Veterans Moms Tell All: Advice for Moms-to-Be

advice for moms to be

In today’s information age, preparing for motherhood can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting experience. It can be incredibly challenging to find  unbiased information for many topics related to pregnancy, birth, infant care, and the postpartum period, and it seems like just when you think you have the answers you’re seeking, someone in your life contradicts it.

In an effort to get real life advice from moms who have been there and done it, we took to our local Facebook group, Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding and asked the following question:

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to a person who is about to welcome their first baby?

We got an outpouring of responses to share with you.  Below you will find very honest, candid, and wise feedback about those early postpartum days from moms throughout Baltimore.  If you’re looking for a place to ask your own questions related to the childbearing year, join us on Facebook!

  • Trust your gutKaty Linda
  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Stephanie S.
  • Beware of the mythical “perfect mother.” She’s fraudulent. She’ll make you think you aren’t good enough. You are. I want her to know that irritation, resentment, and boredom are common but rarely spoken (because, “perfect mothers” don’t feel these things). There is so much joy in blowouts, endless feedings, days without showering, and loss of autonomy. Oh, and I’d want her to remember that we were intended to raise children in communities. With others. Who can help with a capital H. Sara Nett
  • Try to do one kind thing for yourself each day, Mama.  Lily Dwyer Begg
  • You’re gonna be okay. Melissa L.
  • It’s OK to be scared. Christan M.
  • Stay off of google. Pace A.
  • Use a postpartum doula. Melissa K.
  • Sometimes pediatricians give bad advice!! Amanda W.
  • Trust your instincts, only you know how to best parent your baby. Haleigh F.
  • Let people help. Call the after hours pediatrician. Hire a doula and/or postpartum doula if you can. Call the nurses line. Invite trusted friends and family in. Let people clean. Let people buy your dinner. Tell your midwife or ob what still hurts. It doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make you a bad or worthless mother. Trish B.
  • Some days and nights may seem long, but enjoy the snuggles while you can! In a blink, they’ll be a toddler!! Kate
  • Build a support network before baby arrives. Someone you can call who will just stay on the phone with you while you cry. Someone experienced who will talk you down when your baby has its first fever. Someone wise who can reassure you that what you’re going through is normal and your feelings are valid. Someone single who can come watch the baby when you desperately need even half a freaking moment to yourself. It takes a village and in this day and age, we have to build that village for ourselves. Facebook isn’t enough. Also, stay off Instagram. Caitlyn D.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell people they can’t come over. Jessica M.
  • Some days the anxiety around “are you doing the right thing” will crush you and turn you into Dr. Google, but you’re doing an amazing job and your baby is perfect. Jeana D.
  • Don’t allow people to kiss your baby! Amanda B.
  • Get ready to jump in to what my sister and I like to call the “newborn hole” where you don’t know which way is up or the way out. Focus on survival, you’re learning how to keep a human alive and that’s enough. The hole can last up to 3 to 4 months and that’s okay, you’re doing great. Alexis B.
  • You don’t have to “enjoy” every moment. They do grow up fast, but mothering a newborn can be grueling. Be gentle with yourself and your feelings. Danielle S.
  • Find a provider you trust and jive with. Becky R.
  • This is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do and you likely aren’t doing it wrong, it just really is that hard. Megan R.
  • Having a mama tribe is so important. I wouldn’t have gotten through my SAHM time without them. And if I could go back and do it all over, I’d have done placenta encapsulation all 3 times. Ah-mazing. Colleen C.
  • Don’t be afraid to limit visitors the first couple of weeks to only those near and dear (or to those you know will give you the support you want and need). Prioritize the needs of your new family and getting into a rhythm, including the time it takes for you and baby to learn how to breastfeed, over saying yes to everyone that wants to call text or visit. It is ok to set some boundaries and say no if you need to. And on the flip side of that, splurge the money on a postpartum doula. I didn’t, but wish I did. Everything is a phase. And it gets easier. Stephanie P
  • Don’t compare yourself or your baby to anyone else. You are doing the best you can do, one day at a time! Meg R.
  • It’s OK if it’s not love at first sight! You aren’t going to enjoy every minute and anyone who tells you to can step off. Everything with a baby is temporary- the good and the bad. Try to bask in the good and endure the bad. This too shall pass! Becky K.
  • Childbirth is …not necessarily the “best day of your life.” Having a newborn and exclusively breastfeeding is hard and can be lonely and isolating. It’s OK to feel that way about it and love your little one so much it hurts at the same time. Rachel N.
  • Ask for and accept help. Know you are not alone in your fear, pain, sadness, confusion, overwhelmed-ness. You gotta do whatever works for you, your baby, your family. Healthy, happy mama…healthy, happy baby. Pregnancy, delivery, postpartum…MOTHERHOOD is NOT one size fits all. Don’t be hard on yourself if your experience isn’t exactly what you thought it would be or what someone else’s is. Nora B.
  • Just because things are “natural” doesn’t mean they can’t be hard, or take work, and that’s okay. It took time to grow a person, it can take time to find your rhythm afterwards (for breastfeeding, sleep, pretty much everything) and that isn’t a personal failure. Maureen B.
  • Trust your mama instincts, you often know what is best for your baby. If your parenting choices work for you and baby, then no one else’s opinion matters. Mom shaming is sadly very real and can make you second guess yourself. Try not to let it. Instead embrace your parenting choices and trust that you are doing your very best and no one is a better mom to your baby than you. Also be kind to yourself! You just created a true miracle. The miracle of life. Your body is strong and beautiful even if it never looks the same again. Remember to love yourself too even when it’s hard and you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror. You deserve love too, you are a miracle maker after all. Katelynn A.
  • Do not have any expectations of yourself for the first six months. Just be with your baby and heal. Esther B.
  • Be patient with yourself allow yourself time to heal. You and your baby are both learning each other. Give yourself time and love adjusting to your new roles. Megan P.
  • Stop reading the books and start reading the baby. Tova B.
  • Make sure you have all the support you need and know that you have people around you all the time. Make sure you have supplies and make sure to be there for that little one because as soon as they are born you are their go-to person. Anonymous
  • If they are planning to breastfeed- it might end up being really painful and really difficult. If it is, reach out to a good lactation consultant because this means something’s not going the way it should be. Some hospital lactation consultants aren’t good unfortunately. If you want to get everything figured out and continue on your nursing journey, a good IBCLC is your best friend! And you can get it figured out if you want to. But no matter what, know that you have to decide to do what is right for you, be it nursing, pumping, switching to formula. You have to feel good about your decision, whatever it may be. If you feel good about it, then it’s the right decision. Caitlin S.
  • Don’t worry about “bad habits”. I wish I could get back the time when I was on maternity leave with my first that I spent desperately trying to put him down drowsy but awake because everyone said i was supposed to. I stressed so much because he wouldn’t sleep on his own without being held because of the so called “bad habit” I was creating. And I’ve done that with so many things since. Now I try to live by the motto “do what works until it doesn’t work”. Especially in infancy, children change so fast that the “bad habit” you are pandering to today will look totally different tomorrow. If I could do it all again I would just make sure the remote was in reach and hold that baby all day long! Alyssa L.
  • Don’t be afraid to say exactly what you need…whether it be to your partner, family, friends…whoever. This is a struggle for me but I’m trying to be better about it. And if you’re going to breastfeed, definitely meet with a lactation consultant…best thing I ever did. Catrina M.
  • Always, always follow you gut instinct! If you have a feeling something isn’t right, don’t ignore that feeling. There are specialists out there for a reason. Also, sleep when baby sleeps. Seriously! Jenna S.
  • My friend’s dad’s advice was that everyone else’s advice is wrong. Two years later, true that. Kate S.
  • It’s OK to cry. A lot. Anna R.
  • You know what’s best for your baby and you have a community of mamas who will support you-many of whom you don’t know, but we are here. Clare G.
  • 1. Things will get better. 2. Be honest with your partner about what you are going through. Don’t try to hide your fears or tears. Jenna W.
  • Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, even if it’s venting to a friend/loved one. You’ll love this little human more than anyone could ever explain, but the newborn phase is just as much frustrating and unnerving as it is beautiful and exciting. Also, sleep when baby does. It took until #2 until I no longer felt less than about this. Brittany S.
  • Everything is temporary- it doesn’t feel that way but it is! Fussiness, non sleep, pain – as much as it sucks at 2am. that your baby still wont sleep, just get through that moment and it will be over soon. Sarah R.
  • It’s okay to not be in love with your new role. April B.
  • Caring for a newborn is really hard. Hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong though. It’s just hard. But it gets easier. Heidi D.
  • Trust your instincts, if you feel like letting your baby cry themselves to sleep is wrong, or that people who say you hold your baby too much are wrong, or people make you feel bad for using formula or nursing on demand without a schedule…. Everyone has an opinion. None of them matter but yours. Drown them out. Danylle S.
  • Ask a friend to set up a MealTrain for you so that you have nourishing meals and don’t have to think about meal prep do you or your partner in those first weeks. Claire C.
  • Your relationship with your partner is going to be different, and sometimes you might resent them because you are giving so much of yourself, but IT GETS EASIER. Jeana D.
  • Sometimes the bonding is not immediate. Of course you love your new baby, but you may not experience it like you see on Facebook or in the movies. Also, everyone has a different experience. Some people are very lucky and some experience many complications that may break you down. Be your own advocate if you think something is wrong. Doctors, although often wonderful, do not know everything and you are not their only patient. Don’t give up and trust your gut. You can’t control your body during or after pregnancy and you may not be able to control your anxiety. Just keep reminding yourself that this is temporary and any medical or emotional issues can be fixed in time. It is not one size fits all. Your child will love you. Be a germaphobe. Focus on getting healthy emotionally and physically so you can be your best version of motherhood. We are all fortunate to have made it through with a healthy child. Melissa O.
  • It’s all about the mind! Prepare Your Mind. Odile P.
  • The lactation consultant is everything! I had no idea what I was doing and her reassurance and advice helped me continue breastfeeding. Becca W.
  • Have confidence in your instincts! You may feel like you have no idea what you’re doing but they are always guiding you if you will only listen. Autumn B.
  • Take advise and help once the baby arrives. You cant do it all on your own. And use that help to have time and space for the new mom to recover and do self care. Janine D.
  • You will get tons of advice and expert opinions but ultimately your mama instinct can be the best for your baby. Sonya L.
  • Hold that baby!! Don’t worry about the house, the cooking, cleaning, laundry… eat up every precious minute and second you can!! Rest with them and don’t stress. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help!! And don’t feel guilty for saying yes when someone offers! Let them bring you food, do a grocery run, put a load of dishes or clothes in for you! Kim P.
  • Accept help. All of the help. Brea L.
  • No one and I repeat no one has it all together. No matter how good they make it look. We are all winging it and when all else fails just add water. My mom told me that with my first 15 years ago and she was right. It’s amazing what a bath can do for a crazy situation. Ashley H.
  • You will know your baby better than anybody, trust yourself and your instincts. There is no “right” way to parent, only the way which feels the most in alignment with your deepest self. Trust that, it’s so hard because so many people will have opinions about how you “should” do it. Kindly thank them and do it the way that feels right for you. As a new mom, you will be learning as much as your baby, be gentle with yourself, its harder than you can imagine. But you have everything you need to mother your child, and don’t be afraid to get support. But never let that support person override your gut. Leslie L.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Your whole world has just changed. Kara B.
  • Nobody else knows what they’re doing either. Reilly P.
  • The sleepless nights will end and its worth every second. Staci Blitz

Finding Your Village

finding your village

You’ve had your baby, welcomed all of the visitors and friends who want to meet the newest addition, and eaten all of the food you’d prepared and stored in the freezer. You have survived the first week or two of motherhood, cried countless tears as your hormones regulate, and said goodbye to your significant other as they rejoin the work force. Now, you find yourself alone (well, sort of) on the couch, in a quiet house, with the tiniest little thing that has ever ruled your world. Now what?

It can be quite daunting, those first moments when you realize it’s really up to you (and whatever support person or network you have in place) to care for this little being. You may be having some existential moments, asking yourself, who am I now? I know I did. I remember just sitting there, staring at this little person who wouldn’t leave my breast, and thinking just that. I certainly didn’t feel like the same person, who just two weeks ago, was (very) pregnant, and now, I’m someone’s mom. Someone’s whole world. It’s really, and truly, a baffling experience. If you haven’t had that feeling yet, you’re likely reading this because you’re expecting and soon will.

Now that you’ve questioned your entire meaning and purpose in life, where do you go from there? Well, you just go. Really, it’s that simple. Just go. I read COUNTLESS new parenting blogs, articles on the best latch, what creams to use on baby (or not to use), how to hold her, how to make sure she fell asleep at the breast or bottle, how to make sure she didn’t, when to wake her, when to put her down (and many that boasted the importance of putting her down often; this was especially frustrating since she understandably didn’t seem to like it much).  I read about how much sleep to expect from her, and on and on and on. It was maddening, really.

The amount of information available to new parents can be completely overwhelming and it certainly baffles our grandparents who had nothing to go on other than instinct. You’re surrounded by all of this information at your fingertips, yet potentially feel more alone than you ever imagined. This is where I suggest to you forego the books, the articles, and the blogs. They aren’t what you need right now. There’s time in the future for that (a tip: don’t read the sleep stuff until way into the second half of the first year. It all changes too rapidly to worry about right now. Sleep will come eventually, I promise.).

What you should do is work on finding your village. Find the other parents who are in the thick of it just like you. CONNECT. Really connect. Identify your community, or create it if it doesn’t exist yet, and make plans. Spend real-life time with others who can relate to exactly where you are and what you’re doing in this very specific time in your life. Facebook has become an amazing networking locale for meeting and establishing some amazing friendships for new parents. When I was a first-time mom, sitting on my couch, nursing for most of my day, I made some of my closest friends. Remember the joke, “there’s an app for that?” Well, I’ve realized the latest phenomenon is that “there’s a group for that!” Literally, almost every topic has plenty of group options for you to find and connect with others in a virtual reality. But, that’s just the first step, it’s imperative that once we make these connections virtually, we follow through with the relationships in real life, especially as new parents. It can be quite lonely otherwise. There are plenty of local meet-ups happening in almost every neighborhood, and on that note, almost every neighborhood has its own Facebook page (or Meetup group etc.). These can happen during the week or weekend, for stay-at-home moms and working moms alike, so seek out the local community and meet like-minded parents. Then make plans in person.

It’s this community that I now go to on a regular basis to check in on what’s normal, rant when my days are just tougher than I imagined, cry to when I just need someone to hear me, and make plans with when I need to spend some time with other people who just get it. They’re in the thick of it, just like me, and we can commiserate, or boast, or cry or do whatever we feel like together. I once read an article about how the women you meet at your first moms’ group are unforgettable. Even if you all grow apart, you’ll never forget the times you spent doing all of what I just mentioned, together with your newest little people. And, it’s worth noting that maybe you don’t find your people right away, but keep reaching out and you will. Finding a group of moms (or dads because there are groups for you, too) who you can count on to be there is priceless. Trust me, when you’re up for what seems like the 18th time in the middle of the night and just need to know you’re not alone, you’ll be grateful you have your community. Some might even become like family. That’s exactly how we were meant to parent because it takes a village.

 

If you are looking to connect with other moms and families in the Baltimore community, here are some links to get you started:

Search Meetup.com for your neighborhood and you’re likely to find many other parents.

Looking for a group just for dads? This is a new local group that is growing.

Mother Goose on the Loose is a great, free early literacy program that happens at libraries all around the country. Click the link to find the closest weekly group to you.

And of course, there’s Facebook. Most of us have already succumb to this, but if you haven’t, it definitely provides an easy way to make connections. Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding is a diverse group of moms and dads supporting each other in a nonjudgmental community.  Join, ask questions, and connect. We’d love to have you.

 

 

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