Two short years ago I was very pregnant with my first little girl, Gialina. I had no idea that she’d choose to over stay her welcome by one full week, then decide to come into the world with the ferocity of a thrashing great white shark, all while weighing an ounce shy of 9 lbs.
Today I’m 30 weeks pregnant with Gia’s little sister and I can’t help but feel a little bit more anxious about her arrival. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know what to expect when it comes to an unmedicated labor and delivery, but a bigger part has to do with how we will adjust to adding a new member to the family.
Don’t get me wrong, being a new mom isn’t easy – no matter how many times you do it. It’s always a challenge adjusting to no sleep, postpartum pain and numerous other things that come with the territory.
With my second baby arriving around October 4th, I know some aspects of this new mom thing will be easier. It’s not because I’m suddenly an expert after having one child. I’m still unorganized at times, drowning in laundry and tired. I’ve just got more tricks up my sleeve this time around. Most of my tricks are really just common sense that I didn’t have the first time around with Gia.
So expectant mamas and new mamas alike – don’t wait for your second or third baby to read this. If I could send a letter back in time here are a few things I would tell myself before having kids:
You will never be fully prepared for what it’s like to be a parent. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many friends/family you have with children, how much you’ve nested, or how long you’ve actually waited to become a parent. No amount of preparation will truly prepare you for children. You will learn so much about yourself and your spouse the moment that little life comes into this world. You will have a lot that you will continue to learn, so consider this the most educational experience of your life.
Appreciate your pre-baby body for all that it has done for you. You will never realize how amazing and beautiful your body is until you’ve given birth. Before having a child I spent too many days worrying about that one dessert, worrying about how my jeans looked and all of the workouts that I just had to complete. As hard as it will be to see your body change through pregnancy, it is equally as amazing. Once Gia arrived I realized there was so much more to life than a bikini body. I can still want to look and feel good, but in a healthier way. I would never want my daughters to be so critical and self-depricating, the way I once was about myself.
It’s okay to ask for help. You think you know how to do it all, but you don’t. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “this too shall pass.” You’re going to make mistakes, but how you come back from them is what matters most. You don’t need to be superhuman.
Tell everyone around you how much you love and appreciate them. They’ll never tire of hearing it, so tell them every chance you get. After giving birth you will appreciate your mother in a way that you never could before becoming a mother yourself. Tell your spouse how much you love them, because they will be your rock while you recover from labor and delivery.
Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out the routine changes. I felt like this was most relevant for me during the newborn phase. Just when I thought we were doing X amount of naps per day, it changed to Y amount. Babies and toddlers change and grow so quickly that you can’t expect these phases to last long. So be prepared, once you fee like you’ve mastered something it’s about to change in a hurry!
If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better after the initial latch, unlatch and try again. I did not consider myself successful at breast-feeding. In fact, I felt so shamed by the lactation consultants when I sought help. I remember after my first night in the hospital with Gia that I felt so lucky that she latched well. The problem was that she looked like she had a perfect latch (according to the nurses), but I still had issues. I gave breast-feeding my best shot for about a month or so. It was one of the most stressful things I’ve been through in adjusting to life as a new mother. I don’t say these things to scare new moms, but I say it in hopes of people taking initiative to educate themselves. Go take a breast-feeding class offered by your hospital. I did this and found it very helpful and I’m even signed up for the same class before baby #2 arrives. I developed a very, very severe case of mastitis while breast-feeding with Gia. It was so shocking to me that the signs and symptoms of mastitis were never mentioned to me during my first breast-feeding class. If your breast feels hot to the touch, has red splotches, or you have a high fever, it’s likely you are suffering from mastitis. This was what took me out of the breast-feeding game. TMI but, I had nipples that were cracked like the Grand Canyon, blood blisters, the whole nine yards. I mention all of this because there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stop nursing. At the end of the day fed is best and when our kids hit kindergarten no one will know who had formula and who had breast milk. You need to be the best mom you can be and sometimes that means knowing when to stop something.
Make sure the ruffles on the diaper aren’t tucked in. This might seem really stupid and basic, but it’s very helpful if your child is having diapers that explode often. Another good thing to try if you feel like you’re changing diapers and outfits on the regular is go up a diaper size. I didn’t really have to worry about this too much, but did have to remind relatives that ruffles go out!
Swaddle, sway, swing, shush! If you’re baby is having a hard time sleeping (day or night) you need to swaddle your baby. It makes them feel safe and secure, just like when they were in your tummy. Swaying and swinging motions help many babies fall asleep once they’re swaddled because that motion feels the same as the motion they felt while growing inside of you. Think about it – you didn’t sit your entire pregnancy. When you moved, your baby moved. It’s comforting! The shush noise was also something they heard in the womb. You have blood flowing and tons of other bodily fluids that are moving throughout your entire body that create a shush sound that makes baby feel at home because it’s all they hear all the time. (I just mention these tips because I remember they worked for me. All babies are different and just because I say it worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for you and your baby.) I read a book called “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” prior to Gia’s arrival that really dives into these tips.
Just say NO! Now that I’m a mom of an almost two-year old I’m used to saying that little two-letter word. People are going to want to come visit you and the baby right after birth. People are going to tell you that you need to be feeding them solids by a certain age and that they should have rice cereal in their bottle. People are going to tell you that you don’t need to be so routine oriented about their sleep schedule. You know what you say to all those people? NO. Just because certain things worked for them doesn’t mean you should do it too. Anything being said to you that’s annoying, opinionated and unsolicited – just go ahead and say no. It’s your baby, not theirs.
The bottom line here is listen to your gut. Becoming a new mom for the first, second or third time is a lot. Like I’ve said many times before, we’re all just winging it and doing what works best for us. I’m glad I’ve put this all on my blog because it serves as something I can come back to so I can remind myself of these things. Lord knows that two months from now I’m gonna forget all about everything I learned the first time around with Gia. Here’s to hoping I re-read this post during all of the middle of the night feeding sessions that I’ll soon be experiencing. Don’t be hard on yourself, trust the process and trust yourself! You’ve got this!