Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Letter to Myself: Things I Wish I Knew The First Time I Was Pregnant

Now that the due date for baby #2 is getting closer, I've been thinking a lot about how much I've learned in the past 17 months as a parent. Now, these are bits of advice for me from me that I hope will help me get through the next 12 weeks and the months thereafter as I become a mother of two. Every person is different and every mama's and family's needs are different, so what I've learned and hope to remember may not be applicable to someone else's pregnancies/family/kids/etc.

1. Who helps you birth is more important than where you do it.

When I was pregnant with Thora, I was so hellbent on having a home birth that I compromised and settled for a midwife I wasn't in love with when the one I really wanted was on vacation. We clashed more and more as the date got closer and by the time I had had enough, I was full-term and it was too late to make any major changes. Then little things added up quickly to make my labor and birth experience incredibly difficult and its outcome totally out of my hands. I felt so unsupported. And my midwife left before my baby was even born, leaving us in the care of whoever happened to be on shift. This time I have the midwife I wanted the first time. I trust her and we've talked about the various options in case a home birth doesn't work out and I know that no matter where I am or what happens, she'll be there to help.

2. Don't rush through those last weeks. Labor will come.

I kept hearing "the baby is easier on the inside than on the outside" but even that didn't slow me down. While I'm not really sure that's true when you're that excited about being a mom (not to mention as big as a hippo), I really should have just taken it easy and let her come when she was ready instead of when my midwife said she was. Again, a less than stellar situation with a midwife who said "she's big enough now (at 38 weeks) and anyway, your due date falls during public school vacation and I was hoping to go away with my daughter so it sure would be great if she came early. Why don't you start doing acupuncture to start moving things along?" Can you believe I believed her? This time I am going to take it easy and not count days no matter what anyone says or how "done" I feel, and she's going to come when she comes. We'll be ready!

3. Don't try to control the birth - it's totally out of your hands.

Again, I was so hellbent on having a home birth that I put my trust in someone I should not have. Hindsight has me convinced that my subsequent c-section was absolutely unnecessary and totally avoidable but when nothing goes according to plan and you don't have a plan B, then you really are at the mercy of those around you (and in my case those were a lot of medical people who sounded very stressed and rushed and who made a lot of decisions for me). I was not prepared for things to go the way they did so I was utterly powerless and unable to make my own decisions. Now I know that it's nice to have an informed idea of what you want, but that you should also be aware of all the possibilities so you're prepared for change. While we are hoping for a home birth again this time, I am much more informed about what will and won't rule me out and I am prepared for anything, even another c-section.

4. Nursing hurts at first.

I've read over and over "if it hurts, you're doing it wrong." That's BS. It hurt me at first and I was doing it right. But it gets easier. Thora was a nursing natural. In the hospital I kept hearing "she nurses like a second or third baby!" but then when I got her home my confidence faltered and I had to learn all over again. I remember the day my milk came in. I was in so much pain! At one point I looked down and saw blood all over my baby's face. I think many moms give up at that point. But it gets better! A day later the engorgement was gone and I was healing and Thora was nursing fine. This time I have to be prepared to tandem nurse so I have to remember that it did hurt at first and it will likely hurt again, and hurt more since there will be two with different needs from nursing and different mouths, different latches, etc.

5. Don't overbook, and plan to be late.

From the second we got home from the hospital, I insisted that we leave the house with the baby every day. Even a short walk to the corner counted. We invented reasons for family outings in mid-February: the coffee shop a half mile away, a desperate need for a bottle of shampoo, fresh flowers from the florist by the Q train a mile away, bagels from Park Slope. This was and still is a great practice for us. We are used to tooling around the city with a kid in tow and she doesn't bitch and moan (at least not too often) about being stuck in the stroller. Still and all, I think for a long time I was in denial about how much I could accomplish and I tried to keep my same crazy busy schedule. The fact is, with a kid I move more slowly and I just can't do as much stuff as I could before. She's a great kid but I can't subject her to restaurants, to endless errands, to subway and bus rides without stopping at playgrounds, without letting her walk (which means we stop and examine every leaf, every fence, every bus or dog that passes) or without needing to feed her, nurse her, give her a nap, change her, whatever. Once perfectly punctual, I now operate on toddler time. I am usually a little late and if a nap or a meal or a poop-splosion upsets my plans, that's usually the end of my plans. I need to be aware that having two will slow us down even more. We did just buy a car, which should make travel outside the city more manageable, and a tandem stroller to make travel within the city not entirely impossible, but still I have to remember to pace myself and not take on too much. Sometimes the superwoman in me resurfaces and I can do a million things at once, but other days even a trip to the grocery store is more than I can handle. 

6. Each kid develops at his or her own pace.

This kind of competition is silly. At first I kept asking "When did your kid do this?" and "When did your kid do that?" I couldn't wait for her to sit up, to crawl, to say mama. In Gymboree classes I worried when one kid could clap and mine couldn't. I worried when other kids had teeth and mine didn't. But she caught up and sped ahead of most other kids. She walked early, she talked early. She has all of her teeth except the last four molars. She eventually learned to sleep in her own bed and rarely wakes up at night. Our newest triumph is that we can now put her down for naps (as opposed to her sleeping on one of us), which most babies have been doing since birth! So now when other moms look at her wistfully and say their kid doesn't walk or talk as well as she does, I remember feeling that same wistful feeling about why my kid didn't do this or that, and I tell them "Every kid does things at his or her own pace. He'll get there!" Because truthfully, my life might have been easier if she'd taken a little longer to get around to some of this stuff, and when she's 25 who's going to care that she nursed longer than this one or ate more vegetables than that one or said mama later than the other one? It all evens out. If there's one thing I would like to tell my future mama-of-two-girls self more than anything, it's this. I don't want to compare them! They will be different, and I want them to grow into their own people at their own paces.

7. Keep an open mind as you become the parent you want to be.

At first I only bought a certain kind of pregnancy/parenting book and while I still gravitate towards that same school of thought, reading other articles and books have helped me either consider other options or strengthen my opinions. Also I asked and still ask a zillion questions. I belong to three parenting email lists, each with different angles, and I learn from each. Also - and perhaps most importantly - my friends with children older than me have been instrumental in helping me figure out things: from how to conceive quickly to how to wear Thora in a sling, from how to teach her to go down steps to what kind of toothpaste she's most likely to let me shove in her mouth and many other things in between. I learned that for every parent out there, there's a different way to parent and mostly all of them have their merits, but that I can and should trust my gut about what seems like the right thing to do for our family and our kid. So yes, while I am very pro-breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, and so on, when Thora started keeping me awake all night nursing at 9 months, she had to learn to sleep on her own because I couldn't function at work on even less sleep than I was getting before. When she started soaking through her cloth diapers at night and no number of inserts were helping, we started using disposables at night.The granola police didn't come in either case. On the other hand, we were simply unable and unwilling to sleep train, so I got up two and three times a night far longer than other working moms I know could stand it. Everyone finds what works for them. Having a second baby will be easier than the first in some ways and harder in others. I hope that I continue to learn in the same ways I have been and that I am able to be the same confident, evolving, open-minded (and patient, I like to think) mama that I am, even with two.

I guess only time will tell! And we're in the third trimester now... tick tock, tick tock!  After a period of super-crankiness, I am once again enjoying being pregnant (for the most part) and I enjoy it especially when I remember that I will never ever be pregnant again after this one is born.

In the meantime, Thora is growing and learning and becoming her own person. Look at her go! She's confident in the park, she looks forward to watering and visiting her flowers every day, and she is making friends. This week she had her first swim lesson and last week, her first music lesson. Every day we ask her to say hi to her baby sister and she walks right over to kiss my belly. She is such a delight!

1 comment:

  1. Loved this, all of it! "Granola police" cracked me up :-)


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