I will be the first to admit I am still learning about this journey we call motherhood. Phen is my first and I was fairly lucky to have an easy pregnancy and birth. Yet I still have advice to share- even if I am the only one who comes back to reference this post when I am pregnant with our next.... We've made it 11 months...really almost a year and he's still alive so I think we have enough experience under our belt to share our advice.
Disclaimer: I am a fairly crunchy parent. (not sure what that means? check out this good summary: https://maminatural.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/are-you-silky-crunchy-or-scrunchy/)
This list is by no means all inclusive- there are many things I am sure I am forgetting.....
That leads me to point number one: find a tribe. Find a woman, women, online, in person, from the same perspective, from a different perspective and learn everything you can from them. Childrearing and life is all about learning from experiences- parenting was never meant to be a solo expedition. Seek out experienced mamas (even if their experience is a 2 day old, they have experience to share) and connect with them. Have at least a 1 person tribe. Have a woman, who has had a child, who you trust to talk to. This will keep you sane, and most likely everyone alive. You need someone? I'm here for you!
Before you have a baby- if you're thinking about a baby.
1. Spend time with a baby. You and your partner. Babysit different ages.
2. Spend time researching parenting styles.
3. Read these 3 books (go ahead and buy them for when the pregnancy test is positive)
1. Beyond the Sling- Mayim Bialik
2. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding- La Leche League International
3. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth- Ina May Gaskin
Enjoy it! I was pretty lucky to have an easy pregnancy. Keep crackers by the bed for morning upset tummy. Take as much rest as you can. Eat lots of protein (Bradley Method, Brewer Diet). Drink water until you pee clear and then drink a little bit more. Get rid of crap from your diet but don't feel guilty eating ice cream. (Just typing this makes me miss vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate mixed in.....mmmmm).
Take time to yourself. This is the last time you get to be alone, yes there is a human growing inside of you but you know what I mean.
Start doing things with one hand; including bathroom breaks and eating.
Make a Netflix list.
Ignore the scary things.
Pillows. Lots of pillows. Skip the pregnancy pillow and go for multiple pillows. Dont forget the behind the back pillow to counter the belly.
Educate yourself. Take a class(es). Read books. Talk to your tribe. EDUCATE so you can make informed decisions. Labor interventions, episiotomy, circumcision, cord clamping, skin to skin (kangaroo care), Vit K, erythromycin (eye ointment), delayed washing. Know your options and have a birth plan. (really do this during pregnancy so you aren't dealing with these decisions during labor)
Learn about babywearing and nursing- attend meetings (BWI and LLL)
Start listening to your body- really listening. It says it needs ice cream even though you gave it up? Eat the ice cream. Start listening to your inner, innate wisdom you have as a woman and a mother.
Squats. Yoga. Stretches. Kegels. Thigh squeezes against a pillow/ball. Perineal massage and stretches. Do them all.
Go on a babymoon; dig a hole in the sand and lay in it on your belly.
Labor and Postpartum Tips
My labor went pretty well. If you can and are into it; seek chiropractic care and acupuncture. I recommend both for all the time, not just pregnancy.
Labor- move around. Eat. Drink. Listen to your inner monkey and let her take over.
Hire a doula.
Drink red raspberry leaf tea and honey.
Throwing up=dilation- go with it.
Let the baby groundhog. Let baby stretch you. Don't let them cut you.
Feel the baby, feel the cord. This might be the only time you get this opportunity.
Listen to yourself, your body, your baby.
TRUST YOUR BODY!
Prepare padsciles- get Kotex pads (the I just got my period ones) and get them wet with water and witch hazel. Put in freezer. Thank me later.
RELAX! There is NO need to be "up and at 'em" Don't. Rest. If you have other responsibilities find a tribe member to help. Consider a postpartum doula.
Have a lactation consultant lined up in case there are issues, get help with nursing.
SKIN TO SKIN!
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Really. Do it.
Relax and enjoy all the little teenie tiny moments.
Take pictures. They grow up too fast.
Enjoy the smells of squishy baby.
Relax, relax, relax, relax but don't relax so much you pool too much blood.
Peri bottle. Become friends with it. Don't let it leave your side.
Know now that it will be a little scary to poop. It will be ok.
Let your partner take care of you.
Don't be in a rush to get back to the real world. Many cultures have a lying in period. Consider it.
Showers are a great time for mom to be alone. Relish in them.
NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY. EVER. (ok there are a few times you should wake them- but really its rare to NEED to wake them- do research on waking to feed.....)
Stuff Tips- What to Buy, What to Skip
What to get
-baby headphones/earmuffs. We did baby banz (amazon, register for it)
-some sort of babywearing carrier (there are 4 main types) I suggest a ring sling, then a woven, then a stretchy wrap, then a mei tai, then a buckle/SSC from my own preference and experience in the early days.
-a king size bed if you don't already have one. Even if you don't plan on bed-sharing, the chances that your baby will end up in your bed sleeping with you are pretty high- even some of the silkier parents I know have "caved" and had a baby/toddler in their bed. You will also appreciate this for pregnancy and "pillow-maggedon"
What to skip/skimp/do the smart way (insert some crunchy parenting opinions here)
- cloth diapers- they aren't your grandma's diapers anymore. Research and explore, see if its right for you
- don't buy a lot. babies need you, not stuff.
- skip nursing clothes and breast pads until you know what you like/need. You will most likely get maternity leave. You'll be able to be a mess on the couch. Take advantage of that time to find what works for you. Example- hated nursing tops with a shelf bra. My hobo/National Geographic boobs never fit in the right and I had this weird seam running against my nipples. Not fun. Instead I opted for a plain cami and we go up and over. Play around, see what works for the both of you.
- toys- they don't need toys until they're older. at least 3 months
A little soapbox statement about PCDs (plastic containment devices). They have their place. You can also use everyday items in the early days (i.e. laundry basket to hold a non mobile baby while you shower) Swings, jumperoos, bouncy seats, etc. all take up space and contribute to flat heads. They have their place. Hold your baby.
DONT get a freaking bumbo. Bumbos are for bimbos. They aren't really that great for baby. They interfere with the natural progression of skills. Here is a great blog link from a pediatric physical therapist http://mamaot.com/2013/07/16/beware-the-baby-bumbo-seat/ explaining my hate for the bumbo. Just don't do it.
My biggest change: skip the baby bucket car seat and stroller travel system. Instead opt for a bike trailer/jogging stroller combo (we love our Burley) and an awesome convertible car seat (Diono is where its at!)
The reasoning: Bucket seats are heavy. And awkward. And take up a lot of space in the back seat. And if you have a giant baby you will be lugging around a lot of weight. Bad for your back, and arm, and neck. Most have plastic that is not padded well and hits baby in the kidneys (in an annoying something behind your back way). They are hard to nurse over during road trips. They are often used incorrectly (shopping carts, balanced on tables and counters etc) I can count the number of times we took our bucket seat in to the house or store or restaurant. 10. 10 times.
Go with the Diono. Excellent safety ratings, great padding but most importantly- slimmest fit! You can fit 3 across in a standard car. Thats awesome. So much easier putting baby in and out. Can sit right next to them in the back and lean a boob over. Totally road trip worthy.
Skip the stroller!?! Well you aren't going to be lugging around the bucket seat (if you do the bucket seat thing go with the bucket seat stroller that is just a frame you snap the seat into) Instead get the bang for you buck and go with the bike trailer/jogger combo. You can now lie down in them (napping baby, no problem). And considering you shouldn't really jog with a baby until at least 6 months (too much jostling for them) its worth it. Again- educate yourself.
Once baby is old enough to sit up you can do the cart or just wear them. #wearallthebabies
Deciding to Start a Family- Things to ask my non pregnant self
I think the biggest thing you need to be ready for is to let go of your selfish things. Again this is a reflection of my choice of parenting style, but it applies.
Are you ready to give up your selfish time? Of Netflix binging (can keep this for a few months while you sit on the couch and have nurse-sleep-athons)? Of peeing alone? Of sleeping without interruption? Of not worrying about another human? Vacations? These may seem obvious but it doesn't sink in until you're in it. Babies can be/are expensive- are you ready to sacrifice some of your new things so baby can have it? Make more long term decisions?
I would encourage partners to evaluate their parenting styles. Talk about how they were raised, what they would change, what they want for their baby. Is TV ok? What kind of TV? How much TV? Even babies need boundaries.
Who is going to be the default parent? Most of the time this falls to the mother, especially in the early early days/months/years. How is dad/partner going to bond with the baby?
Does dad/partner find it important to bond with the baby in the early days? Not saying they don't love their baby but many dads don't feel the "protect your baby from all predators including dad" mama bear feelings that moms get. Some dads are ok with mom being the default parent until they're into toddlerhood. Nothing wrong with this- just something you need to prepare for.
I was recently reading the story of a 4th Trimester Bodies Project participant and I think she summed it up well. She said that she thought having a baby would be easy and she would work to fit the baby into her life but instead she's learning thats not true. She has to learn how to fit into her child's life. (roughly paraphrased)
This is exactly true. In the early stages its a little easier but there were many times Stephen went to the store alone or went out and brought food back because we were still figuring out nursing, or the baby had just fallen asleep. Or I just didn't feel like getting up and going out and changing clothes. Its still the same now. We put our child's schedule and priorities first 95% of the time. Playdates at 9:30? Not happening for the Hudaks. Baby usually sleeps until 9:30, 10 or sometimes later. Add 15 mins for potty time, 10 minutes to get dressed and play with Odin, pack a bag, and make sure mom is ready- that is at least 30 minutes to get ready plus 30 minutes travel time. So a 9:30 playdate means getting up at least at 8:30....don't wake a sleeping baby!
Looking back over this last year- I have grown more and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. I have had good days and bad, easy days and hard days. The thing that no one can ever tell you, can ever prepare you for is the amount of love that you feel. The unconditional love for another human....is the biggest blessing in life. Parenthood is not for everyone- and recognizing that is something I admire. But for those who chose (or are chosen to be on) this journey- it is amazing. <3