Out of nowhere, we’re coming up on my son’s second birthday. I’ve learned a lot over these past two years of motherhood and I think I’ve done a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. I mean, he’s still breathing, right?
When other mothers found out I was pregnant, many took it as an invitation to begin with, “Well, let me tell you how bad I had it.” Not only were they not helpful stories, they usually would have me convinced that the Jaws of Life were going to be needed to get my baby out of me. Many people were sweet and wonderful, but we never remember those stories, do we?
So, in looking back on my two years of experience, there are some things I would like to go back and tell my pregnant self.
1. If you share any decision you have made with others, they will openly critique it – to your face. Nothing is off limits. Probably the most polarizing discussion was over names. When discussing this with someone one day, she was totally thrilled over our boy name. When I told her our girl name, though, she looked like she was witnessing a horrific car crash, pursed her lips and said, “Oh, that’s nice.” Gee, thanks. I quickly learned that you don’t have to share every detail of your pregnancy and birth plan just because someone asks. Be vague, avoid the question or develop a thick skin and block out all of the negativity.
2. The average labor is not horrible. Yes, it’s painful and at times scary, but think about what the result will be. I had nightmares about what labor was going to be like because of what people told me. Don’t let it scare you. You get through it because what other choice do you have? And when it’s done, you will have the most perfect, beautiful miracle looking up at you. Kind of worth it, no?
3. Your baby will not spontaneously combust if you do not get him or her on a set schedule right away. I flew by the seat of my pants the first few months of his life and I didn’t even see a hint of smoke. If he cried, I tried to feed him, regardless of how long it had been since his last feeding. If he fell asleep in his swing, that’s where he stayed. Likewise if I was holding him. Schedules and routines are wonderful and beneficial in so many ways, but they cannot rule your life. Then no one has fun – and shouldn’t motherhood be fun?
4. It’s OK to admit that you need a break. I went through my pregnancy picturing myself morphing into Super Mom when he was born. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Dishes don’t get washed right away, laundry piles up and I still operate by the policy of “sleep when the baby sleeps.” So what? Cut yourself some slack. Also, still allow time for yourself. You are a mother, and that is supremely important, but you are also still an individual. Schedule time for yourself. Prevent burn out and everyone will be much happier!
5. Don’t let anyone make you feel like a bad mother because you do something differently than they do. We all make decisions with the best interest of our child at heart. If you ask 10 parents how they put their children to bed at night, you will get 10 different answers. You will always know what’s best for your child – they implant a chip in you for that when they hand you your child. Sometimes we’re too scared to hear it, but you will always know.
6. Don’t wish phases and stages away. I did this all the time and I’m kicking myself for not embracing each moment for what it was. Waking up four times a night was brutal, but holding him in my arms when the whole house was quiet was beautiful. And now it’s over. While you’re going through tough phases, they seem never-ending. But now, looking back, I always think about how that wasn’t so bad. Dare I say, I even miss the rough spots. I signed up for taking care of this perfect person and it seems he needs me less and less every day. Don’t wish it away!
Without a doubt, motherhood has been the biggest blessing of my life. It has been challenging and rewarding and so much fun. And if I were able to go back and talk to my pregnant self, I would mostly want to just hug her and tell her she does a good job. I hope you all do the same.