I’m a newbie at motherhood and already I am racking up an impressive amount of broken plans. Some to the fault of “mommy brain” but a lot to the fault of the unexpected, unknowing mindset motherhood provokes. With a flood of hormones, a woman is seeing everything in a new light—what great responsibility has spawned from this spawn. Like most things, it’s important to get accustomed to these deep emotions before jumping to conclusions or making decisions. Most people have heard the saying “mother knows best” or some other adage that empowers a new mother to trust their gut/what makes sense to them. I will be the first to call out bullshit on that. Don’t tell new mothers that, there are some that will take that saying to the extreme and ignore all science and research in doing so. For example, if I listened to my mommy gut, I wouldn’t take Sylvia to get vaccinated. Why? Because it causes her (and her mom) a great deal of anxiety. Until she is old enough, it is my purpose for being to soothe her and protect her. Simple cause and effect in my head would lead me to avoid exposing her to any event that causes pain (albeit brief) and the stress it invokes. Mom gut totally acts in the now and seeks instant means to an end. Science clashes with mom gut a lot. It can be hard at times, but I feel I have a realistic understanding of the importance in having both and ensuring they stay balanced. Because science.
Furthermore, becoming a mom has clouded a normally calm and clear place in my head—my memory. Aside from long-term memories (high school and before), I haven’t struggled to remember many things. I used to put great effort into remembering the names from new introductions and making sure to address everyone by name.. to show respect? That I like them? That I want to impress them? I don’t know exactly but it doesn’t matter. I can’t do it anymore, I never get the names right. It’s as though becoming a mother is all-encompassing to what matters. Something in my head guides my attention to background noise, as though I am intent, always, on seeking out quiet whimpers to tend to before full-blown wailing commences. It might not be exactly what is happening in social situations (those few times I am able/allowed to grab a drink with friends), but it’s my best attempt at trying to make reason of my new apparent apathy for non-baby information. It sucks, I hate it, I do care about other people; it just seems to require my full attention, which is hard to come by anymore.
Anyway, I have a good idea of how I want things to go with every aspect of my life and my pregnancy/motherhood was no exception. I formed a new school of thought after becoming pregnant and I had new answers to previously settled issues. Mommy gut and mommy brain have been having a hay day. You betcha.
Have a doula and deliver at home.
My first serious thoughts of having a home birth came after sitting in a child development class at ISU. My professor for that class was a huge proponent of home births and lectured for at least a couple of days solely on her dissertation regarding home births. I no doubt was emotionally swayed by the overall idea of delivering in the comfort of my own home. I had seen a few documentaries on home births but I didn’t like the underlying theme of women “taking back their pride”. Basically, their experiences with hospital births were anti-mom and pro-baby; which I guess I could see as being a priority for some women. For me, my anxiety issues and the general negativity (i.e. ailment, death) associated with hospitals helped me further justify not being admitted as a patient for something so innate to life. And when I think of hospitals, I see the opposite of life. I see, smell, and hear stagnation, backward movement, yearning for previous health. These are my associations, inaccurate as they may be.
The reality is that home births are expensive, even with the few insurance policies that will cover them. The deciding factor for me was the off-chance of complications occurring at home, and feeling the guilt for the rest of my life if something bad were to happen at the hands of my (in a way selfish) choice to have a home birth. For me, the anxiety, sterile environment, and becoming a patient were more acceptable than the chance of a lifetime of guilt.
Refuse medication/epidural while laboring.
I don’t think many women go into labor with the plan to use medication. I was one of those optimists. I’ve been medicated pretty heavily at various times in my life and have chosen to avoid medication to the best of my ability. The reality is that I labored for about 18 hours, starting in the late evening. I wanted to sleep so badly. I was told by a few nurses to try and rest/sleep as much as I could until I was dilated. Well, I can’t even sleep through period cramps, there was no way I was going to get any sleep with contractions. I did try to bear through for an hour or so I think but had to be actively positioning myself to make them tolerable. There was no way I was getting any sleep. It didn’t take long before I asked if it was possible for an epidural. I was really surprised that the nurses NEVER put it out there as an option. I felt like maybe they were going to hold me to my birth plan, whether my mind changed or not.
Joey and I discussed it afterward and came to the conclusion that women need not be martyrs only to prove that they can. Modern medicine has done away with the painful childbirth “right-of-passage” most women were to inevitably face. Do what you want, but I’m glad I opted for an epidural. I got a lot of rest and was able be on my “A-game” when she arrived that first night. Had I not, there’s no doubt in my mind I would’ve been grumpy that first night with her. I really enjoyed the whole experience overall, until I had to deal with the post-partum stuff. Yuck.
Avoid pink/excessively girly clothes.
I’ve seen some moms that go all out for their little baby girl. Pink everything! I knew I wouldn’t be like that because I don’t even consider myself to be a “girly girl”. I also had this vision in my head that we’d be able to find really cute gender-neutral clothes. Aside from clothes in NB or 0-3 months, there is a limited selection of gender-neutral clothes out there. We probably would’ve had to order special clothes off the Internet or something. The reality is that she just looks so damn cute in girly clothes. And we’ve been so, so lucky to have friends and family give us their old baby clothes. We don’t do frilly headbands and try to keep the bigger items like the car seat, cloth diapers, pack-n-play, etc. gender-neutral, though. Even with those few things, Sylvia is sometimes mistaken for a boy. Which I don’t mind, I just really couldn’t imagine having that mistake being made every time we go out in public. I think we will wait until she is old enough to make her own decisions about what she wants to wear and just support her then. Right now, we will take advantage of the time we have to put her in whatever we like!
Return back to work full-time.
I have always gotten a sense of reward from working and contributing and I had anticipated that drive to remain after Sylvia arrived. The drive remains, but my sense of reward has changed. I don’t think being there for my clients could outweigh the feel-goods I get from being home with my ‘lil larva. I still have days where I feel worthless because I am hardly contributing financially. But I do what I can to save money for our household to make up for that. I don’t think I could be convinced it to be in our best interest for me to return to work (unless the pay was excellent) prior to Sylvia entering school because of the outrageous costs of child care these days. A lot of other moms I know talk about “breaking even”. That is to say that what they would be bringing in from working would go directly toward the cost of childcare. I couldn’t justify working to break even.
Quit nursing once her teeth come in.
I’ve always cringed at the stories I’ve read about moms nursing teething babies. Yow! I do not want to be some kind of glorified teething ring! I still don’t, but Sylvia has teeth now. She’s trucking right along with all of these dang milestones. But even before her teeth broke through, I had hoped to be able to nurse for at least the first year (since I also decided to be a stay-home mom). And doctors say that nursing the first 6 months is really important. So that would also rule out weaning so soon.
I heard a lot of horror stories about SIDS and it’s correlation with co-sleeping throughout my pregnancy. In fact, at the beginning of my second trimester, there were 3 SIDS deaths over just one weekend in Des Moines, each related to co-sleeping. I was definitely fearful of the thought of something like that happening. The reality is, from newborn to 2 months, I was never able to get to a deep sleep anyway. So, there were definitely times in the night/morning that I would just nap with her in my arms. Or put her at the far side of the bed to sleep on top of the blankets. I did it for my own sanity and because it worked for her. I haven’t had any trouble with her sleeping lately. And for that, I’m extremely grateful.
Do outings/activities with Sylvia each day.
From the time Sylvia was a month old to about 3 months, I had tried to get her out and about with me for errands or walks, whatever. It worked pretty well, overall. But then I bumped it up to long afternoon activities and it didn’t take me long to realize some irritability associated with it. Now I’m pretty content to stay home. When the weather is nicer, I will probably change my tune on the matter. But for now, she seems pretty dang happy (and pleasant to be around) when she’s home in a familiar environment. I read this really good blog called something like “why I’m done making my kid’s childhood magical”. It was basically appealing to parents (namely mothers) to stop trying so damn hard—childhood is simply magical without all of these activities and structured plans each day. It really plays into these newly coined terms “anxious child” or “rushed child”. The idea that our children should have set schedules filled with a bunch of different activities; sensory overload. No thank you. I think I’ll be hanging back, watching all starry-eyed as my daughter grows and learns. I hope to only follow her lead, intervening only on issues of ethics.