The biggest lesson learned from my first born was that planning is mostly good for purposes of being informed of my options and not actually good for purposes of sticking to any one particular way. But there are a few goals I have going into this wild and miraculous adventure of pregnancy, childbirth and recovery the second time around.
- Less resting, more movement: This is mostly a forced decision since I am now chasing a toddler around all day, but some of it is a conscious decision. I under-estimated how much physical strength and endurance would be needed during labor last time. When people compare it to training for a marathon, they’re not joking. This time, I hope to be more in tune to my body – not just my cravings. I have started prenatal yoga earlier, I’m walking more and doing at-home exercises to build strength.
- Bye bye Pinterest nursery, hello Montessori: As fun as it was to deck out a traditional nursery, it proved to be far less practical than I had hoped. My first-born never slept in the crib, we only used the diaper changing station for the first two months and he hated being rocked on the rocking chair. He did pee quite a bit on the area rug, though! I’ve spent the last few weeks re-arranging the entire room in a way that inspires his world, not mine. The crib is gone, and a floor bed that he actually sleeps well in has replaced it. Mirrors have been hung at his eye level where he stares and giggles at his reflection, and classic wooden toys and books are placed in each corner where he can explore independently. And magically, he does! I only wish I had done this from the start. As for the the next baby? She will get a similar room when she’s older, but there’s no rush. As we learned the first time around, newborns don’t really need anything except a clean diaper and milk, and so it’s better to prep things we will need in common areas of the house more-so than in any particular room.
- A minimized environment: Speaking of no nursery, I’m also minimizing. It is not having everything that helps a baby learn. It can be overwhelming. There are a handful of toys and games that my baby enjoys playing with, but the bulk of his learning comes from real-life experiences and made-up games with everyday objects around us. This time, I’m not falling for the distracting and obnoxious light-up toys barking at me from the toy aisles, and instead, I’m sticking to the tried and true classics like stacking cups, shape sorters, peg boards, textured balls, mirrors, and magnets. This is true for other things like bibs (why would I want to create more laundry for myself when he can just eat without a shirt?), tiny baby towels (because our towels work even better and actually cover his entire body), and infant shoes (because they never stay on and are absolutely pointless when baby can’t walk). That’s the beauty of the second baby – you know what you like to use and what you don’t.
- A birth plan with a different mindset: Last time, I was overly-confident that if I envisioned the labor I wanted, I would get it. So I felt emotionally defeated when I ended up getting leg labor and an epidural to cope, when I got stuck at 8 cm for hours on end, and when my baby refused to move into the optimal birthing position. This time, I am still hoping for the best while mentally and emotionally preparing myself for anything. It is important to think positive and to voice your preferences, and I will absolutely draft my dream birth plan once again, but not to the point where I undermine the true unpredictability and pain of childbirth. I tried to find strength and confidence the first time around by downplaying the thought of pain and struggle. “I have a high pain tolerance! I got this!” And that proved to be the wrong approach. Strength and confidence come from CONFRONTING the pain and struggle that is absolutely involved in childbirth, not from ignoring it. I hope to go into this labor with just as much positivity, but a bit more self-awareness and humility to help me through.
- A selfish recovery: Now that I’ve been through the throes of recovery firsthand, I will unapologetically dedicate this next fourth trimester to my needs and the needs of my baby. Period. Childbirth is so much more than celebrating the newest family member. It requires significant time to heal and bond. I now know that I do get anxiety that is worsened postpartum, and that influences the kind of support that I need compared to someone else, and that’s ok. Bringing our child home from the hospital is one of the most intimate chapters between my husband and I, and it’s also a very painful and exhausting time. Next time, I will give myself permission from the start to be in survival mode, to accept the kind of help that is actually going to be helpful, and to deny the kind of help that will only stress me out.