Yesterday afternoon, a couple moms and I were sitting around my parents' living room, discussing baby showers and gifts, and what are the "baby essentials" that each mom-to-be should have. As we sat there, I begun to wonder... besides all the things a mom would need to own, what are the sorts of things she might need to hear, before giving birth... and having her life completely change forever?
So I made a list--because that's just what I do. I make lists. ;) But before I start talking through this advice for a mom-to-be, I thought I should mention a few things.
First of all, different moms are going to need to hear different advice, based on their backgrounds, past experiences, and personalities. Let me give you an example. My mom gave birth, at home, to my younger sister (her fifth child), and a few hours later, was attending a piano performance that my older brothers were playing in. I'm pretty sure my mom has some pioneer woman blood in her or something! But basically, if you're a mom with that sort of personality/drive/motivation (whatever you want to call it), you're not going to be needing to hear some of the same advice as the completely healthy mom who is still staying in bed all day long, when her "baby" is 5 years old. Different moms struggle with different things, and thus will need different pieces of advice. I'm going to try to keep some of this advice balanced, to "reach" both extremes. We'll see how it goes. ;)
Okay. On to number two... I might say some controversial things. There's your warning. ;) I hear a lot of "mommy advice" from strangers, on the internet, etc., and some of it I agree with, and some of it, I strongly disagree with. Most of what I'm going to say below came from my mom (yes, that amazing woman mentioned above), and so this is largely how I was raised (along with my five siblings). But anyway, there are different cultures, different experiences, different methods... this is what I do. Take it or leave it.
Whew. Moving on. You ready? (By the way, I really hope that some of this is helpful to new moms out there... If any of you know any moms-to-be who you think might benefit from some of these suggestions, please feel free to pass this along!)
1. Rest--at least for the first few days, but don't start acting as if the world and your husband revolve around you. You just had a baby--your body needs to rest. You'll also be extremely tired, which is another very good reason to rest and catch up on sleep! Sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy having your dinner brought to you--but only for a little while. Once you feel like you can get up and make your own plate, do so. Your husband is tired, too... don't be selfish.
2. Don't forget your husband. This ties in with point number one. He still needs your love and attention, just like he did before you had the baby. Your tendency might be to focus on the baby, and forget about the baby's daddy. Ask him about his day, serve him in every way you can (even if they're little ways), and... Start having sex again as soon as possible. Some people say three weeks, some people say six weeks... I think you'll just know. As long as your body is sufficiently healed, don't think of excuses, and don't be selfish (yes, there's that selfishness word again :)). Sex is a really important part of marriage, and when done correctly, and in the right spirit, I think it brings the couple together again in a really bonding way after a baby's born.
3. It's okay to cry (and cry a lot!), but also realize that you CAN have some control over your emotions. Your hormones will probably be going crazy, and you'll be living on less sleep that you thought was possible, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be a crying mess. Many of my tears that I shed after Matthias's birth were tears of self-pity, and because I was struggling to have the right attitude about different situations in my life. Pray about what's happening, and ask God to give you the strength to be thankful and cheerful. Your husband will probably appreciate it. ;)
4. Love your baby, cuddle your baby, kiss your baby's sweet-smelling head, read to your baby... but also clean your house. Seriously. One of the best ways to get me motivated to clean--whether I'm pregnancy-sick, or dealing with a newborn, etc., is to set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes, and clean the bathroom for 10 minutes. Load the dishwasher, and wipe the kitchen counter. Make your bed. Fold some laundry. Just work steadily for 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or whatever you're able to do. These little time-spots of cleaning help your house not become a total disaster, and save your husband the trouble of cleaning it, or digging through the mountains of laundry to find an undershirt. :-p
5. While on the subject of laundry... Wash one load of laundry a day, and fold it as soon as it comes out of the dryer. There are few things worse than mountains of laundry. I have struggled and struggled with being in control of the laundry situation, and this is the number one that helps me. Put a load of laundry in the washer as soon as you wake up, switch the load as soon as you hear it buzz, and then fold it as soon as you hear that buzzing noise again (anyone else have washers and dryers that shake the house when they buzz?!). You will have clean, folded clothing by mid-morning, and this is a beautiful thing. :D
6. We've been talking about keeping up with the house, but here's some advice just for you: set a time that you're going to wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and take a shower. Now here's one of those areas where different moms might be different. Some moms might prefer taking a shower at night. I'm not arguing for when's the best shower time. ;) I'm just saying... it is possible to still take a shower every day, even when you're a new mom. If you're typically a make-up wearer, continue to wear make-up. Make looking nice a priority. You might be a sleep-deprived new mama, but everyone doesn't need to figure that out, as soon as they take their first glance at you! :-p
7. Ask for help, meals, just some company for the afternoon, but once the first month or two are over, your motto should become, "Just do it." Looking back to when I was a new mom to Rachel, there were times that I'd call my mom or sister and say, "I want to go shopping, and I can't go alooone!!" My mom's responses were very kind and understanding. She would figure out a way to drive to my house, or meet me somewhere (or have my sister meet me there), but often she would gently say, "You could do this by yourself, Tricia." And I'd respond, "Whaat?" Well, maybe not like that. I knew I could do it by myself; I just didn't want to. But if your family isn't around, or your husband works long hours, there may be times that you'll have to pack up that little baby, and go somewhere by yourself. Believe me... it isn't easy at first (especially when your baby is screaming the entire time you're in that tiny Dollar General, and everyone's staring at you), but the more you do it, the easier this will become.
8. Yes. Shopping trips will get easier (I'm not saying they'll be EASY; I'm saying they'll be EASIER), diaper changes won't make you gag, a new season of life will begin, and you just might forget about that difficult time in your life--at least some of it. When Rachel was 4 1/2 months old, I got pregnant with Jemima. It was one of those pregnancies where I decided to count how many times I threw up, and once I reached the 70s, I stopped counting. ;) So, yes, I'm sure it was very difficult, but honestly, the only thing I remember from those months is one time when I was leaning over the toilet, and Rachel was sitting next to me, just staring at me. That's all I remember: that one picture. And now Jemima's two, and can sing part of the Doxology, and occasionally remember the months of the year in order. Time passes, and your baby grows up. Take hope! :)
Okay, there you go. There are lots more things I could say, but I'm going to stop there for now. Thanks for listening. :)