain weight no matter what. The best thing you can do is try to stay somewhat fit so you bounce back faster once your baby is born. This is where I went terribly wrong. I gained 40 lbs during my pregnancy because I ate whatever the hell I wanted (viva Mexicana!) and didn’t exercise as much as I should have (in my defense, it was the worst winter in decades, deemed “snowmageddon”). For me, that meant working even harder postpartum to get my body back and I’m still not there just yet. Muscle memory is important. So is regaining the core you are about to lose completely.
- Movies. Go to the movies! Go with your partner, your friends, your family members, yourself. Go often! Because when your bug is born, you are not going to see the inside of a movie theater for a very long time.
- Sweet wonderful sleep. Nap, sleep in, relax, pamper, kick back, repeat. Everyone said it, but I didn’t fully believe it. Once that bean sprout is born, you will not have another uninterrupted night of sleep for a very, very long time. I’m talking years. Get it while you can. Now!
- Less is more. Bumpo, Boppy, Ergo, Pack ‘n Play, Diaper Genie, Moby, et al. I didn’t know what half these things were when I became pregnant! Baby making is BIG business especially in the west and I’m here to tell ya, you don’t need all that plastic shit! Save your hard earned cash and opt for quality over quantity. If you buy all the latest trending baby accessories before your know your child’s needs and likes, you run the risk of A) not using the item B) only using the item a few times C) wasting your hard earned dollars and D) cluttering your living space. You will need to drop some cash on a few high quality items you are absolutely going to need and use: a quality car seat (I think Britax are the bomb); a carrier if you intend on wearing your baby (ErgoBaby is top shelf); a stroller (my UPPAbaby is everything…light-weight travel stroller, grocery cart, beach hammock, crib on the go); a quality breast pump if you intend on breastfeeding and need to be away from baby for so many hours a day (Medela is #1); a quality crib, cot, or bassinet. Even if you intend on cosleeping, you’ll want a safe place for baby to nap while you grab a shower, have a cup of coffee, or try to get complete a task; and lastly, cloth diapers if you intend on going the reusable route (I swear by Thirsties even though I used a lot of disposables, too). As for the rest of your baby gear, consider buying used from thrift or consignment shops or getting hand-me-downs from friends and family. Even children’s clothing can cost a small fortune if you buy everything brand new. They outgrow it so fast, what’s the point? When it comes to babies, less is more. I guarantee you do not need as many items as they say you do. Women all over the world have children every day. Many do just fine with very little.
- Forget maternity clothes. Okay, you may want to invest in a good pair of maternity jeans and a cute outfit or two to showcase your baby bump, but forget buying an entire maternity wardrobe. Unless you live in a major city, you may not have access to maternity shops, forcing you to shop exclusively online. And maternity sections in most major department stores are apparently a thing of the past or they are small and frumpy. Instead, I suggest you buy yourself a belly band and button extender and just wear your normal clothes.
- Relish the moments. Having your first child is truly remarkable. The love you have for this little being is otherworldly. It is above and beyond all the love you’ve felt in your life until now and your heart will grow an entirely new chamber as a result. There are so many moments of sweetness, of joy, of pure love where you find yourself beaming and maybe even weeping at the magnitude of it all. Relish these moments. I was on cloud nine for the days following my son’s birth. To be honest, it was more like a heightened, fourth-dimensional, super cloud nine! It was amazing yet fleeting and I’m glad I relished in it fully. Not all moments are joyous of course. Raising little ones is fucking hard and there are times you will be so sleep deprived, stressed out, overextended, and frustrated that you will want to pull your hair out. The great news is – regardless of the difficulties and challenges – the delicious, joyous, moments of saturated love never stop. They are your lifelong gift.
- Laugh. Baby rearing is not all dirty nappies, drool, spit up, teething, feedings and laundry loads. What they don’t tell you is that your child will bring out the child in you and together you will laugh and play and giggle like never before and it will be an absolute riot. I’m pretty certain my son has brought a smile to my face and a laugh to my belly every single day since he arrived. Raising children is incredibly FUN and you can look forward to years of discovery, adventure, exploration and creativity with your lil’ caterpillar.
- Always trust your “mom-tuition”. Full stop.