6 Pieces of Advice to Future Me, Pregnant With Baby #2

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We’ve all been there: treating parenting books like bibles, worshipping them as if we don’t already know that in the end, they all have conflicting, “one size fits all” advice. Having strict, unbendable opinions about what you will never ever let your son or daughter do (like watch TV), but then realizing that some things aren’t so bad, after all. Googling ear aches and rashes like a mad woman and freaking out about everydarnthing, then going to the pediatrician’s office with an endless list of silly questions that you shouldn’t have written down anyway.

Am I right, or am I right ?

I decided to compile a list of advice for the future pregnant me. Not that it’s going to happen anytime soon (we just started sleeping again, for God’s sake!) but I think it’s important to realize that some things are best learned through experience, freak outs, mistakes, and sometimes a little tears… but not books. Definitely not books.

So here is my advice, written down. A few lessons I hope I’ll remember when it’s time for our second one 🙂

I will not…

…Have anxiety when my baby cries. When we first came home from the hospital with Liam, I couldn’t stand to hear him cry. I remember standing behind my mother literally gripping my heart. How am I going to do this if I get palpitations each time he cries? It’s important to realize that you’re not doing anything wrong if your baby cries. All babies cry. It is their only way to communicate with the world. The good news is… you do get used to it after a while!

…Be overprotective. How can you not be? You’ve carried him in your belly for 9 months, alone. You both have an undeniable and special bond. If you’re breastfeeding, this feeling is even stronger. You feel as if only you can understand him, comfort him. Well, for your sanity’s sake, accept help when it is given. Give yourself a break once in a while — that’s what the freezer milk stash is for!

…Have low confidence in myself as a mom. It is so easy to think you are failing as a mother, especially when your baby is colicky, fussy, isn’t sleeping or eating well during the first few months. You directly blame it on yourself. Is it something we are doing? Am I the problem? Get rid of those negative thoughts. No mom knows exactly what she’s doing. As long as you are doing your best, it is all that matters.

…Over-rely on books, “experts”, and worse of all: mom forums. The crime we’ve all committed, right? Scanning the internet from A to Z to find the advice we’re looking for. What it does instead is make us paranoid, upset, or plain old confused. There is no “one size fits all” advice, even if many parenting books tend to cater to one particular kind of child. And how easy is it to be swayed left and right when this is your first rodeo? Too easy. Mom Forums always drive me insane because no one child is the same, so how can a simple question be answered? I once googled “best bedtime for 5 month old” and thanks to a mom forum (which will not be named) I ended up with potential bedtimes ranging from 5pm to 10pm. Not too helpful, as you can imagine! Bottom line is this: follow your baby’s cues and trust your gut… No book can teach you that!

 …Compare my baby to other babies. Milestones can become obsessions, you guys. Why is my baby not sitting up unassisted for a minute yet and theirs can? When will he finally roll over both ways? Trust that each baby develops and matures at his or her own pace. Each baby has his/her strengths and weaknesses. Enjoy today’s version of your baby, because everything changes way too fast. Tomorrow he/she will be crawling and then, well, you’ll want your stationary baby back… that’s just the way it goes!

…Want too much control. If you have a Type A personality (or something close to it), your world may be turned upside down with a baby. Because really, there is no control. A baby is a roller coaster, changing every day, learning, changing, regressing… and that’s a good thing! There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Instead of clinging to a changing sleep schedule, for example, be flexible and enjoy the process. I realized that every time I say, “Oh, Liam always does ___”, he stops doing it that day or the next. Follow your baby’s lead and give up that so needed control for a while… it’s a lot easier that way!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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