Dear Antepartum Me,
You know how that woman at Texas Roadhouse put both of her hands on your face the other day and told you, “You look radiant. What an incredible thing this is!” That was bizarre, right? You felt both completely weirded out and yet strangely at peace with it at the same time. Hold on to that moment as the rest of your pregnancy progresses because not everything strangers say will give you that odd sense of peace; in fact, most of what strangers or well-meaning friends and family will say will downright piss you off. So, for the good of your blood pressure and stress levels, here is a list of the unsolicited advice you need to either believe or ignore:
“When you have the choice to do the dishes or hold your baby, hold your baby.”
BELIEVE. This one may sound like a no brainer, but you will be amazed how difficult it is to talk yourself into sitting your butt down and ignoring that mounting pile of chores. By the time you feel well enough to get out of the chair without wincing, you will be itching to feel useful. Your spouse will sound like a broken record with how often he/she needs to say, “You ARE useful. You are doing the most important job there is right now: caring for our baby.” There will be times you’ll want to throw things at him/her and scream, “JUST LET ME DO THE FRICKIN DISHES!” (a phrase I bet you never thought you’d hear yourself say) but trust me: sit down and hold the baby. Your ability to complete menial tasks is not what makes you a good and appreciated wife/mother. Apparently, this is a very widespread feeling among moms, and you don’t have to have a fifth child to know it’s true.
“He’s not hungry. He just wants something to comfort him. Don’t let him use you as a pacifier; just give him a pacifier.”
IGNORE. Um, no. He’s a week old. He can use you as a pacifier if you want him to (and you did). Comfort nursing is a real thing. Cluster feeding is a real thing. Both are taxing and incredibly stressful for you sometimes, but you know what? It’s what you believed was right, and their pressuring you to give him a paci wasn’t helping or supporting you. Don’t be afraid to tell them so. It made the most frequent offender of this to back off on the subject and made your husband aware of how much that bothered you so that he too would chime in and support you when others were not.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
BELIEVE. Although, good luck following it. You were either too busy staring at his beautiful little sleeping face or worried something would happen to him while you slept. In the first few months of his life, you were really only able to do this when you knew for sure that your husband or mom/mother in law were there to care for him while you passed out and dreamed of sleeping more than a few hours at a time.
“He’s fine. Just let him cry it out/give him cereal in a bottle. Otherwise, he’ll never sleep through the night on his own.”
IGNORE. Now this one varies from person to person, but for you personally, ignore it. This piece of advice gave you A LOT of grief for a very long time. You were sure you were spoiling your kid by nursing him when he woke up during the night and prolonging solids until after six months. You were sure for quite some time he would never sleep through the night. However, when you did end up trying cereal, he got so constipated that he was in pain and didn’t sleep at all. Also, your baby is now 2 and not only naps well and sleeps through the night like a champ, but he will do so no matter where we are and no matter how new the situation. Why? He feels secure and safe. His needs are met. He can rest easily. Literally.
“Don’t pick them up every time they cry; it’ll spoil them.”
IGNORE. See above. Also, you can’t spoil a baby by loving them and comforting them when they are upset. Buying them everything they want? Making them believe the sun shines out their behind? That’s another story. Pick the baby up. It’s okay. Besides, pretty soon you won’t be able to pick him up anymore and cradle his little body in the crook of your arm. Enjoy it while you can.
“Take photos with you in them.”
BELIEVE. You won’t want to. You’ll feel puffy or fluffy or yucky from having just pushed a human out your hoo-ha and from having not showered in a few days. No one feels like having a photo op when they don’t look their best, but trust me: you will treasure those photos beyond measure. It doesn’t even matter that your eyes have a tinge of yellow around them from all of the exhaustion and pain you’d been in for 48 hours prior or that you’re practically exposing yourself on camera; the love and excitement and happiness radiating from your puffy and swollen face speaks far better volumes of what mattered most in that moment and for all the moments to come.
I know that’s just a handful of the bucket-loads of advice being dumped on you daily by strangers (remember the cashier at Meijer with her, “I don’t care what people say, a little bourbon on the gums was the only thing that ever helped my Johnny get some rest during teething!”) but I swear those are the most important ones. If all else fails, remember the peace you felt when that elderly woman at Texas Roadhouse gently cradled your face and reminded you how important and beautiful you are. Hold to that when the crazies get you down. Oh, and you’re going to have the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen. It’s an incredible moment. I can’t wait for you to experience it.