You’re going to have a baby! So much joy and excitement and planning all wrapped up in one, giant whirlwind! There are too many books on too many subjects and a vast array of videos, classes, and advisors to help you make one of the seemingly million decisions and choices there are to be made in less than a year’s time.
There is an overload of information out there that can seem completely overwhelming, especially if you’re the first of your close friends and family to have a baby (or first one to have one in the last 5-10 years). Where do you start? What direction do you go from there? How do you do it all in less than 9 months? How do you keep from panicking? Here are some words that may help:
First, B.R.E.A.T.H.E. – take in a deep, deep breath. Hold it a second. Slowly breathe out that breath through your mouth as you let the stress flow from your neck & back, through your shoulders and hips, down your arms and legs and discharge from your fingers and toes. Feel better? No? Start all over again from the first step and repeat as many times as necessary until you feel calmer and ready to move on. Learn that technique well, because it will be extremely handy in all your coming parenting years.
As soon as you begin telling people you are pregnant, you will be inundated with advice from family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and other (mostly women) people in your life. As you begin showing, that advice will increase – both in volume and in source. Cashiers at the grocery store, the kind grandmotherly woman in line with you at the bank, and anyone who has something they feel you should know. (Also be prepared for belly touching: if you’re not cool with it, come up with a response now and rehearse it, so it sounds authoritative but polite when you actually need to use it.) These people really do mean well, but when you have so much coming at you and most of it seems to all conflict with the rest, it can be disheartening and confusing. I’ll tell you what I was told (unfortunately, after I was done getting pregnant, but I wish I’d have known it years earlier!): don’t take it to heart.
What people forget, in their desire to help share knowledge and a true desire to make pregnancy, birth and motherhood easier for you is that no two people are exactly the same. What would have been fabulous information for them may be totally irrelevant to a majority of moms! Choose an option that is easiest for you, such as: listen carefully and tuck it away in your brain, just in case you need it for future reference; or listen with half an ear and smile, nod and say “thank you for taking the time to share that with me!”; focus on your grocery list and ignore what they’re saying without having a glassy-eyed stare and then say, “It’s so thoughtful of you to help me out by sharing that – thank you!”; then change the subject or move on. If you are appreciative of the person’s intent and follow their advice with a non-committal acceptance, they feel that they’ve been heard *and* helped you out in some way, while you come away not feeling overwhelmed with yet another conflicting piece of information *and* that someone cared enough about you to try to help and everyone is satisfied.
With books, it is really hard to tell. There is a huge market for wedding and baby-related merchandise, so some publishers just put out baby/pregnancy/parenthood-themed books on a regular basis, with only an eye to what is popular, what will sell. I’d suggest something big-named (as in What to Expect When You’re Expecting), something from a medical standpoint (like Dr. Sears) and something *old* – like published 20 years ago. Read these three choices as if they were a general guide for what you *really* want to be researching, and if information from the old book matches one other, chances are it isn’t too bad to keep in mind; if all 3 books have matching information, chances are pretty good it might be something to put on the top of your list to research further.
After you’ve done a “general guide” research, you probably want to join some online pregnancy/birth/parenting chat groups that are state-based, or better yet nation-based. If they have 500+ members and a lot of activity, chances are you’ll get a good, diverse representation – and be sure that they aren’t specific groups (like home birth only or circumcision only – hearing about all options is an awesome thing!). Be sure to listen/read more than you talk/post – you can learn an *awful* lot from finding out what others are posting about and the answers they are getting.
Research everything! Even if you plan to basically go with the flow, or you have a plan of things you’re aiming for, research everything. Research all types of hospital birth, all types of home birth, all types of birthing center options; doctors, midwives, doulas, birth coaching, water birth, natural birth, scheduled Cesarean, unscheduled Cesarean, vaginal birth after Cesarean, breach, induction, epidural, etc., etc., etc. and do this for all subjects: circumcision, vaccination, making your own baby food, organic food, breast feeding, bottle feeding, breast milk donations, allergies, gentle parenting, alternative parenting, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, homeschooling, Waldorf education, placenta burial, placenta consumption, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, elimination communication, teething, weaning, first solids, schedules, baby-led, – EVERYTHING and anything to do with pregnancy and early motherhood (because you won’t have time to read anything in early motherhood!).
Even if you know you won’t ever avoid or delay vaccinations, even if you think even contemplating going out of the hospital with your afterbirth is disgusting, get some basic information about it. Each different aspect is going to give you some information about pregnancy and/or motherhood that you won’t get from anywhere else; you’ll get perspectives from other points of view and you’ll get jumping-off points that will point you in directions you want to explore that you hadn’t thought of before finding out about that. Knowledge is power and knowing you have all the information you can possibly find will help keep you calm and feeling ready all through your pregnancy and birth, and into motherhood.
Make lists. You’ll find as you go through pregnancy that your memory is less than it was. Baby brain. It doesn’t matter how hard you exercise that brain, you will have some memory deterioration. Make lists and notes along the way. Put together a good birth plan, including emergency birth plan. It is hard to think about, but as someone who had a preemie, it is well worth the discomfort and anxiety of thinking of the things that could go wrong to feel fully prepared when the time comes to deliver, and the sooner you have your birth plans, the better. Don’t worry if you feel you don’t have enough information yet, you can always change it as you go and learn.
Err on the side of caution. If you are undecided on an issue or not ready to commit to one thing, or if you and your partner have different ideas on an issue, err on the side of caution and choose what seems like the non-choice, non-invasive, “natural” way. It is much easier to implement something later than to undo something that was done out of ignorance or fear. For example, if you can’t decide on vaccines: whether to go with the usual schedule, delay some vaccines or go the unvaccinated route, choose unvaccinated. A person can always be vaccinated later. If contracting a disease frightens you, get information: find actual rates of infection; out of those infected, how many become seriously ill or die? The numbers are very, very small and that may reassure you if you choose to not vaccinate. On the other hand, those numbers may solidify your decision to vaccinate on a schedule. Or, if you are in the camp of keeping a baby boy intact and your partner is adamantly for circumcision, you can choose to keep him intact and save the option for circumcising for later on; just because it is usually performed on a newborn doesn’t mean it can be implemented later.
You need to take all that information and advice you’ve been accumulating over the last 8 or so months and choose what suits you and your baby. Don’t let a family member or friend pressure you into a choice – you will get all the accolades or blame later on, so you are the one who must make the responsible choices with all the information that you can gather. Every one is different, so everyone’s choices for their pregnancy and birth will be different. You and your partner and your child will have to live with your choices for the rest of your lives, so take your time and do what’s right for you.
Congratulations and happy research, pregnancy and delivery to you!