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Stars are not just like us
Was there a celebrity who had a baby around the same time as you? Unless you enjoy torturing yourself, dont read about this super-duper famous persons first few weeks as a mom if you happen to see her on the cover of a magazine, gazing into the eyes of her newborn. I can already tell you what shes going to say: Ive never been happier. Ive never been more in love. I cant wait to pose for this same magazine two weeks from now in my bikini.
In the real world, the first month or two can be tough. Please cut yourself some slack. And, if you can, lay off the magazines and stick to watching reality television shows about people with filthy, disorganized homes who save used kitty litter for just in case.
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Breastfeeding isn't magic
It looked ridiculously easy to me before I tried it. Take a crying baby. Slip her inside of your shirt. When she reappears, she will be content, quiet, sleeping. Except, in my first weeks nursing, it wasnt easy for me. It hurt like a you-know-what, and my baby cried when we were done.
My suggestion? If youre having trouble breastfeeding, consult with a lactation consultant or find a local breastfeeding support group as soon as possible. And if youre worried about the cost of the visit, as someone who has both breastfed and used formula, I can tell you that whatever the appointment costs (and this could include flying in someone who calls herself the Breast Whisperer from France), its cheaper than a year of formula. (Though if you do end up using formula, please dont beat yourself up about it. Save that for if you ever feed your baby Diet Coke.)
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Sleep deprivation's a big deal
A few months ago, there was an article in TIME Magazine about sleep deprivation. Long story short, it makes you bad at gambling. So, if you planned any trips to Vegas a month after giving birth, consider yourself warned. What else does it do? Among many things, it may impair your judgment and memory, cause confusion, and increase or decrease your appetite. It might make you a wee bit irritable. When our oldest son was a couple of months old, my husband asked me if I had picked up some dry-cleaning he needed. In retrospect, I may have overdone it when I reacted as if he had confessed to cheating on me with a Kardashian sister.
Heres the bad news: I dont know what you can do about it. I find the advice, Sleep when the baby sleeps useless. At the very least, use your exhaustion as an excuse for whatever you need for as long as you want. I know I still do. (If you find any typos, grammatical errors or just plain dont like this piece, blame it on my five-month-old who still wakes up at night.)
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The five S's work
I read a lot of baby books by doctors in my first year as a mom. Weissbluth. Ferber. Spock. Sears. I thought the advice in Dr. Harvey Karps The Happiest Baby on the Block was the most useful. In a nutshell, here is his advice for triggering an infants calming reflex: swaddle, swing, side/stomach position, shush and suck. Too busy for the book? Theres a DVD. Too busy for the DVD? Well, then youre out of luck. (Kidding. Heres his website: The Happiest Baby
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Ask for help
Approximately thirteen percent of women suffer from postpartum depression. I, personally, found myself incredibly anxious in my first weeks as a new mom. If you feel depressed, overanxious, overwhelmed or are worried that you may have trouble taking care of yourself and your baby, please call your doctor or reach out to a loved one right away.
And, if you think a friend or a family member may be struggling with depression or anxiety, offer help immediately. Be specific. Dont ask, Is there anything I can do? No one ever takes anyone up on, Is there anything I can do? Instead, every time someone you care about has a baby, reach out to her. Insist on bringing over dinner (in disposable containers; save the Earth another day), offer to watch her baby in her home while she takes a nap, or drop off a bag filled with Overnight Maxi-Pads. Is there any woman alive who predicted how long she would need those after giving birth?
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It keeps getting better
My mom tells me that the two happiest times of her life were returning home from the hospital with me and, later, with my sister. Her diplomacy will serve her well should she ever decide to run for public office. Of course, I wanted to feel like she did. But, I didnt. I have three children. I love them. Wait, that doesnt sound adequate. I loooooooove them. Its just that for each of their first few weeks home, I was in survival mode. How much so? Lets just say that Im glad there werent any real milestones before four weeks or I might have missed them in my sleep-deprived state. (I dont count the shriveling up of the umbilical cord as a milestone.)
However, every day with each of my children just gets better and better. Theres the first smile. And the first laugh the kind that sounds like someone just backed a car over a squeaky-toy. Theres the way toddlers butcher singing their ABCs. Theres the first eating of spaghetti. I could devote an entire photo album to my kids with their bright orange, covered-in-sauce faces. And then, theres the first time you hear the word, Mama. In my house, its always after Dada as well as ball, mine, and duck but its always been worth the wait.
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