Saturday, December 3, 2011
Dear Friend, in your final month of pregnancy...
Dear friend Heather,
You have entered (finally) the month of your first baby's due date. You have waited so long for a child, to find out what this one's gender is, to hold your newborn in your arms, and to officially feel like a mom. And now here it is! We are days away from your due date; your doctor thinks any time now as progress has begun. Your to-do list is finally crossed off to nothing but REST. You are ready... as ready as you'll ever be, right?
I remember what it felt like to be upon the eve of my baby's birth - literally, as we had a scheduled C-section. It was scary, terrifying in some respects, but then we were overjoyed with what was to come - seeing our baby for the first time, hearing that strong cry we hoped for, finishing the statement "It's a...." with boy or girl once and for all, holding him or her, and really becoming more amazed at this miracle that took place for 10 months inside my body, that started with my husband and I so in love, and ending with our family more complete than we imagined it could be. I know you feel all of this, too. And it's here! It's happening! Soon, I swear!
I wanted to write you a letter before all of this adventure begins... or comes to a close I suppose, depending on how you look at it. I started this blog for you, my friend, and it's turned into something incredible, just as I know how your pregnancy has now turned into something amazing - there is a little person coming soon!
A few things I wanted to remind you of as your labor day comes:
1. I am so proud of you! You have accomplished something big. You have stayed pregnant, healthy for most of it (despite the flu and cold sicknesses a month ago), positive throughout, and have taken such good care of yourself to help this baby enter this world with the best start s/he could have. Be proud of this. It's a big accomplishment.
2. I hope you... rest. (well, dance would fit in there, too, liking that old song... but resting is more important now). I hope you take time now and just be. Be with your husband. Be at work knowing it's almost over for a while. Be at home - no sweat about cleaning like a crazy woman. Be knowing the thank you notes are done and the baby room is ready and diapers are fresh on the changing table. Just be. And pray and think and even write and just let yourself prepare mentally for the baby coming. Your life will surely change soon, so take advantage of this last week or so with just you and your husband.
3. Go out! Take you and your husband out for a date. You deserve it! It'll be the last time for a while that you get to spend such quality time together. Enjoy a nice meal, despite heartburn and not being able to eat more than like 3 bites without needing a break! Talk about your excitement and fears about birth, and tell each other what great parents you think the other will be.
4. Let go of expectations. As the big day arrives and you consider your birth plan, plans to breastfeed or not, how the day will go with visitors arriving and phone calls being made to out-of-town friends (ahem like me!), how your first days home will be, etc. just let it all go. Don't worry about those things. They'll just happen anyway. Be fully present, in the moment, enjoying every second, as you won't get this back and it's such a blur anyway. Every mom I know says that they wish they'd paid more attention or could rewind to experience it again or video tape the first few hours at least. It's such a magical time if you let yourself sink into how incredible it is. Don't get caught up in anything else but that little one you intend to stare at.
5. Do what works for your baby first, you and your husband second, others 10th! The second that baby arrives into the world people - family, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, strangers even - are going to try to be helpful and offer you tons of advice. This advice sometimes will be helpful, like a saving grace, "Thank you, somebody has been through this before and understands and can show me the way." Some of it will be unnecessary, annoying, frustrating, and very confusing to you. Despite being overtired from labor and not sleeping with a baby up at night, which causes you to not think straight, plus hormones going haywire now that you are no longer pregnant, people coming at you all the time not giving you a chance to just be... try to stay close to your baby and husband during this chaotic time and do what works for YOU. Sometimes what works for you in the hospital is not at all what you planned the day before you gave birth. That's OK. You are a great mom simply because you became one, gave birth, and now have a child to raise. Breastfeeding or using bottles, circumcision or not on a boy, letting your baby sleep in the nursery or keeping her with you the whole time, turning away visitors so you can rest, etc. do not make you a good or bad parent, it just makes you a parent. Parenting is all about making choices, decisions that are best for your child. It starts instantly. Listen to yourself and you won't ever go wrong.
6. Eat, woman! and enjoy the maternity pants a while longer. I know many women who falsely think that giving birth equals the end of pregnancy which simultaneously equals pre-baby body returning. Let me tell you, not so much. Yes, your belly will shrink a lot and you'll lose like 20 pounds in your hospital stay. BUT your body just went through trauma, a huge experience that was 10 months long and however many hours you pushed through labor for. It's not going to bounce back overnight. Somehow you need to be OK with that. Eat. Eat whatever and whenever you feel like it in the hospital and when going home. I recall a serious feeling of hunger every day in the hospital. My doctors told me it was my body trying to heal itself, needing energy and nutrients to do so, plus with new milk coming into my body the top gals needed some more nutrients and calories anyway to get things started in that department. Plus exhaustion makes you starving. So just go with it. And eat all of these great foods while in your maternity clothes. They are so comfy... what better clothes to wear when feeling sick, uncomfortable and tired? You will get out of those clothes at some point, I swear you will. No need to rush it. I wore my maternity clothes for months after birth, because they just feel so comfortable and why stress out shoving my newly formed body into old clothes that were probably a bit tight before baby anyhow?
7. Write your child a letter. I did this before my due date, my husband did it a week after our baby was born. Both letters mean the world to us. I wrote things in mine like it was so cool feeling you kick me, and it's been such a privilege to carry you around for 10 months. He wrote things like, it's so amazing to finally see you and I hope you know we're going to take care of you and are here for you no matter what. We put these letters right into the baby book.
8. Enjoy being taken care of. Let others help. They want to do something, as most know having a baby is a huge life-changing event. Let the nurses help you and doctors help you. Let them take the baby to the nursery for even a half hour so you can really rest. I was terrified to do this, thought if I sent my baby away something would happen or I was a bad mom. So I kept him the whole 5 days - minutes two hours when my husband and doctor put their foot down after seeing I was going crazy - literally - after not sleeping for 5 days and nights straight. Now I know for sure I would not have been a bad mom AT ALL for sending him to the nursery so I could recover a bit. I think we forget that after birth not only is there a baby to care for now, but WE need to be cared for, too. What we just went through is BIG, really trying on our bodies and mental health. It's like putting on the oxygen mask on yourself first on an airplane, then putting it on your kids. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't be that good mom you want to be. People brought us food at home, my mom did the dishes, people offered to change the baby's diaper so I could just stay sitting on the couch. It felt strange, especially to me, as this totally independent and busy person. But then it was nice having help. Accept the help.
9. Ask for help. Accepting help is one thing, asking for it is another. I had a few close friends who I reached out to via text messaging and phone calls while in the hospital when I was so confused about what to do with breastfeeding, pumping, supplementing, things like tongue tied that I'd never heard of before. My husband was there for me, but even he had no idea what people were talking about. Having a few friends you can text any time of day and just vent, or cry or ask questions is really helpful. Know that I'm one of those people for you. I'm here no matter what.
10. Feel how you feel. It's all good. I hear of many people who loved being in the hospital having nurses in and out helping all the time, whereas I did not like the hospital at all. I just wanted to go home because those nurses in and out made me unable to sleep. I know people who say that the hospital made spouses get so close and it was incredible. My husband and I had a really difficult time in the hospital because I was delirious from lack of sleep and he was frustrated that my son was not eating and we didn't know what to do. It was a trying time for us, yet when we got home we were in that "lovey dovey" stage people talked about. It's all different for people. You may feel great, elated, happy at this experience, or you may feel sad, disappointed, worried, nervous, and terrified about taking home the baby. Whatever it is that you are feeling, just go with it. It's all crazy and it's all normal at the same time.
Heather, I'm so happy for you. I cannot wait to meet this little one in the summer, to hear whether it's a boy or girl (my guess is totally GIRL!). I can't wait to be here for you to answer questions. This is going to be an incredible time for you. I wish you a speedy and healthy delivery, and a very healthy baby. I love you very much and can't wait to be "auntie" again soon!