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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

4 Things Expecting Mothers Have Already Heard

Unsolicited advice in any season will make your head spin.

But in a place where you're preparing for a newborn, with all of its unpredictability, advice - especially conflicting advice - can do a lot more damage than good.

As my husband and I head into the last eight full weeks of pregnancy, we're focused on readying our home and hearts as best as we can with the information we have. The truth is, other than the fact that he jumps around every time I eat a PB&J, we don't know our little fella yet.

It's hard to make decisions about pack-and-plays and 300-dollar jogger strollers and tacky plastic gadgets when so much about dealing with life as an expecting mother is unknown.

Here's what most of us do know: we will hear a lot of the same tired phrases and woes from the people who've been there.

This has been a season of guarding my heart and listening to the short list of people in my life who I trust to approach with my questions and concerns. Mostly my mom, aunts, grandmothers, sister-in-law, and the mother of my godson.

I ask them about nursing and burping cloths, sure. But I lean on them more for advice about raising good children. About matters of the heart. About becoming leaders in our homes. About wrestling with the tension of working in an office and making it home two hours before bedtime.

I'm already so thankful to know that there are women who will speak life, encouragement over our family as my husband and I become parents. 

For the rest of you, the strangers at the grocery store, kind-hearted acquaintances, here are a few things that we expectant mothers already know (and what you can kindly stop reminding us of):

Sleep While You Can!

"This is it. The last time you'll ever sleep. In your life. You will forever be a walking zombie, that is, if you can muster the strength to walk in the first place."

Do you know what's really not helpful? Someone telling you to "sleep while you can!" in a chipper Mary Poppins voice when you're already wide awake at 3 a.m. for no good reason.

We're likely battling fatigue, a bump (that moves!), restless legs, getting up to use the restroom every half-hour, or our minds are just racing trying to picture baby's face.

The time for adequate sleep is long gone and we know it only gets worse. We have the internet, too.

Being a New Parent is So Hard!

The ever-complicated 40-week process of becoming a parent and then the little detail of incredibly painful labor clued us into that.

But in all seriousness, we know. We know it changes everything. We know it's a blend of hard and wonderful. We've been strangely happy and scared about this since we became pregnant.

There's a tiny part of me, I confess, that can't wait to have the baby so that everything can "finally go back to normal." The realization that there will only be a new normal from here on out is jarring at best.

But there's no turning back, now. So we may as well embrace the difficulties. Solidifying a narrative we're already battling internally only makes it more difficult.


You Will Get Depressed

This is something we need to have a serious chat about.

First and foremost, those brave writers and bold women who have had the courage to speak up about their experiences - please don't stop. The information and rawness you provide can only help other women identify their own struggles.

While I am thankful for the lifted stigma (though I realize there's still some work to be done in this area) and the women who have spoken out about their experiences, depression or anxiety isn't something anyone wants or needs spoken over them.

To those tempted to project their experience onto an expecting woman, trust that your new mama friend is receiving all of the details that she needs. Her doctor should be tracking her emotional and mental progress throughout the pregnancy, and she's likely very aware that her emotions will be haywire after delivery.

If she's anything like me, she's already crying for no good reason already.

Depression and anxiety isn't something that you can always see from the outside. But if you have a friend or family member who you're concerned about, reach out by all means. Offer to help her get counsel. Intervene, respectfully and make sure she knows it's out of love and respect.

However, please think carefully before speaking the words, "You will be depressed," over another woman. Especially when she already may be battling the anxiety that comes with being a new mama in the first place.

I Was in Labor for 434,000 Hours

And you wouldn't believe what happened to my...

Nope. Nope. Nope.

If you're tempted to share any details of your unplanned C-section, show us your scars, tell us the details of your changing lady parts, or to tell us that you're still losing "the baby weight" 10 years later, pump the brakes. Seriously, back up the train.

My response to anyone who has word-vomited about their labor, delivery and traumatic "fourth tri-mester" experiences have received my canned response:

"I am so sorry this was your experience."

Our bodies are different. Every baby is different. And just because something unraveled the way it did in your experience doesn't mean that ours will be a carbon copy.

Do I want an unplanned C-section? No. Do I realize it's a possibility? Of course.

Maybe you remember how difficult the last few weeks of pregnancy were?

 Let us get through those, first. We can swap war stories after we've stormed the beaches and returned home with our medals of new parenthood.

Until then, repeat after me: you look fabulous, you're going to be a fantastic mother, and get ready for the best, most special years of your life.
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