We are weeks away from the birth of our second born, and while much of this pregnancy has brought back familiar feelings and preparations, the differences are valuable. It definitely helps being past the first-time learning curve.
It has humbled me and given me patience and confidence in a way that I didn’t have going into my son’s labor. If I could go back in time, this is what I would have focused on:
1. Don’t have a birth plan, have birth plans
I am such a planner, and so it drove me nuts when people told me to “be prepared to throw your birth plan out the window.” The fact that our plans may change is beside the point. Just because birth is unpredictable doesn’t mean that we should stop researching or vocalizing our preferences. Don’t want an epidural? Fantastic. But don’t just research drug-free labors. Also research labors with pain management so that if you end up getting one, you still know exactly what is happening to you.
This time, my plan is to have a baby and understand all of the ways in which said baby can safely exit.
2. Food is not just for comfort, it’s going to be life
Our pantry and fridge were empty when we went into labor last time. I skipped everyone’s advice and I didn’t make a single freezer meal because I really thought I would be fine to cook whenever I pleased. We were rescued by friends wiser than us who filled our fridge with protein-packed snacks and started a meal train upon our return. When you bring that baby home, you will experience exhaustion and hunger like never before. If you can’t guarantee sleep, you might as well guarantee food. Trust me.
This time, food has moved from the bottom of my third trimester to-do list to the very top.
3. Don’t plan ahead for visitors, plan ahead on the kind of visits
You will either want visitors right away or you won’t. Both are perfectly fine. Just keep in mind that our culture has become conditioned to the birth of baby being centered on the baby. Prepare to advocate for yourself if you want more than seeing your newborn passed around like a hot potato. Food? Laundry? Dishes? Coffee? You are, after all, recovering. Strategically surround yourself in the early weeks with the kind of visits that will fill your cup and hold on the visits that will require you to pour from your cup.
This time, I’m planning visits based on my recovery, not based on the arrival of baby.
4. You don’t need to explain yourself while you’re still discovering yourself
I knew I would be a classic, anxious first-time mom, as I was learning the little things at the same time I was learning the big things. What I didn’t expect was just how much unwarranted questioning I would get. Something as mundane as giving my baby sweet potato at six months would turn into a questionnaire about why I didn’t give him a baby spoon, where his bib was, or why I waited until six months. The why’s became never ending, and to serve what purpose? It soon grew clear who genuinely enjoyed sharing in my motherhood journey and who was there to gawk. You might be surprised who fills your support network and who detracts from it, but in time, it will only end up being a good thing to discover your real tribe.
This time, I will direct far less energy answering the why’s and you should’s. Why? Because I’m the mom.
5. The things that feel never-ending are usually the most fast-escaping
People warned me how quickly babies grow, but they’re speaking to so much more than just oh-my-god-we-are-already-out-of-newborn clothes. The developmental phases make for an emotional rollercoaster. One week your baby is sleeping, and the next they’re up every hour crying. One day they’re eating in predictable increments, and the next they’re demanding food every twenty minutes. The thing is, this is all normal, yet new moms are led to believe that babies come in two categories of “good” or “bad,” with little consideration of what normal baby behavior constitutes. So suddenly that normal yet difficult phase that comes around throws us into panic mode that we are failing, when actually our baby is thriving – and simply being a baby. If there’s one piece of advice that I would want every new mom to remember, it’s this: There’s no such thing as a good or bad baby. There are only babies; and there’s no such thing as good or bad habits, only good or bad days.
This time, I will not dwell on the challenges of each phase; I will celebrate in the reward that I now know comes from each phase.