I remember finding out I was going to be a mother. I headed straight to the store for Every. Possible. Book. Surely hours of reading would prepare me for pregnancy and then the years ahead with children. I was freaked out. My body was changing and somehow I thought that if I owned the most popular baby products and got on the Mother Goose registration list early, then everything would fall into place and be PERFECT. This was not the case.
Looking back now, I wish I had been able to read a letter of guidance from an older me.
Sometime in 2005
You may be feeling tired and nauseous, but I assure you that this letter from your future self does not mean that you are losing your mind. And yes, I will wait so that you can go pee before you read it.
Becoming a mother is a magical and spiritual time and though you don’t want to forget any one moment, I assure you that you will. Pregnancy brain and lack of sleep all contribute, but life also happens fast (except in labour. That takes forever.) After baby arrives, each day will run into another and unless you write things down – the dates, cute phrases and moments – they will also run into each other.
It’s shocking, but it doesn’t matter what brand of baby carrier you have. Same goes for your food mill, burp cloth, breast pump and diaper bag. Your own happiness and quality time with your baby is really all that matters. Reminder: feeding them and babyproofing are also good ideas. The best advice I can give is that time is a gift. Each moment playing blocks on the floor or reading before bed helps trigger their dopamine and shape their future. That said – time for yourself is also a gift. Neglecting your own needs – like monitoring basic hygiene and nutrition – can start to occur when you feel pressure to help your little one develop, ensure the clothes are clean and the meals are balanced. Sometimes, your standards CAN be relaxed and everyone will still be happy and healthy. You deserve to develop and be cared for too – so don’t forget about yourself. And if you start to feel down and depressed, make sure you tell someone how you are feeling.
After everything has settled and the baby is sleeping through the night, your body may not be back to pre-pregnancy normal. And whether you do Kegels religiously or not, you may discover when you sneeze or go for a run, that you have bladder leakage.
Again, it comes down to communication. When you chat with others, you will know that 1-in-3 women experience light bladder leakage (LBL) at some point in their lives when they laugh, cough, sneeze or even exercise and often this occurs after childbirth. This is a condition called ‘Stress Urinary Incontinence’ and affects so many. Hopefully when you are older topics like this won’t be so taboo. If they are, I want you to bring them out into the open so that other women don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed and can learn how to better manage them
We will consume ourselves with baby development and then as years go on, we read less and less books about their life stages which is when they may need our input the most. So take a few hours back from researching the ideal play yard and stockpile it for discussions on learning challenges during their later years.
Please don’t get your heart set on any one pre-conception about how the birth will go. You may not be able to have a water birth or epidural. It may be a cesarean, and your birthing ball may completely deflate while you sit on it. Also – it could be super-fast. Be prepared for this idea (trust me). Try to go with the flow and respect your health and wellbeing, even if the process is not exactly as you envisioned previously. If you have a vaginal birth, your vagina may not look the same immediately afterwards, but it will still look wonderful and will feel great again in time. And your baby will thrive under your care whether you were able to get to the tub in time for a water birth or not.
One key in raising children is instinct. Another is communication. Your body will change, and it will be as beautiful as it is right now. You may defecate while giving birth. Shocking I know – and only one book ever told me this! (BTW despite the massive lasagna you ate before labour this doesn’t end up happening to you). After birth, your breasts will also be different. Quite spectacular, actually. The whole potential ‘poo during birth’ thing was nothing compared the ongoing ‘pee every time you sneeze or jog’ thing. But you are not alone.
You will find out that there is support out there for you (literally and figurativelylike the MONSTER huge pads that could double as a mattress protector that the hospital gives you right after giving birth. For the first three months postpartum, Poise overnights are fabulous and far more comfortable than those at the hospital! Once you are getting into the swing of life again, and are ready for that perfect date in a little black dress, you can introduce Impressa or Poise microliners, which are super thin and coompletely innocuous under that LBD. Date nights; that sparks another piece of advice: Make sure you make time with your partner a priority too.
The best advice I can give is to not believe you are ever alone. Talk to others, and communicate without shutting yourself out from society by reading preachy books.. Raising a child and caring for yourself at the same time requires very delicate maneuvering, and I have all the faith in the world that you can do it even when you think you can’t.
Enjoy the ride, and please trust your instincts. Now head off to pee again. I know this letter has been a bit long.
An older Mom and confidante
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by my friends at Poise, but all opinions are my own.