1. Don't let anyone scare you about giving birth. I think as a result of our culture, media and our country's medical history, a lot of women have been deprived of understanding what birth is really about. The root of birth is beautiful, the pain is a primal view into our souls which is not to be feared but revered. Don't let talk of pain rob you of the amazing experience that birth is. I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, it does. But pain is not all bad. We can learn and grow from it. Your labor and giving birth is not an emergency, it is the most natural thing on earth and your body knows how to do it, even if you don't. Subscribing to the line 'why would you have dental surgery without novocaine' is really selling yourself short.
2. Doctors are human too. They have opinions, biases, habits and personalities. These are all characteristics that vary widely in every person. Find a doctor or midwife who you connect with or feel comfortable with. Ask them questions - do they believe in a woman's ability to birth naturally? How do they feel about induction? Do they support and have accurate knowledge of breastfeeding? Do they routinely circumcise? It's important for you two to be on the same page. Remember, doctors have personal opinions. Their word is not god and you can disagree, you can seek a 'second opinion'. Once baby is born, the pediatrician's job is to check your child's health, not your parenting decisions.
3. Baby essentials are not essential. Most companies exist to make a profit, so their lists of baby essentials can be pretty extensive. All you really need are some diapers and a breast or two. Obviously that kind of lifestyle doesn't work for everyone, but it certainly does for people of lesser means throughout the world. Your arms, face and love is all your baby really needs. We decided to buy the very bare minimum and if we decided we couldn't live without something like a vibrating chair or wipe warmer then we would cave and buy it. Guess what? We didn't. I didn't even want a rocker, the couch we already own was just fine. Most of that stuff is really a waste of money.
4. Your baby will cry - it is normal. They cry because that is their only means of verbal communication. It does not mean that they are manipulating you. Babies don't have wants, they have needs. When those needs aren't met (or met quickly enough), they cry as an instinctual alert to the parent as if to say "hey, I am here and I need this to survive or feel comfortable!" Some babies don't cry as much and rely on body language or fussing to get their point across. Some have what is called colic and cry inconsolably and constantly. All you can do is your best to respond quickly and consistently, to let your baby know that you are there to take care of them. It is a big part of mutual trust and bonding in the beginning and will continue throughout your child's life.
5. Going along with number 4 - it is okay to get overwhelmed, frustrated and need a break. You as the caregiver need to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. Even if baby is crying, it is okay to put them down and eat lunch. Patience with your baby and the changes they will go through is important, but you also need to be patient with yourself. Realize that you are doing your best and be gentle to yourself.
6. Some of your choices will be questioned and you'll receive unsolicited advice. I've been given 30 year old advice from family, suggestions from acquaintances and reprimands from strangers in the supermarket. It's a take what you want and leave the rest sort of deal. You are the parent, you do what you know is best for your baby. Do your own research, don't take anyone's word for it. Just smile and nod, express your opinion if you think it's worth it and don't feel bad about telling those strangers in public or even the grandparents to back off.
7. You are allowed to feel sad or lonely. Even when you're with your baby or the rest of your family and friends. It's a lot of work to take care of a newborn or infant and sometimes it can make you feel cut off from the rest of the world. Tell someone how you feel, maybe another mother or your husband. Know that the feeling will pass, but will probably be back to visit occasionally.
8. Your body is a temple. This is something my mother used to say to me when I was a teenager but I could never relate to it until now. Our culture constantly stresses having a sculpted body, flawless skin and flowing hair. If you don't fit into this size 2 ideal, you are somehow less of a person and this intensifies after you have a baby. Women are taught to feel their bodies aren't good enough. We need to reclaim pregnancy, birth and motherhood as something natural and beautiful, no matter how it affects our skin and figure. Your body is a symbol of fertility and life. Remember, how you treat and speak about your body is setting an example. It's okay to feel insecure, but we don't need to hate our bodies. Remember what your body has accomplished and be proud!
9. Make time for your partner. There are a lot of things about motherhood that are unsexy - you may smell like spit up, have drool in your hair, be wearing clothes a day or two old... chances are, your partner doesn't really care. It's important to ensure that they still feel important, even if you're not able to go on dates or do the things you used to. Start a conversation about it, communication with them about how you're feeling is the best way to prevent any kind of resentment or frustration from building up. They can't read your mind to know that your hormones are crazy or you're overworked. Tell them if you need them to take baby for a little while so you can take an extra long shower or go for a walk, chances are they probably won't know to offer.
10. Be prepared to be a different person. Everything that you do or don't do, say or don't say has an effect on your child. Think about how you grew up. What were the great things and what would you have changed? Our own parents teach us through their mistakes and empower us with their successes. Your child will teach you too. They will bring out the best in you, and sometimes even the worst. You can't be perfect all the time even though you strive to be. And that's okay. The important thing is that you have self awareness.