Four years ago, I was very nearly a mom. I’d made it past 37 weeks (that somewhat arbitrary point at which the doctors deem it “safe” for you to go into labor, thereby unfairly raising your hopes that it will happen sooner rather than later), and my Ob-Gyn kept assuring me that my Caleb could come any day.
On a Saturday night, the day before Mother’s Day, I was having contractions and thought maybe this was the real deal. We had a graduation to go to (if we didn’t have a really good excuse to get out of it, like I’m in labor), so we went ahead and got dressed up and drove into town a little early. We walked around a park nearby the hospital for awhile, and my contractions completely stopped. Until then, I didn’t have any idea how much I had gotten my hopes up that I would be a mom by Mother’s Day, but then, once I knew it wasn’t going to happen, I melted into a puddle of tears.
I was so hormonal and so, so very tired. I was convinced I would be pregnant for the rest of my life.
But eight days later, my baby was born, as babies have a tendency to do.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time, but I was so blessed to be surrounded by friends who were also having babies, and not their firsts. They showered me with love, support, camaraderie in the nursing mama’s room, and more than a few hard-earned tips. Now a mom of almost four years (or 6 1/2 if children count cumulatively, and I really think they should) I’ve picked up a few little handy pieces of information myself.
I find myself sharing these things over and over again with friends who are expecting their first baby or new to being a momma. So I thought I’d collect all my vast wisdom (ha!) and share it with you here:
Bravado Nursing Designs makes the very best nursing bra of all time. I am not exaggerating here. It is comfortable both before and after you feed your baby (veteran moms can attest to what an amazing miracle this is). Moreover, when I was pregnant with Caleb, I bought a new bra every couple of weeks, because it was impossible to find anything that stayed comfortable for very long as my pregnancy progressed. With Garrett, I already had one of these, and I wore it my entire pregnancy. If nothing else, that alone should make you want to go buy one immediately.
Sunsweet Ones are the perfect postpartum snack. This was a tip I gleaned from a veteran momma shortly before Caleb’s birth, and I’m so glad I took her advice. These individually wrapped prunes are easy to keep on hand when you are suddenly starving (it happens when you’re nursing!), but the high fiber content helps in other departments postpartum mommas can use some support, if you catch my drift.
Do not try to figure out your Moby Wrap and your travel system on the same day. Both things take a while to get the hang of, and that’s okay. If you try to be perfect at both in a single day, there’s a good chance you’ll end up crying, convinced there’s no way that you’ll make it as a parent. Not that I’ve done that or anything.
Preregister for your stay at the hospital if that option is available to you. While you’re at it, sign all the release forms for the epidural if you can do that ahead of time. I procrastinated on that one, and ended up having to watch a video of the associated risks and try to form a cohesive signature while I was(n’t) breathing through strong, close-together contractions. If there’s any chance you’ll want it, take care of the paperwork in advance.
Pack an extra shirt for yourself in the diaper bag. Leaking in public is no joke. Neither is baby puke. So a change of clothes for yourself can come in handy.
Get the store brand wipes at Target. They sell a few different varieties – scented, unscented, sensitive, etc., so you can pick and choose what you like best. But I love these wipes because they are inexpensive, and they stay wet longer than any other wipes I’ve tried. (Which comes in handy if you accidently leave the lid to the wipes container open. Not that I’ve done that either.)
Save some of your baby shower money for after the baby comes. You think you know exactly what you need for your new baby, because you’ve done all the research, and carefully selected the perfect items. I know, because I was the same way. What you haven’t taken into consideration is that the baby you’re about to bring into the world is his or her own little person with decided personality traits and preferences. You don’t know yet who this baby will be or how he or she will fit into your life, and that’s okay. So save a little money back in case you need to buy medicine or new detergent or different bottles or pacifiers or a new nursing cover or a bigger diaper bag. If you don’t end up needing it for something else, you can always use the saved back money buy more diapers.
Give nursing two weeks. For some reason, this was the ultimatum I gave myself. I’m not exactly sure where I got the number; I think it was something I read in a parenting book at some point about when to introduce a bottle, but I’m not sure. Anyway, for one reason or another, this was how long I told myself I had to tough it out before giving up on breastfeeding (which to be completely honest, was a huge challenge the first time around). But after two weeks, I didn’t want to quit anymore. Other moms I’ve talked to since had similar experiences. So if you want to breastfeed your baby, give it a couple of weeks – don’t give up after four or five days, because that’s often when it’s hardest. But by the time your baby is two weeks old, you’ve fed him or her about 150 times. If at that point it’s not working for you, there’s absolutely no shame in trying something else. We are blessed to live in an age and place where nurse your baby or let him die are not your only options. Find something that works for your family. And if you are worried or feeling guilty about formula feeding, read this book.
And above all else, do what makes the most sense to you and works for your family. You may be overwhelmed with the amount of information you’re reading about parenting, and feel a little paralyzed when it comes to decision-making. I know I felt that way. Every choice I made seemed so fraught with consequence, as though one wrong move would screw up my kid for good. But there’s not one right way to be a mom, so trying to find it will make you crazy. Instead, try to find your way to be a mom. That’s all your kid needs anyway.