"Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials." - Meryl Streep
Moms worry too much. And new moms worry even more because everything is new - even your body is taking new turns, with or without your permission.
You’re on the hormonal rollercoaster ride of a lifetime. You want to get organized, but you’ve got pregnancy amnesia and so you remember things like your need for a chocolate bar at 3 a.m., while forgetting minor issues like putting gas in the car. Your life is unraveling and being re-woven all at the same time.
Well, here are twelve simple “pearls of wisdom” for a happy and healthy pregnancy and baby's first year:
1. Treat nausea “gingerly.” For many women, nausea is a regular pregnancy companion - even beyond the first trimester. Keep nausea-relieving ginger snaps, ginger candy, low-sugar ginger ale, or ginger tea on hand. (Yogurt and carb-and-protein combos like cheese and crackers also fight morning sickness.)
2. To soothe pregnancy stress, go for a nature walk. Whether you’re stressing over your nursery set-up, in the throes of nesting, or being hijacked by hormones, getting in touch with nature can help. Cedars and pines as well as soil release compounds that act as calming agents and antidepressants. Plus, the exercise keeps you in shape and prepares you for labor.
3. You have cleavage. Use it. Your body is changing rapidly, and it’s easy to get hung up on new features you don’t like. Instead, focus on playing up pregnancy assets like your voluptuous new figure, your thicker hair, and your radiant skin.
4. Don’t skip the babymoon. Your life will probably begin to revolve around your baby even before he or she is born. By the third trimester, you’ll need to relax and reconnect with your partner. Even if it’s just a weekend away or a playful staycation, you’ll both welcome the respite from “all baby, all the time.”
5. Start a caffeine savings account. Put the money you would have spent at a coffee shop in savings. (This is just one of many creative ways to boost your budget before the big day.)
6. Nature is a genius. What we see as imperfections are perfect in their own way. There are a million and one things you can (and probably will) worry about as an expectant and new mother. I worried about my baby’s “lack of chin” until I learned that this newborn feature allows better suction for breastfeeding. Stay informed and try not to jump to the worst possible conclusion.
7. No one talks about it, but expect relationship dysfunction. No matter how close and in sync you and your partner might be, you WILL experience muddled conversations, loss of intimacy/identity, miscommunication, and even deliberate withdrawal. This is normal and it will pass. Make time to reconnect (and get some sleep!).
8. Don’t fret if you don’t get the famous “bonding rush.” You may not fall completely in love with your baby the first moment you lay eyes on him or her. That’s okay - and more common than you might think. For some moms it takes a while. Be gentle. Give yourself time to adjust to all the changes. Cuddle skin-to-skin. It releases the bonding hormone oxytocin.
9. Your baby should sleep in your bedroom for the first six months. This is when the risk for SIDS is highest. Studies show that when babies hear the motions and breathing of the parents, it keeps them from falling into too deep a sleep and forgetting to breathe.
10. When babyproofing, use the toilet roll rule. By the time your baby becomes mobile, you’ll want to thoroughly check your home for choking hazards. A good way to measure: If an object is small enough to fit into an empty toilet roll, it’s small enough for a child’s windpipe.
11. Going back to work is HARD. It’s okay to feel upset. Even if you love your job, leaving your baby with someone else for the first time (whether that’s a daycare center, a relative, or a nanny) is an emotional experience. Make the transition easier wherever you can. A bit of planning and preparation will lead to smoother evenings after a long day at work, so that your time with baby can be focused and relaxed. A simple tip: Create a weekly meal plan and make some freezer meals ahead of time.
12. Embrace vulnerability - spitty work blouse and all. Most new moms wonder, “Will I be a good mom?” Too often we believe we are supposed to be marathon multitaskers - perfect Super Moms able to juggle home, family, and work, and all with a smile. Yes, the learning curve is steep and can sometimes feel overwhelming. Don’t stress when things don’t get done. Accept yourself and your badges of honor, burp rags and all. Dr. Brené Brown says vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear, and struggle for worthiness, but it’s also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. “What makes you vulnerable also makes you beautiful,” she says.
The most important choices you will make as a parent have little to do with money, and everything to do with educating yourself, trusting your instincts, and paying attention to your child’s signals. No pregnancy is going to be storybook perfect and neither is that first crazy year. But if you’re armed with good, practical information, you can weave your own sweet, messy, chaotic but still wonderful happily-ever-after.