Birth vs. baby
So much energy goes into planning and preparing for labor and delivery during the months of pregnancy, but what happens after the baby arrives? Malia Wycoff of Fairhope, Alabama recalls a moment of realization she had in the hospital, "With my first child, I became focused on the birth to the point that once I got to the hospital it hit me -- when I leave here in two days, I will have a baby going with me!" Wycoff wishes someone had pointed out to her that while the considerations of the birth are important, it is a one-day event. "But when you get home," she says, "the main attraction begins whether you're ready or not, and it won't matter whether or not you had pitocin or an epidural, it's what you do with the baby that really matters.
It's your party
While women are the ones having the babies, it sometimes seems that the doctors and hospitals are the ones calling the shots. After two births at hospitals, Cindra Kerscher of West Chester, Pennsylvania chose to have her third child at a birthing center with a midwife. Says Kerscher, "I wish I had known about the negative stance hospitals and Ob/Gyns take about childbirth. It is a very natural process that women have been in control of for thousands of years, yet doctors have filled us with fear and taken away our control over our births!"
Lori McKenzie of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania cites a related example. "With my first pregnancy, I felt sure that the baby was breech because I kept feeling what I thought was his head directly under my ribs. But I had three doctors at separate appointments tell me he was head down. Finally they did a sonogram on the day I was due just to check. Sure enough, the baby was breech and they had been wrong." After an unsuccessful external version to try and turn the baby, McKenzie had a cesarean.
"I've since learned," shares McKenzie, "that at forty weeks, the baby is generally too large to turn. Had the doctors known sooner, perhaps the version would have been successful and I could have avoided the cesarean." Her second child was also breech, but with an earlier sonogram at McKenzie's insistence, the position was able to be corrected and she enjoyed a successful VBAC delivery. What McKenzie wishes she knew? "Listen to your instincts. Don't always believe a doctor just because he is a doctor. It is your baby and your health and you are in charge."
Sleep, baby, sleep
Every new mother has questions regarding their infant's sleep at one time or another. Wake her to feed or let her sleep? Let him sleep in my arms or put his in his crib? Cindy Dow of Lakeville, Massachusetts was no exception. "Our first Saturday home with our first child had me in tears. I was told she was 'supposed' to sleep in the bassinet, if not in her own room in the crib. So, I would nurse her to sleep and then try to move her, and she woke up every time. This went on all night! Finally we decided that she was going to sleep on my chest where she fell asleep and the heck with the bassinet! I wish someone would have told me that once the baby is asleep that it is safe to just leave her sleeping!"
Breastfeeding is as natural a process as giving birth, but for some women, it isn't as easy as it looks in the pictures of the baby magazines. Maria Latham-Foley of Mississauga, Ontario found this out the hard way. "I wish people would have been honest with me about how much it can hurt for the first week or so. I think we do women a great disservice by ignoring this very real part of mothering."
Latham-Foley, a freelance writer, says she once wrote a humorous article about useless advice that is given during pregnancy. "I included a line that said, 'No one tells you that breastfeeding is more painful than nipple piercing the first hundred times you try it.' That was the only line the magazine cut. It's like breastfeeding advocates don't trust women to 'do the right thing' if they know it is going to hurt." The truth of the matter, Latham-Foley believes is, "Though it is a natural process, it is still a learned skill and can be uncomfortable until you, your baby, and your nipples all get the hang of it."
"I wish someone would have told me just how intense the bond is with a new baby," says Margaret Loudon of Summit, New Jersey. "I was totally unprepared. I planned to go back to work and thought it would be so easy. I ended up being devastated the first time I had to leave her!" Indeed those new bundles of joy are woven into our hearts even before they make an appearance, though the process happens without our even noticing.
Esther Hill of Kalamazoo, Michigan shares a related discovery. "I wish someone would have told me that some things are worth sacrificing for a little while so I could be with my babies. It wasn't until my second son was two and a half that I realized how much I was missing by focusing on things that will still be there after the kids grow up. For me, no career or clean house is worth missing out on my children's childhoods." Because of this realization, Hill has come to another understanding that no one shared with her, "There is no greater responsibility or reward than raising these little ones. Realizing this helps to put the frustrations of having young children into perspective."
No matter how much advice you get while pregnant, in hindsight you'll find things that you wish you would have known. Whatever advice you do get, view it as a great big garden of knowledge: consider it all, toss out what is bad, hold on to what is good. You'll never know when it might come in handy.