Not Parenting Advice...
It’s Pregnancy Season!!!
I feel like this happens every year, a handful of my friends (or acquaintances) are pregnant at the same time… not like a pregnancy pact but like, hey I know these women and they all happen to be pregnant. It always makes me feel like telling them every piece of advice that I have. I want to tell them All. The. Things. I have learned — I want to share my experiences to help those ladies that I love. But, if you are a mother, you will know that Every. Single. Person. you meet will have advice or at least a comment about parenting to give to you —- literally Every. Single. Person.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was working as an Event Coordinator in a restaurant and would have to act as floor supervisor while working events. That job was a lot of office work in the day time and a lot of people interaction while running food and drinks during the evening. So many strangers had random advice to give (mostly, and most annoyingly, was the advice to sleep while you still can ….. ….. ….. DUH!!!) but I also had random women reach out into my personal space to say hi to my belly. As a woman, why would you find it acceptable to reach out and touch someone (someone’s child) without asking.
So, I am going to share some of my stories and adventures with you; not as parenting advice per se but more of a fable; a story that you can learn from.
The beginning of my story goes back to my “early” days of parenthood. I have always worked in restaurants and bars, we are crude people with no boundaries or understanding of appropriateness once we are off the clock. There are a lot of people that do not enjoy the restaurant industry because of hooligans like us. I went to a bartending competition that I was not participating in (I had a hard time feeling comfortable behind the bar once I started showing…) to support some of my homies. First Not Advice after you start showing during your pregnancy everyone you know will acknowledge your unborn baby before saying hi to you. Legit —- your friends will say hi to your baby and then realize they didn’t say hi to you because they were so busy trying to become besties with your belly. Second Not Advice (this is why the bartending competition story is relevant) the best pregnancy advice that I got was on this day.
You are pregnant, that baby is in YOUR body and your body is YOURS —- pregnancy is actually just like any other situation where another person needs to be invited into your personal space before coming in. If someone reaches out and touches your belly without your permission, you have two options —- either, grab them in the boobs or in the crotch as retaliation.
I got that advice too late to utilize it, so yes, this one is straight up parenting (pregnancy) advice that I tell almost everyone I know that could benefit from it —- friends, family, strangers, moms on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th… pregnancies. THIS IS SOLID, UNTRIED, NOT ADVICE!
***** Before going any further —— I love Ali Wong and her stand-up about pregnancy and motherhood… She is not for everyone. She is vulgar, she speaks her mind, she talks about sex and childbirth. If you think you might be offended —- I would recommend not watching *****
My Third Not Lesson is less of a lesson and maybe more of a heads up… maybe a confirmation of something you have already heard or already know…..
You will never ever (ever ever ever ever ever) be alone again.
You will wake up in the middle of the night alone — even with the most supportive and helpful husband, there is something about being a mother that means that you will be up with your baby more than your husband / partner will be.
You will be the one home on maternity leave, you will never feel more isolated and alone than you will after having kids. You are literally always with child (the physical one + the pregnancy too, in reality…) yet you have such little adult human interaction. You will also feel so alone in this, like no one else is going through what you are going through —- reach out to friends with kids or make new mom friends. Join a playgroup or a mom hiking group where you take your kids with you, go to busy parks and say hi… do anything you can to have adult relationships; you won’t feel so alone, you will have support, and you will have a group that is in the trenches with you.
You will NEVER pee alone
If you are alone with you kid(s) for too long they will literally drive you crazy and you might hate them. It’s ok, we all feel that way. It doesn’t mean that you actually hate them, but sometimes kids can be f-ing annoying —- even our own.
Fourth / Fifth Not Advice:
Listen to your body during birth —- if you wanted to have a natural birth, no meds… you are the STRONGEST woman I know… but if that changes, it’s ok. If you think it’s time, it’s time (if it’s not, oh well…) you know what you need, and even if you aren’t a “mom” yet —- you are.
Along those same lines —- if you were planning on breast feeding and that isn’t in the cards for you —- it sucks (believe me, I know!) but it’s ok. You might not “know what to do” but you really do. Make sure your baby is healthy, that will make your baby happy, and that is all that matters. Just like strangers aren’t welcome into your personal life, they aren’t welcome to your motherhood! Remember, always remember, the decision that you feel is best for you baby is the best decision… No. Matter. What. if you feel that it is the right decision, it is probably the right decision.
Sixth… Heads up, a a story of hope when you feel down
Showers and makeup will become a thing of the past (for a while) you will have to pick one or none, sleep will be a fleeting memory, and things that you thought you would never do, well guess what… you will! If you can get someone to come over to hold your baby for 30 minutes so that you can take a shower, do not hesitate —- say yes immediately and ask how soon they can be there. Having a newborn is hard work and is a full time job, sometimes taking even a quick 5 minute shower seems like an uphill battle. If you have 15 minutes to get ready to go —- you make a decision —- shower or makeup —- there is no time for both. (also —- short hair and bangs seem like a great idea, you have a newborn, you don’t want your hair being pulled…. WRONG! Keep your hair long and rock that top knot messy bun because not being able to get your hair out of the grasp of tiny hands suu -UH- cks!)
Once, when my daughter was little, less than 6 months —- my husband and I went out to lunch, nothing fancy, just a diner because we had a baby and babies are loud and cry so we always picked places it wouldn’t be a big deal (a sports bar would have been perfect, not socially acceptable, but perfect) and this day was the day that going to an arcade for lunch would have been a better idea. My husband ate his lunch, no biggie, as my daughter screamed at the top of her lungs. I was stressed out and nothing I tried would calm her down which stressed me out even more… if you don’t know, your baby can sense your feelings: if you get stressed they feel stress, if you are uncomfortable around someone they will feel the same way and so on, and so fourth… I was on the verge of tears and hadn’t taken a bite of lunch when an older woman sitting at the table next to us asked me if she could hold my baby so that I could finish my lunch. She stood next to the table swaying back and forth calming my newborn. At the time I was so embarrassed that I shoveled my food into my mouth as quickly as possible so that I wouldn’t be a burden to the woman who graciously reached out to help me. Now that I am out of that stage and see other women struggling the same way, I look back at that day with such a different perspective and thankfulness - I can not wait to return the favor one day.
Seventh Not Advice I learned that while some people are ass holes, when you fly with a screaming baby, most of the people around you are parents, or uncles, or grandmothers; these people have been where you are and while it might not be the best flying experience they have, people are understanding. It is stressful, you feel like everyone around you is upset and annoyed —- calm down, take a deep breath —- feeling alone in motherhood is not unusual, but when you get to the next milestone you will start to see women around you who are in the same exact place you were a week ago. You might see the women who look they have it all together while you feel like you are the only one falling apart, but you will see that isn’t the case —- it’s similar to the pregnancy season… once you know someone who is pregnant, or you are pregnant, it is all you see — it is everywhere around you… feeling alone after the baby is born is the opposite —- it is like looking at someone’s IG who is only posting professional photos, has an at home photoshoot weekly, and is an ambassador for something amazing —- you are only seeing what is going on online or what they want you to see —- you don’t know that the woman, the one who looks like she has it all together, and has a well behaved child really does have it all together, or really feels that she does. She might feel as broken and alone as you do, she is just displaying it differently.
Eighth Not Lesson, or good information to have…) Clean and dirty clothing take a new turn… you will literally do at least 1 load of laundry a day (from the baby alone!!) ** purchase multiple blanks, sheets, etc because your baby will wreck at least one set a day** so the smell test is really the deciding factor. Oh, and also the stain-age level —- minimal stains are ok… and while you will look at your clean, freshly pressed, impeccably dressed husband, you will look like a finger painting canvas and also might look like you just walked through the car wash depending on the day. Sleep —- anyone and everyone will tell you this, but it is really amazing how your body works, you make it through, and honestly, even though you have SO much to do… take advantage of nap time sometimes.
You know that scene from Baby Mama —- chocolate or poop…. Here let me remind you (see video below) THINGS LIKE THIS WILL HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE (for real, like really really really really really will happen) it might not be chocolate or poop, but….. it will be something.
Non-Lessons 9, 10, 11, 12…..
Kids are LOUD —- they scream (physically scream like their life depended on it) when they are learning to talk… LET’S GET REAL HERE —- your kid will scream the minute they become a real-life person that you can see, touch, hold, a real-life little baby and my kids are 2 years old and 4 years old and the screaming hasn’t stopped + MESSY —- that super clean, organized, spotless house… car… stroller, carseat, etc will never ever (ever ever ever ever ever) be clean again + NEEDY —- they can not do anything at all —- they just eat and sleep and poop and you are responsible for making sure they do all of those things, it is your responsibility to not only keep them alive, but to try to turn them into decent human beings, trying not to do and be your parents while trying to emulate the best qualities they brought into parenting + NOT WHAT YOU EXPECTED THEM TO BE AT ALL!!!!!!!!!! Your kids will be so much more than what you thought they would be. There are things you hope to control and want your kid to do and they will not do or be that, but they will be themselves and watching them grow into their personalities and discover who they are is better than the wishes you had for them.
They wear diapers longer than you thought they would + potty training is not as easy as you think it will be …. Just a heads up ….
Speaking of not what you expected… along with you kid being different than you imagined, motherhood will also be different. There are so many ways that you will grow and change when you become a mother. There is a reason your mom didn’t jump on the trampoline with you, or said she peed her pants when she laughed really hard, and you will feel the same way —- bodily changes —- blah! But there are so many other unexpected changes… I know more about a penis than I did before, like a lot! I am learning how to play war, sword fighting….. dress up, house, barbies —- these are not things I remember playing with, and are definitely not my favorite games; watching how happy my kids are when I read them ‘Brown Bear’ for the 15th time that day, or watching them play imaginary house and cook in their kitchen together or play in the ball pit —- it’s like watching them sleep —- spying in on their playtime and conversations is so much fun. You are worried about them constantly and start to understand why your parents wanted to know where you were all the time and made you check in. I didn’t know what kind of mom I was going to be but I know what kind of mom I am.
I want my kids to experience all that life has to offer and I want them to become the people that they want to be. I don’t want to force my thoughts and opinions on them, but I hope that they take the good from both myself and my husband and integrate that into their person. I will love them unconditionally, no matter what, and I will support them in their life as much as possible — I want to be there for them no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other “truth” they are. I will be there to support them through addition or divorce later in life. I will get them help for depression, mental or physical illness, and regardless of the path they walk (even if it is a dark path that I can not support) my children will always be my children and unconditional love is what comes with that title. Now, my kids are little and I let them learn on their own as much as possible. I want them to interact with other kids, I want them to be outspoken and “loud” because I don’t want them to be run over in life, I want them to play on their own and figure out how to do things that they can’t quite do. Yes, they are babies, but they are also growing and don’t need to be babied all the time. I am not as overprotective as some mothers and honestly, I think germs are a good thing. I get my kids vaccinated and they are taken care of so well, but dropping a pacifier on the floor does not require sterilization in my opinion, changing a diaper at a park with no bathrooms isn’t the end of the world… I am finding out that I can be a “crazy, boring, typical” mom I didn’t lose myself completely. I am still pretty chill, easy going, and just want to hang out with good people and have a good time….
There is one last thing I want to talk about! Postpartum Depression is a real thing.
Talk to you partner about how you feel, talk to your doctor about how you feel, get a therapist to talk to. GET HELP. Postpartum can last for a long time, it’s ok. Your body went through so much. The physical changes are a wonderful thing, but the release of hormones and changes that take place after giving birth can wreck havoc on your world… it feels like your world is crashing right now, that’s ok, get help and make it through the depression and things will get much much better.
Please seek help if you need it, if you feel down, or you need support! Here is a little bit of information on Postpartum Depression as well as a couple of websites and phone numbers you can turn to for help!
With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.
What causes postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.
After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Some of the more common symptoms a woman may experience include:
Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
Worrying or feeling overly anxious
Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
Experiencing anger or rage
Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
Eating too little or too much
Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
How can a woman tell if she has postpartum depression?
Only a health care provider can diagnose a woman with postpartum depression. Because symptoms of this condition are broad and may vary between women, a health care provider can help a woman figure out whether the symptoms she is feeling are due to postpartum depression or something else. A woman who experiences any of these symptoms should see a health care provider right away.
How is postpartum depression different from the “baby blues”?
The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue that many women experience after having a baby. Babies require a lot of care, so it’s normal for mothers to be worried about, or tired from, providing that care. Baby blues, which affects up to 80 percent of mothers, includes feelings that are somewhat mild, last a week or two, and go away on their own.
With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. Because of the severity of the symptoms, postpartum depression usually requires treatment. The condition, which occurs in nearly 15 percent of births, may begin shortly before or any time after childbirth, but commonly begins between a week and a month after delivery.
Are some women more likely to experience postpartum depression?
Some women are at greater risk for developing postpartum depression because they have one or more risk factors, such as:
Symptoms of depression during or after a previous pregnancy
Previous experience with depression or bipolar disorder at another time in her life
A family member who has been diagnosed with depression or other mental illness
A stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, such as job loss, death of a loved one, domestic violence, or personal illness
Medical complications during childbirth, including premature delivery or having a baby with medical problems
Mixed feelings about the pregnancy, whether it was planned or unplanned
A lack of strong emotional support from her spouse, partner, family, or friends
Alcohol or other drug abuse problems.
Postpartum depression can affect any woman regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or economic status.
How is postpartum depression treated?
There are effective treatments for postpartum depression. A woman’s health care provider can help her choose the best treatment, which may include:
Counseling/Talk Therapy: This treatment involves talking one-on-one with a mental health professional (a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker). Two types of counseling shown to be particularly effective in treating postpartum depression are:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts and behaviors; and
Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships.
Medication: Antidepressant medications act on the brain chemicals that are involved in mood regulation. Many antidepressants take a few weeks to be most effective. While these medications are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding, a woman should talk to her health care provider about the risks and benefits to both herself and her baby.
These treatment methods can be used alone or together.
What can happen if postpartum depression is left untreated?
Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby and may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.
How can family and friends help?
Family members and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of postpartum depression in a new mother. They can encourage her to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.
Call your doctor.
Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
PSI (Postpartum Support International)
Where can I find more information?
For more information on conditions that affect mental health, resources, and research, go to MentalHealth.gov at http://www.mentalhealth.gov, or the NIMH website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov. In addition, the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus service has information on a wide variety of health topics, including conditions that affect mental health.
*** Information on postpartum above came from MentalHealth.gov website***