Of Long Labors and Crinkly Whales

Recently, I was asked to offer some words of encouragement and advice to a friend expecting her first child. My first piece of advice? Pay no attention to even the most well-intentioned pieces of advice. With that said, here are a few things I’ve learned on my 3 trips to baby town.

 

  1. Doctors don’t want to scare you, so they don’t tell you exactly how long labor will last. But I will. Labor will last a long time. A few days. Yes, days. I know only two women whose first labors lasted less than 24-hours. Two. (I’m not counting scheduled C-sections.) And when you’re 40 weeks pregnant, anxious to meet your little one, in pain, and don’t know what to expect the whole process will seem excruciatingly long, miserable, and sometimes a bit out-of-control, no matter how well you plan. But you will be okay. You will.

 

  1. Get one of these.
rockn

Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

 

  1. People with children who are teenagers or older will tell you to enjoy every minute, that it all goes by so fast. Those people are wrong. You won’t enjoy/savor/cherish every minute. In fact, I think it is far more likely that you’ll find a lot about caring for an infant to be tedious, repetitive, messy, exhausting and not-so-fun. BUT, it gets better, and there are lovely, quiet, rewarding, amazing moments.

 

  1. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing everything wrong. You aren’t.

 

  1. Forget what the books and registry guides say. Children don’t need much: love, warmth, a food source, and when they get a little older, a toy that makes a crinkly crunchy sound. You have enough and you are enough. Get this whale for the crinkly toy part.
Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

  1. Don’t feel bad about asking for what you need. If someone asks what they can do to help, tell them to bring food and hold the baby for an hour while you shower and nap. Never underestimate the restorative power of a shower and a nap. (In the reverse, if someone is over-staying their welcome, don’t feel bad about asking them to leave.)

 

  1. Bring your own pillow to the hospital. The bed is uncomfortable enough. Don’t add to your misery by sleeping on a pillow encased in rubber.

 

You got this, Mama.

What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting…

A friend of mine just recently wrote a thoughtful and honest overview of what life after birth was for her.  (In the interest, at least for the time being, in keeping this blog anonymous I won’t link to it).  But trust me, I was there.  She had a rough few weeks.

And I chuckled when I read about her sitting alone at night with her breast pump and swearing it was talking to her.  I had the same experience, except my pump actually repeated the name of my boss over and over, like this, “Chad Sock! Chad Sock! Chad Sock!”  (No, that’s not his real name either.)  It freaked me out.  And made me wonder about my subconscious desires.

Overall, I think I handled the transition to mommydom pretty well.  I like to be informed – I read the books, I asked friends for good 1st time mom advice, I put together a nursery (though, I wasn’t a maniac about this), I took the childbirth class and prenatal yoga (which is a story for another day) and I did all the mommy prep I thought I could. I knew that I could do it – both the birth part, and the mom part, though I didn’t know what either one would be like.

But what was the best preparation?  Not setting myself up for failure.

I didn’t have too many expectations.  I tried not to put pressure on myself.  And I recognized that I would only have a modicum of control over most of my life for the next few months (okay, years, who am I kidding!).  I focused on being flexible.  I didn’t harbor any fantasies of sweet-smelling, quiet babies, napping while I baked.  I tried not to harbor any fantasies at all.  I promised myself that it was okay to learn as you go, to be frustrated, to be sad, to be tired, to BE.  I knew I’d love my new arrival without expectations, and just for being  himself/herself, so I tried to give myself the same care and courtesy.  All I knew was that childbirth would be hard, and the days and months after childbirth would be harder. And I was right.

It was hard.  It was really really hard.  My brother-in-law had it right when he said, “Everyone says it will be hard, but no one tells you exactly what ‘hard’ means.”  It is hard in an entirely new way.  Your life is completely changed. I remember thinking, “Three days ago, I could do what I want.  Today, I cannot do what I want, I cannot pee when I want, I cannot sleep when I want, I cannot go when/where I want, I cannot eat when I want.”  It isn’t all bad, but goodness, it IS a shock to the system in every way.

I wish I could find the blog entry I read recently that defined parenthood like this:

EVERYTHING IS DIFFICULT AND AWESOME.

And that is exactly right.  That is exactly what I have found parenthood to be.

So.  My advice to new moms?  Enough with the expectations.  Cut yourself some slack.  Take it day-by-day.  Ask for help (I was bad about this and I vow to change this time around).  Know your limits.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Acknowledge contradictory feelings (you can love a little baby with all your heart, and still feel a little resentful about how much your life has changed and how sore and tired you are – that doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human).  Don’t stress if you don’t fall in love with your newborn right away – you’ll feel awed, responsible, etc. but how often do people fall in love at first sight?  This person is completely new to you!  Don’t worry about doing it all right – there’s no such thing as perfection, and if there was, it’d be boring and impossible to maintain.

Welcome to the greatest adventure of all!

Footnote: As discussed in this blog entry, Mommyhood is really hard.  But for those mommies with PPD it can also be terrifying, excruciating, and life-changing in a really bad way.  If you think you or your loved one may be suffering from PPD, do know that you’re not alone and take steps to reach out, get help, and heal!  ❤