My advice (for what it's worth)
My heart goes out to all of the new mamas in today’s world. Thanks to technology, there is just so much information readily available to expectant and new mothers and it all feels like it’s just too much. On one hand, the power of technology is great because we can all be more aware and more educated and are better able to self-advocate, but on the other hand, it can become an information overload. Everywhere you look you are bombarded with “how to”s and “what not to do’s” and warnings about this, that and the other thing. A lot of the time the information that we are getting is conflicting and leaves us feeling unsure and a little afraid. It has the potential of making us all a little neurotic. For what it’s worth, I’ve put together a list of things that I would like to say to new mamas. Take it in with a grain of salt and then forget about it if you want. Whatever you do don’t let anything that I’m saying change your mind about something if you’ve already decided what is best for you. After all…this is just my opinion and we are all totally different. They say hindsight is 20/20, and if I had the ability to go back and do things all over again, this is what I would tell my 24-year-old-expectant-mama-self.
1) Put the books down – I’m not an expert, but nobody is, and although the person who wrote the book may have some sort of certification or education that declares them an expert the fact of the matter is that there is NO SUCH THING as “expert” when it comes to parenting. Parenting is hard. There is no book. There is no guide. Every baby is different, every parent is different and every situation is different. The only thing we can do is try our best to be our best and to make the best decision we can under our current circumstance. If I have come to learn anything throughout my years of being a parent to four very different children it’s that what works for one baby may or may not work for another baby, it’s really a matter of trial and error. If you feel more comfortable reading books then maybe choose one or two highly rated or peer recommended books and think of it all as more of a suggestion for a possible solution, and not as a bible for a definite solution.
2) As hard as this parenting thing is, we’re all naturally better than we think. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust your natural mother’s intuition. Believe in love. You know what is best for your baby because you love your baby with all of your heart. When it all gets too overwhelming and you think that you’re doing it all wrong, just breathe, and remember that we all have bad days, everyone makes mistakes, we’re all learning, and we’re all doing the best that we can.
3) Find a friend. Choose someone who you can trust and who is due around the same time as you or someone who has recently been through it. Having someone to talk to who can relate to the way you are feeling makes all the difference in the world. Just being able to talk is therapeutic in itself, but knowing that you’re not alone and that your feelings of uncertainty are normal is priceless. To this very day, the thing that I need most in my life when being a Mama is seemingly unbearable is to be surrounded by supportive, strong, amazing women. Women are the most amazing and empowering beings on this planet and just being in the same room as them is energizing and leaves me feeling re-focused and ready to Mom another day.
4) Take a pre-natal course. In my opinion, this is honestly one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself in preparation for labour and delivery. Most cities offer pre-natal courses as a public service through places like the health unit. Take the course and bring your partner along with you. A lot of the time the things we hear about labour and delivery sound really scary and very intimidating. This will be the best thing you can do for yourself to make you feel calm, safe and prepared. The fact will remain that every single labour and delivery is different and unique, but taking the course will put your mind at ease and make it seem a little more manageable. You’re probably still going to feel a little scared or apprehensive and that’s ok, but try to trust that in most cases nature will take its course and your body will instinctively know what to do, and if things don’t go according to plan, we are very lucky to have an excellent health system that will be there to support you.
5) Understand that this is all new to you and let yourself learn. No one expects you to be an expert and no one expects you to be perfect. Forgive yourself! And know that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Take it one day at a time. Don’t get so caught up with “making a plan”. Have a general idea of how you imagine things will go but understand that expectations have a way of being very different from reality.
6) When all else fails, try with all your might to enjoy it all, even the hard times (cliché, I know). Your baby is going to grow up so quickly that you won’t even know what happened. Seriously – when you become a parent your life enters a new level of warp speed. You’re going blink and when you open your eyes your chubby little baby is going to be all grown up. You are going to miss holding them on your chest close to your heart and patting their little bums as they snuggle into the nape of your neck. They are only little for a very short period of time. Embrace the beauty and the chaos of it all.