Here are a few thoughts from one of the mom groups I’m part of…
I wish I had known…
There is no "right" way to parent. Every child/mother/family is different and you do what works and what feels right, especially when it comes to sleep. Even if your mom/mother-in-law/friends/old lady at the mall would do it differently, don’t stress over the things other people find important. Do what is right for you.
Despite how hard and challenging motherhood is, (and there are brutally difficult times), it is all worth it. Look at every moment as the present because soon all the hard times are nothing but a memory.
To be prepared for what happens “if”… If your baby has complications that keep them in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), you may not be able to take them home with you when you are released. Know that it is okay if they need to spend more time in the hospital even though you’ve been released. It is the best place for them and there will be plenty of time to introduce them to all of your family and friends once they are ready.
To be open to the challenges of recovery once the baby is here. No one wants to scare a pregnant woman so often times you don’t hear how rough it is. From emotions being out of whack (even more so than during pregnancy), to the swelling "down there", to simple trips to the bathroom taking 20 minutes. Give yourself time to heal, be prepared to ask for help and know that it probably will get ugly – but it is temporary and so worth it.
That for some moms, falling in love their baby isn't immediate. It might take some time and that’s okay. Just do your best and the love part will come on its own. Give it time.
How hard and lonely motherhood can be. Some women cry for weeks and have trouble adjusting to motherhood. It is good to find a mom group, or friends who already have kids, who you can call and get advice from once you have your child. You’ll need them for more than you can ever imagine.
How temporary each stage is. Sleep deprivation, hormones, pain, and teething. None of it lasts forever and it does get better.
If you don’t have family around, find some close friends and ask them if they’ll be willing to help you out. And if they offer, take them up on babysitting, meals, and anything else they offer. You’ll need it.
How much intentional effort needs to be put into teaching a baby to sleep. We think most babies just sleep naturally, and that those who don't simply outgrow that stage and start sleeping on their own. It can be a shock to realize that babies have to learn how to sleep properly. It is best to research a sleep strategy while you’re still pregnant and getting some sleep. Then you will already have an idea of what to do before you become so sleep deprived that you can’t even see straight.
What a doula and a midwife are and how they can help you during your pregnancy. Know that your doctor, the one you’ve been seeing for the last 8 months or so, may or may not be the one to deliver your baby. It might be helpful to have a doula or midwife with you in case your doctor can’t be. That way you’ll have some consistency.
How much having a baby changes your relationship with your spouse, family and friends. You now play the role of mother in addition to wife, lover and whatever else might be on the list (mother-of-the-grandchild). Be sure to keep the lines of communication open and check in with your spouse often to see how things are going and what adjustments need to be made. Family might demand more of you now that you have a baby, they might want to see you more often and need more of your time. And some of your friendships will grow stronger while others will fade and new ones will form. Just be open to the changes and do your best to go with the flow.
How much having a baby changes your sex life. By way of the baby interrupting you, being too tired, not finding time because you haven’t found your new life balance, or just healing differently from your pre-baby body.
How challenging and expensive it is to find child care. Nanny? Day care? Stay at home mom/dad? Part-time? Full-time? Will my employer be flexible? Start early and plan to give yourself as many options as possible. You won’t know until you’ve been caring for the baby for a few weeks whether you’ll be able to leave them at day care/with a nanny or not. Try to give yourself enough financial cushion to keep your options open and get creative.