Sure there are those who love nothing better than to tell you their birth horror stories, or warn in dire tones of the awful journey ahead, the end of life-as-you-know-it etc – but mostly I’ve had women offering me great practical advice, hand-me-down baby gear, and very thoughtful encouragement as labour approaches.
We have a mountain of baby clothes from friends with young children, a loaned crib, a loaned changing table and bath, hand-me-down booster seats, sheets, pram covers and odd things I don’t even know the name of but will surely be helpful once I figure out what they’re for.
Also lots of nappies, wipes and baby creams and supplies from all kinds of friends and acquaintances.
Then there are all the people I come across in my week who are excited for the arrival – the coffee baristas (well hot chocolate baristas in my case), the supermarket checkout lady, the man on the corner who counts buses, the security guards, older friends who are still waiting for their daughters to cough up some grandchildren, and lots of male colleagues as well who have been surprisingly tender with their suggestions about how to cope with parenthood.
Here are some of the top tips and comments here (remember, these are all completely untested by me as I’m still in a birth holding pattern! But they seem sensible) All quotes are from friends.
– Feed on demand at first, but after about a month be religious about feeding every two hours during the day, even if it means waking them up, because they’re less likely to wake up from hunger during the night. Of course they could still wake up for a hug or reassurance or a dirty nappy or wind etc, but at least that’s one factor reduced.
– Keep the baby inside and away from too many new people for the first month or so because of building immunity, and don’t expect too much from yourself either that first month, just sleep, feed, sleep, feed. And accept all offers of help.
– Get some of those pads you can freeze to help your recover after birth.
– Buy the Wonder Weeks app or book to help you understand developmental leaps and stages. “Lucy is currently going through a wonder week. If I didn’t know that it would be so much harder to deal with how much her development has back peddled this week.”
– Read Baby Brain Rules
– Trust your instincts: “I have spent too much time trying to work out what is the right thing to do. The problem with that is that you get so much conflicting advice it does your head in. There is no right or wrong way, just whatever works best for you and bub to get through the first months!”
– Get into a routine to help the baby understand there’s a difference between night and day. Helps to change baby out of pajamas even though pajamas are pretty much the same as all their other outfits at the early stage! And have baby sleep in a different room in the day.
– On birth: Be open going into the birth process, and don’t feel like a failure if it’s not all your ideal. Everyone is different.
“Try to breathe through the pain and maybe try gas and air first before rushing into anything hardcore. I assumed I would be a complete wuss with pain, but found it wasn’t that bad, and I focused on the fact that it wouldn’t go on for ever and stayed calm and talked to my baby in my head the whole time.”
“Of two friends who had caesarians recently, both were really glad of them and said they wished they had realised that they wouldn’t be that bad. One (who had an emergency c section after labour stalled) says she wishes she had gone for it earlier, and the other (planned c section) says it was easy and much less hassle than a root canal”
– “Remember it’s only one day, think about all the days to come”
– “It helped me to focus on my breathing. I tried to take each contraction as it came and thought to myself “Now I’ve done that one. It won’t come again. Relax before the next one. All the pain will soon be gone and then I get to meet my little darling.” Some people think of the contractions as going surfing ie. riding the waves above and below water. That kind of thinking might help your breathing and gives you a sense of moving forward. When it comes to the pushing bit you have to get stubborn and a little angry. That part of the birth was the most knackering and you’ll feel it’s never going to end. You really have to use all your energy and be determined. One of the midwifes told me it would feel like pooing out a big melon. She was right 😉 But it really wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Trust your body. It knows what it’s doing. The best thing you can do before the birth is to rest. Sleep as much as you can and take it easy.”
– “My advice really is get the drugs ASAP! However it did make pushing hard.. I couldn’t have done it without. I know everyone is different and contractions affect people differently.. So maybe you won’t find it as hardcore. Mine came on hard and fast. For others it’s def more gradual. Contemplating it is scary. But it will prob go really well and you sound like you are in great hands. And then you will have your bundle of joy!” (From a friend who was induced)
– “It’s such a nervewracking time just before and you feel so angsty and physically vulnerable. I was partly induced in the end… I had synticinon to speed up contractions and also forceps… Not ideal but it got him out safely and in the moment that’s what you care about. You will do it.. But I highly highly recommend the epidural.. It’s just too goddamm painful without. And take all the meds you can après. The moment they plop the baby on you is insanely intense… It’s quite unbelievable to finally meet the creature that’s been kicking you late at night. And they seem to come with a complete character! He is just so funny! So expressive and cutely earnest.”
– Skin to skin contact after birth is very important, and if you can possibly try breastfeeding fast, then it’s a great idea. “Providing that everything goes ok and neither of you have had complications, at my hospital they can let the baby crawl straight up to your breast after he is born. And he did! It was amazing, the little naked animal, his mouth open and head bobbing as he made his way up my tummy by himself looking for food! You may not be allowed to do that, as in some places they want to weigh them and check them and dress them and so on straight away”
– On having a baby at 40. “I was 39 when I had my one and only child. So, yes, it is late, but the wonderful thing about children/ babies is that they keep you young. I’ll be 63 in July and my daughter is only 24! And yet, there is no difference between me and the mothers of her friends, who are mostly about 20 years younger than me.”