Ten Gems of Pregnancy Advice

by - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Hey, you are pregnant! Wouldn't you like all of my opinions on your body now? Especially from people who don't know you from a hole in the ground or from relatives who haven't seen you since well before you were pregnant? Well here friend, have some more!Yes, there was an overwhelming onslaught of advice that came my way (and I am sure will continue to come after baby) in these past nine months, but a lot of it was damn good advice. I don't have any particularly thoughtful feedback on how to smile and nod some of it away, but I think the less defensive you can be, the more you can get out of some of it (other things, people really should just shut up). These are some of my favorites:

1. "Happy and Flexible Mommy, Happy and Flexible Baby" This is a gift my mother gave me at the beginning of my pregnancy, and now I am paying it forward to you. Take it easy on yourself. It's fine to have a plan, but it's more important to be able to adapt to situations as they arise, because they will. So little of the whole thing is really within your control, so don't get attached to your plans. This has empowered me to see my pregnancy as totally individual and to prioritize what feels good/ right to me over what I am "supposed" to do or care about. I have plans for my birth, but way more importantly, I am really open to just having it go however it is going to unfold. I have been blessed with a pretty low key pregnancy, and I think the thought that enjoying it is the best thing I can do for my baby has empowered me to stay really positive, listen to advice and personal stories (but still recognize my experience as individual), and to prioritize being happy.

2."Wear your seatbelt under your belly"- My friend Mindy is pretty hardcore about her pregnancy and baby information (I think she really should be a doula or midwife or something), and at some point in my pregnancy, she posted something about how to sit most safely in a car while pregnant. It was good advice that never came up anywhere else, so I was grateful for that.

3. "Take care of each other, your relationship, first"- Easier said than done, right? I have gotten this advice in varying forms from many places, but the most helpful was the class we took (if you live in Seattle, take Bringing Baby Home, it is really worth it). I was never that set on getting married, but I always wanted to be a mom, so this feels like a dangerous one for me, so I try to soak up as much of this kind of advice as possible. Most of it sounds like "still talk to each other on a daily basis" or "go on date nights even way before you are ready." I have heard good ones about physical affection and how it can prevent PPD (15 minutes a day- they suggested like a foot rub or shoulder rub while breastfeeding.

Even before your spawn arrives, it can be easy to get sucked down the baby rabbit hole, where all you talk about is stuff to do and the baby. Nine months is a long time to talk about someone who is just going to poop and eat for 9 months after that. Talk about something else. If you need help, assign days that are baby free (it's wonderful).

4. "I smoked  [or drank, ate deli meat every day, etc] and my baby turned out fine"- Oy. The unbelievable beauty of this "advice" which mostly plays out as criticism for the precautions you are taking, is that this shit is way harder to mess up than it feels.  Ten years from now, current pregos will find out that we were doing something horrible for our baby by drinking cow's milk or sleeping on our sides or depriving ourselves of caffeine. But our children will be fine. I don't regret trying to do my best following the litany of pregnancy rules, and I know if something would have happened, I would have had fewer behaviors to beat myself up for, but these kinds of comments really are well-meant and have a gem of kindness at the center. You do the best you can, but don't let all of this stuff take over. Go have a tempura roll, it will make you feel (slightly) better.

5. "Baby CPR? Yes. Birthing Class? No."-Our doctor said that birthing classes may not be much help (it's really a bridge you can only cross when you are crossing it), but she did encourage baby CPR. Totally traumatizing. Do you know a baby can choke on anything? That the whole world is just made of choking hazards? Did you know hot dogs are a throat trap? Then, if that wasn't enough, they wrap up the whole story with SIDS. Please, I beg all of you now, do not put my child to sleep on his belly. SIDS is the world's meanest reminder that you can do everything "right" and still have it go wrong. It was traumatizing, but helpful.

6. "Enjoy it and Appreciate it"- My Aunt Ann and I had a few really great conversations about how much she loved having my cousin with her all the time while she was pregnant, and how she actually missed feeling her move in her belly once she was born. I think about that a lot when I am ornery that I can't roll over or getting up without feeling like I am having a serious workout. It is good to enjoy his company, because I know that a big part of the goal with parenting is to raise an autonomous being, meaning if you are doing your job, they get further and further away. How lucky am I right now to have his company all the time?

7. "If you can't tell the difference when they go to kindergarten, it's probably not that big of a deal"- I think this is my favorite advice from my mother-in-law, who is generally a badass about pregnancy and birthing. She is underwhelmed with all baby and pregnancy angst, and I think of her example when I am feeling whiny. We can get in this mindset where every decision we make is wildly important, but we are probably giving ourselves way too much credit. When our child shows up to kindergarten, his circumcision (or not) will probably not matter. Whether I breastfeed or not will probably not matter. I can try to do my best with these things, but in the end, there will be more important things we give our spawn. Removing the stakes from some of these decisions actually helps clarify what our motivations are.

8. "Keep Moving and Drink Water"- I think that drink water may be the best piece of advice you can give anyone in any situation (ok, maybe not every situation, If you are on a sinking ship you might try swimming first). Unless you are very athletic and committed, it can be rough to not keep falling off the wagon to an even slower wagon, but it mostly pays off in feeling much better. Also, I read some great advice about things to eat in these last few weeks that have really made life much nicer- small servings of soups and salads will be way kinder to you than big servings of much of anything.

9. "You are chowderheads"- This was actually advice given to my dad about my Grammy and Grampa (and she gave BBG the same advice about us). We don't know what we are doing. The parasite will just have to be patient with us, because we are idiots. There is no helping it.

10. "My baby never did this or that"- I am now completely convinced that moms with grown children and grandchildren have got a really rosy pair of glasses on, because wow did they all have it under control! How encouraging, right? Even my mother, who spent 18 months of her life puking thanks to TP and I says she loved being pregnant. Really? Do you love having food poisoning, because it sounds like we were the human versions of that? I love that they see the past this way, because as things happen, it is so easy to focus on everything you are doing wrong, but you can see when you talk to the women around you that love and good memories mostly do win out. I figure the more I focus on the joys of it now (rather than the fact I have eaten more cake than food so far today), the more I can enjoy this gift that they certainly have in spades now.

So these are my favorite things I have heard, in various forms, as I have gone through it, and I hope if you are replicating you can find some gems in the ruckus.

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