Tips for new moms: A girlfriend’s guide to birth and the 4th trimester (part 1 of 2)
Congratulations on your pregnancy! What a wonderful time it is.
I love being a mom. I loved becoming a mom. I was one of those ladies that absolutely adored being pregnant. From my perspective, it’s such a special time with your baby… before you have to share him with the rest of the world.
Being pregnant, giving birth, and having a newborn is a big deal. Here is some of what I learned in the process:
1. Get educated about giving birth.
Explore your options for giving birth, listen to birth stories, ask moms what they’ve learned (things that helped and things they regret) and ask your doctor or midwife lots of questions. The more you know about birth, the less room there will be for fear. An educated woman is an empowered woman, and birth is no exception.
2. Research parenting philosophies, but remember that you’re the expert.
You will probably naturally be drawn to one end of the spectrum more than the other when it comes to things like sleep training vs. co-sleeping, feeding schedules vs feed-on-demand. But take a look at both camps and then make your own decisions. What works for one family will not be right for the next. Don’t be afraid to do what you feel is “right” and don’t waste time defending your decisions to those who oppose. For every opinion there is an opposite! Remember that there are no rules when it comes to caring for your child in areas like feeding and sleep. Once you decide then be consistent. Children, even babies, learn quickly what to expect and it’s hard on them if you’re all over the place. In saying that, if you’ve been trying something for a while that’s not working, change your approach and find what does.
3. Don’t be presumptuous and don’t judge.
Do yourself a favor and try to not be too presumptuous or too judgmental of what you see other parents doing. You will be surprised in a few months time when you find yourself changing your stance or approach on different things. Remember that parenting is not easy and all you can do is your best. It will change as you learn and grow in the midst of it. Appreciate other parents for their strengths and try to learn from what they do that works, rather than judge them for what you see that you don’t like.
4. Realize that you have expectations that you may not be aware of.
We all have expectations… but some of them lurk under the surface and only appear in our conscious minds when they are not met. This is fine, in fact normal, but just knowing that you’ve probably got some expectations that you can’t articulate will help when you’re faced with the ones that aren’t met. (Knowing is the first step toward processing.)
5. Have a friend rally friends to prepare you dinners post-partum.
Not doing this is a regret of mine. Especially since I had an unplanned c-section, having this kind of support would have been so good for us. Since my husband is a rockstar, he did all the cooking and taking care of the house… but he was exhausted too. In hindsight I wish we had organized some outside help from friends to give both my husband and I some extra support. (And don’t think you’ll be up for asking when the baby comes – do it in advance.)
6. Have your husband ask for extra leave in the event you end up in surgery.
This is another thing that I wish someone had suggested to me in advance. I had planned on having a natural water birth, and then while in labor had to be transferred to surgery for a c-section. I ended up staying in the hospital for five days (husbands aren’t allowed to stay overnight here) and so by the time I was released we only had a week together as a family at home. I wish my husband would have asked in advance for an extra week paternity leave in the event of an unplanned c-section. Not only would the family bonding time have been really wonderful (especially as first-time-parents), but I really could have used the extra help and support physically and emotionally as I recovered from the surgery.
7. Have a plan for your birth and communicate your desires.
Think through your goals and priorities and discuss them with your husband/partner and your medical providers. Don’t assume that in the thick of labor they will be able to read your mind (and don’t assume you’ll be able to communicate clearly then either). Include contingencies. (For example, I wish I had stated that in the event of a c-section, I still wanted to hold my son for a few minutes before they took him off to be weighed and checked. I didn’t get to hold him until about an hour after he was delivered, and medically there was no reason for this.)
8. Be nice.
Yes, your D-Day is about you and your baby, but don’t forget that you’re not in this alone. Make it a goal to be nice to your husband. Just supporting you is exhausting and emotional, and don’t downplay his role. Appreciate him. Appreciate your support people. Appreciate your doctor, midwife, and the nurses that take care of you. Birth is monumental for everyone, and a little kindness and gratitude will go a long way.
9. Write your birth story as soon as possible.
Even if it’s unpolished and doesn’t sound pretty, write your birth story as soon as you possibly can. Write the details that you think you’ll never forget… because most likely you will. You can always edit your story later on, but just having some of the play-by-play written out will make it far easier when you do want to make it sound “pretty”.
10. Help your body heal.
Remember that although giving birth is totally natural and wonderful, it is also a massive strain on your entire being. Be patient, rest when you can, and nurture your body with lots of water and healthy food. Oh, and keep taking your prenatal vitamins, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
11. Let people take care of you, and if they don’t, ask them to.
No matter if you have an “easy” or a difficult labor and delivery, giving birth is hard work and your body has gone through so much. Take the time you need to recover, and get as much help as you can. You have years to prove yourself as supermom… now is not the time.
Read part two here.
from one new mama to another,