Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mother Mentor: Things I Wish I Would've Known Before Having a Baby

I'm on the search for "Mothering Mentors," so I was giddy with excitement when one of my internet friends e-mailed me with this advice:
I wanted to send a quick list of some of the things about motherhood that I wish I would have known beforehand. Hope it's useful on your journey.
  1. Postpartum depression is real and even if there's no history in your family and even if you had a perfect pregnancy, it is real and not to be ignored. I didn't seek help for mine until my daughter was 6 1/2 months old because I was so stuck on being organic. I was in denial big time. So, if you feel out of it for longer than the first few weeks, see somebody. So many of my girlfriends admitted they had it too after I admitted I did. Crazy!
  2. As a planner myself, I think it's important to focus on what matters. For me and my partner, it wasn't having the perfect nursery or all the clothes washed, or even having all the stuff society says you need. We focused on finding a rhythm with our daughter, getting her on a sleep/feed schedule and sticking to it even when everyone said we were being too rigid. All I know is that our girl was sleeping through the night at 12 weeks and has been doing so ever since. That is a lifesaver especially if you plan on returning to work as I did.
  3. Breastfeeding or not does not make you a good mom or bad mom. I was so hell bent on being natural (I had a midwife, I had an all natural labor, etc.) I didn't even consider bottles while pregnant. I just knew I was going to breastfeed for a year. Period. It didn't work out that way for a lot of reasons and even though I pumped for 7 1/2 months and our daughter got breastmilk regardless I had such tremendous guilt about not being able to do it the "right" way. Whatever happens for you, know that all your baby wants is love.
  4. The first 6 months it's all about YOU and not your husband. Babies depend on mama for everything. You are the source and as a result you may find yourself resenting the freedom that Matt gets. And the accolades. Society is structured such that dads get applauded for everything they do and moms don't. It's not about the recognition but I know I would get a little pissed when people would praise my partner for being such a good job because he was washing bottles or changing diapers. I always felt like that was his job too since it was his daughter. I found that to be quite difficult.
  5. Finally, trust your instincts. Have fun. Don't blink. And rub your belly as much as you can. A miracle is in progress.
Hope this helps. I wish you guys well! :)

I appreciate her wisdom so much. As I work on my online course, Purposeful Conception, I worry about being part of the oppressive rhetoric around being 100% natural and 100% healthy. We put unhealthy pressure on ourselves when we expect 100% perfection with regard to anything. Her advice inspires me to make this commitment to myself: I will do my best to follow the conception, pregnancy, and parenthood guidelines that I believe most nourish my children, but I understand that things happen and that I must be patient and kind with myself no matter what.

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Katie Ready said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her advice. I agree 100%.
My Advice :)-

I have two daughters (ages 4 and almost 3). I thought I was a perfect mom because my first slept through the night at two weeks old and was happy all of the time. Then the second came along..... she suffered from severe colic for months (causing my mother and everyone else I knew to refuse to babysit her!) It was a rough, rough time (espcially compounded by the fact that my oldest was 19 months and I was going through a difficult divorce from my daughters' father). BUT I got through it and she is the happiest child around, the older one on the other hand has the sassy mouth! Just remember it all will pass!!! Everything is temporary!

You will be terrified, everyone is. I cried the entire half hour drive home from the hospital after my first was born because I was so freaked out that they just let me leave the hospital with this child that I knew nothing about. I read every book durring my pregnancy and thought I was prepared, turns out after the intial shock and awe wore off I was :)

The #1 thing I wish I had known though was....... they do not remember the mistakes you make :) You will make them. Probably not huge mistakes but they happen and you are learning! Cut yourself some slack, just do your best and be confident that by the time they start remembering stuff (5 or 6 years from now) you will have a handle on this whole parenting thing :)

Katie Ready said...

In additon to the mistakes........

Do the best you can with what you have, life is unpredictable and you need to roll with the punches and find the positives for the sake of your child. I did not expect to be a single mom with two children under two and spent a lot of time being angry and resenting the fact that I had to work long hours and miss out on many firsts. It still makes me sad but I was working toward a better life for me and my girls. I take comfort in the fact that I will have more free time when they are older to attend school and sporting events. That will mean more to them then if I had been the only one to change their diapers.

Just adding my two cents! I am so interested to learn more about your Purposeful Conception class and I appreciate how inclusive you are of all types of parents. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

What lovely advice! thats so nice of her to send

Holli said...

I agree 100% with your friend. When I was in therapy for my own post-partum issues (which manifested in me as extreme anxiety about every little decision... what kind of diapers to use, when to start solids, even how much I was interacting with her), my therapist said (1) trust your instincts, and (2) all your daughter needs is LOVE. A place to sleep, milk to drink (no matter where it comes from), and someone who cares about her. Everything else will be just fine.

Elsa said...

I'm always glad to hear other people's advice on this whole process. It always reassures me and gives me guidance.
Hearing about other people's struggles with post-partum depression also makes me feel better. I've struggled with clinical depression since I was 13. Although the last few years have been a lot different and better, every once in a while, I do have some sadder days. One of my biggest fears about starting a family is the possibility of post-partum depression. After reading and hearing about so many other women's stories about it, it's reassuring to know that I wouldn't be the only one out in the world with it if it happens, that things do get better and there is help!

Catherine said...

I think you might be interested in 2 of the blogs that I read that are currently doing series about being a mom.
First, Amy at The Finer Things in Life is doing a series called "Why didn't anyone tell me?" Here's the beginning post to get you started:

And Amy at Mom's toolbox is doing a series called Real (Experienced) Mom interviews.

lisa said...

Kids are durable. As long as you love them, teach them---discipline using whatever fashion you like, as long as it isn't nonexistent---and feed them something or other, they will grow up fine. The day you find your toddler eating the dirt out of your plants isn't the end of the world.

If you can't nurse, don't beat yourself up. The point is that the baby gets fed---sure, breastmilk is nice, but plenty of infants thrive on formula. Feed the baby however and relax. She will get more benefit from an unstressed mom than from breastmilk and stress.

Don't, in general, buy toys. They don't play with them, especially toys that are supposed to be educational. Kids aren't that easily fooled. This goes along with not needing 2/3 of the gadgets they tell you you need. A carseat, a spiffy stroller--though I swore by my backpack, simply because I had the kid from hell (now grown and AWESOME!) and the 5-pt harness was the only thing that kept her in one spot---and somewhere for them to sleep is really all you need.

But mostly, the first. Kids are durable. They are raised in all sorts of conditions, by all sorts of parents, and usually do just fine.

Sara said...

Things I wish I would have known.
1. Babies are going to cry. It is ok for you to put them down to go to the bathroom. I would sit and hold my oldest for hours before I would take care of myself for fear of her crying.

2. It is going to hurt to go to the bathroom after labor. No one told me this.

3. We cannot be perfect. I breast fed my 1st for 9 months until she started walking. I totally planned on doinf the same for my second but it did not work out for me due to medication I am on. When I was told I could not breastfeed her I took it as a sign of weakness on my part and really got depressed. She was formula fed and did fine.

4. As others have said we are going to make mistakes. Not intentional mistakes but they are going to happen. We cannot be so hard on ourselves.

5. Don't take others comments to heart. I have a 26 month old still on the bottle. I get comments all of the time from others. I just smile and nod my head. She has a feeding disorder and had surgery two weeks ago to correct the problem. I don't need to explain myself to everyone all of the time. This really got to me for awhile but I have learned that I know what is best for my child.

6. You know your child best. Always trust your instincts.

Sorry this is so long. I have just spent the last year advocating for my child and feel like I have fought the fight of a lifetime. I love what you are doing and love your blog.


rebeccalynn said...

My best advice as a mom who birthed 3, and got 3 more by marriage, is to find your family rhythm. It may be as simple as sleeping when the baby does, or as difficult as figuring out that the breastfeeding you were hell bent on doing just isn't working out with this child and you. Babies cry and fuss-this too is part of that rhythm. You will work it out, all of you, in your house with instinct and caring. Books are great ahead of time-they can tell you every situation you may ever encounter in anyone's lifetime, but ultimately it depends on your family. Some people co-sleep, and strap the baby to themselves all day, others let them self soothe. As long as your heart is in it, and you're making thoughtful decisions, all will be well. And really, the baby won't really care 20 years from now if he or she was *wow* off the bottle at 8 mos, or still on it at 2 years :)

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