A few of my friends have recently become pregnant with their first child and, of course, they are excited and eager for information Should they find out the sex of the baby? Will they go back to work and, if so, how does one choose the best daycare? Fortunately for them, I dealt with and agonized over these questions years ago. Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I was first pregnant…
1. Don’t Read What To Expect When You’re Expecting
There is such a thing as too much information. Sure, you’ll want to study up on the basics, but try to resist the urge to find out about every little complication that could arise during your pregnancy. I once spent an afternoon researching Listeria online after guiltily eating a ham sandwich and I still have not recovered. (The baby and I were just fine.) Rather than reading those thick books that advise you to call your doctor on almost every page, take this time to enjoy and marvel at your changing body and have a few laughs — parenting will be stressful enough.
2. Consider A Midwife
Though some women feel more comfortable in a hospital with a doctor, others prefer a more natural, personal approach to birth. A midwife is more likely to honor your birth plan and let you call many of the shots throughout labor, which can be reassuring to some. (I can’t tell you how grateful you’ll be for small pleasures, like warm compresses and hand-holding, during the notorious “ring of fire,” when the baby’s head is crowning.) And despite what you might think, midwives are not by nature against epidurals, and some of them even take insurance. They’re also there for you weeks after your birth to make sure you and baby are doing okay. What’s not to love?
3. Hire A Doula
If a midwife still seems too granola to you, consider a doula. Doulas recognize that your emotional state matters during pregnancy and childbirth, and will serve as your own personal coach before, during, and after labor. A doula will give you some tips and talk to you about your birth “wish list,” assist you during labor, and even check on you after labor to help with both physical and emotional recovery. With a doula present, you are also less likely to have an unnecessary Cesarean. Giving birth is one of the most significant moments of your life, so you deserve to have as much support as possible.
Read these 10 reasons to hire a doula.
4. Go To The Movies
Some winning things about going to the movies: You’ll get out of the house, you’ll enjoy two uninterrupted hours to yourself, and you’ll give your swollen feet a break. Trust me, enjoy this all now while you still can.
5. Buy A Swing
Registering for baby items was one of the most stressful times of my life. I wondered, could all of these items really be necessary? Well, some are and some aren’t but a swing is going to save your life. Get one with adjustable positions that plays music and your baby will stay in there for hours. That might sound negligent to you, but remember you don’t even have one kid yet. Take it from one who knows: a sleeping baby is the absolute best kind. While you’re at it, and if you can afford it, throw in a bouncy seat, an ExerSaucer, and some sort of Jumparoo.
6. Read Mom Blogs
While you should avoid all sorts of scary sites that tell you things are going wickedly, horribly wrong, mommy blogs are a good place to learn about pregnancy and parenting from the front lines. They’re funny and smart and will help you feel less isolated when your only human company is a crying, pooping, gassy baby.
7. Give Acupuncture A Shot
Not only can acupuncture help with fertility, but it is the perfect relaxing antidote to the stress and worry that comes with the realization that you are going to be solely and completely responsible for all the needs and wants of a little person. The needles don’t hurt (I promise!), and are supposed to help balance all of your chakras (aka spiritual centers) and help you move toward a deep calm. A calm and happy mom means a calm and happy baby in utero.
8. Get As Much Sleep As Possible
There is nothing more precious than sleep, so get it while you can. Babies don’t know if their rooms are painted or decorated or if their drawers are stacked with neatly with folded onesies — they can hardly see a foot in front of them. So try not to run yourself down trying to get everything done before baby arrives.
9. Do Yoga And Mild Exercise
Join a prenatal class, buy a DVD (I loved Zen Mama from Rainbeau Mars), or just read a book about some yoga stretches you can do that make you feel more comfortable as your body changes and grows. Yoga emphasizes a mind-body connection through breathing and movement, a practice that will definitely help you during all stages of labor. A walk or mild aerobic exercise will also help raise those endorphins to help make you feel less stressed.
10. Don’t Assume You’ll Go Into Labor Early
Much of what you read (and shouldn’t be reading) tells you that you’re full-term around 36 weeks. So you might start thinking that labor can occur any day. Don’t hold your breath — babies can take longer to arrive than you expect. Just assume babies are like celebrities: always fashionably late.
11. Follow Your Gut
The best thing to remind yourself in this age of parental anxiety is something a litigious-minded doctor will probably never tell you: Trust your gut and do what works for your family. (And by “what works,” I mean “what’s relatively easy.”) It’s really quite hard to break your baby. And if that doesn’t comfort you, this should — kids don’t start remembering things until around age three, so you have a few years of practice to get it right.