If I could go back in time and tell my pregnant self a few home truths about pregnancy, birth and those first few weeks, what would I say?
I was recently asked this question by a friend, who is compiling a list of helpful tips for her pregnant sister. After pondering for a while on what seemed like a difficult question, ideas started to flow… So here are ten things I’d tell myself about pregnancy, birth and beyond.
- Although it’s best to be prepared, not everybody will get leaky nipples. Don’t stock up on nipple pads.
- Invest in a good pregnancy pillow – having a good night’s sleep is invaluable.
- Don’t buy too many toiletries for baby – your friends and family will make helpful baskets of ‘things you’ll need’ – including bubble bath and top to toe. We’re not even 1/4 of the way through our supply yet.
- Don’t feel bad for eating so much cake. It’s the only time you can get away with it.
- You can eat dippy eggs. If they’re lion stamped, they have been immunised against salmonella so are okay. I mean…. I can live without alcohol, but not dippy eggs.
- If you’re pregnant over Christmas, be prepared to be a party pooper. No alcohol. No fancy soft cheeses. No cured meats. ‘Tis a season not built for bumps. I mean, where’s the fun in that?
- Stretch marks can and will happen. They’re not pretty. They’re not sexy. Call them what you will – tiger stripes etc – but get used to them, there’s no miracle cure for them… yet. So they’re here to stay.
- Don’t pay any attention to your due date. Only 4% of children are born on this day and it will make you feel depressed when it passes by with not even a twinge.
- Get used to being asked if you’ve had any twinges. It will become a word you hate.
- If you’re being bugged on social media about any signs or twinges… change your profile picture to a keep calm I’m still pregnant and will update you when anything happens. This should satisfy at least 25% of people who ask you on a daily basis.
Labour and birth
- Take lucosade sports bottles to the hospital. In the middle of the night when you’re in labour, you’ll need a boost of energy and as they’re in sports bottles they don’t require great hand-eye co-ordination… for which you will lose as you have far greater things to think about.
- Don’t write a solid birth plan. They’re pointless. But do research on pain relief to find out what’s right for you and what your ideal birth would look like. This may not happen point by point, but find out what you want and what options are available to you.
- Let your birth partner be your spokesperson – this can be in the form of “give her all the meds you’ve got” to “I don’t really want to try X, Y or Z”. Just make sure they know what you want as they may be the only one lucid enough in the room to ask for it when the midwife comes in.
- Remember that you know your body better than midwives, if you are in pain and need something stronger, tell them in no uncertain words that you NEED it. Be ready to compromise and follow their advice, but if they’re not giving you anything… be strong… or get your partner to put their foot down.
- Be prepared for Gas and Air to make you be off your face. A few deep puffs and I was on cloud 9 and became the most hilarious person ever. It also deepens your voice… which I wasn’t expecting.
- Gas and Air does NOT take the pain away. Contractions are as strong as they were before, but you just forget about it a few minutes later only to relive it all again for the next one. Also, you know thoses deep breathing exercises that help contractions? Yeah they stop when you’re on Gas and Air as you swap them for wails.
- Don’t take half the stuff you’ve packed in your bag to the hospital unless you think that you’re in for a long labour (such as if you’re being induced). I was in labour for a total (that’s my total not 4cm total) of 7.5 hours and only in the labour room for 4, a far cry off the average 12 hour from 4cm.
- No matter how many episodes of One Born Every Minute you watch, your birth will be nothing like any of them.
- After birth, you’ll have a lot of time to yourself… although a lot of this time will be taken up with sleeping, eating and staring at your little one, you may want to take music or magazines to pass the time. Just don’t take War and Peace as your brain will be a bit frazzled!
- You will be insanely sore immediately after birth and feel like you’ve run a marathon (as if I know what that feels like). Walking will be very slow and trips to the loo will feel like conquering Everest.
At home – baby and you
- You will feel overwhelmed when you get home for the first time with a feeling of “What do we do now?” The answer is take each day as it comes!
- There’s nothing wrong with spending your first few weeks together just staring at her. She’ll only be little once.
- You’ll go through a stage of being emotional, wishing that you could freeze time as each grain of time slips away from you. This is normal and you’ll soon see that each day brings a new and exciting development.
- Professionals will recommend using cotton wool and water for changing baby’s nappy. You will do this for a few days, covering your baby’s bum in cotton fluff, before deciding that there’s nothing wrong with a sensitive/newborn baby wipe.
- Breastfeeding can hurt…even if you’re doing it right.
- There’s nothing wrong with formula milk. Using formula doesn’t mean that you’ve failed as a mother. As long as they are getting milk, it really doesn’t make any difference whether it’s via bottle or boob.
- You will become unnaturally obsessed by poo. Remember that your friends without babies will NOT be.
- It will annoy the hell out of you when people get the sex of you baby wrong. Forgivable in neutral clothing, but if they’re wearing obviously girly or boy clothing, be prepared to give them ‘the’ look and to
shoutpolitely correct them.
- Doing your first post-birth poo will be one of the most terrifying experiences of your life. You’ll think that your whole innards will fall out. But they won’t, I promise.
- Book a newborn photography session to fit within their first 14 days. Unless you’re a professional photographer, there’s nothing like it. It’s also a great opportunity of getting your first pictures together as a family… as usually one of you will be holding the camera! You won’t regret it.
What would you tell yourself?