Any mother will tell you that being pregnant is one of the most special and humbling experiences. To feel a little person move and grow inside you is nothing short of miraculous. I remember being constantly in awe of just how precious and fragile life is, and totally in love with this tiny being I’d not yet met.
I was blessed with a relatively stress-free pregnancy with Eleanor, something I am eternally grateful for. Pregnancy is not always an easy journey though. In fact, it rarely is. Most women (myself included) will experience some form of sickness, fatigue and anxiety along the way. It is such a beautiful time, but can also be very draining both mentally and physically. It is a time you need lots of encouragement, support and reminders of just how worth it the experience will be.
When I was thinking about the things I would most want to say to a first-time expecting mother, the words and wisdom I’d like them to hold dear, I had to remind myself of my journey as a first-time pregnant Mum. I am naturally somebody who likes to know what to expect. I enjoy being organised and in control – absolutely the teacher in me. But pregnancy is a process that is mostly out of our control. We may have plans for how we want things to go, and there may be elements of certainty along the way, like knowing the gender of your baby or who will be with you during delivery. But for most women, exactly how and when their little one will enter the world is unknown. Having other mothers to talk to, ladies who have walked the road before you and survived (and thrived) in their new role as a mama is the BEST cure for those anxious moments. I know I craved those positive interactions with other Mums and I felt a peace knowing I was not alone.
So let me be that mother who has recently walked the pregnancy road just for a moment. Let me share with you the most important things I have learnt, some little tips and words of encouragement. For those of you who are already Mums, please feel free to leave a comment and share your wisdom too.
You are amazing. First things first, you really are amazing. It takes a huge amount of energy and strength to nurture a little baby, and you are doing it!
You will feel emotional and fearful at times and that is OK. Pregnancy is a totally new experience. You will have heard stories of what pregnancy was like for other women, but your journey will be unique to you. All of a sudden you don’t just have yourself or your husband/partner to look after, but this precious person growing inside you. You want to make sure you are doing everything you can to give them a safe, nourishing environment within the womb, and also prepare for a smooth transition into the world after birth. It leaves your brain in overdrive, trying to make all the ‘right’ decisions. Which pram is going to be the most comfortable? Should we get a bassinet or just go with the cot? Is private health cover really necessary? Am I supposed to be eating that cheese? The questions are never ending and decisions can be hard to make based on a baby you haven’t met. The actual process of birth can be scary too, wondering how you will cope with pain and recovery afterwards. Not to mention your hormones are all over the place! But what’s important to remember is that you are not alone in your emotions and fears. It is normal to have times where you feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unsure. And these feelings do not make you any less of a mother. Be kind to yourself and ensure you are surrounded by family and friends who will remind you of the incredible job you are doing. You will get through any challenges that pregnancy throws your way and you will be rewarded with the greatest gift at the end.
Spend quality time with your husband/partner. You don’t realise how much free time you have until you have a little one join your family. The moment your baby is born, they become the centre of your universe and the priority above all else. The first weeks and months of their life your time is focused solely on making sure they are feeding well, getting sleep and thriving in their new environment. This doesn’t mean you don’t get to share incredibly special moments with your husband/partner, in fact some of the best times in our whole marriage have been watching Eleanor learn and grow! But time just for you two, without interruptions or without being tired, can be few and far between. There are many expenses with a new baby on the way, but if you are able to, prioritise a getaway or time off work together before your little one’s arrival. Spoil one another, eat out, stay up until midnight watching movies and just enjoy being in one another’s company. It is a season in your relationship that you will come to treasure and you will be so grateful you made the most of your time together before baby comes.
Do start getting organised early. I am generally a very organised person. However I’m also a little bit of a perfectionist, which can cause me to be quite indecisive. It isn’t the best quality to possess when having a baby because there are lots of decisions to be made! I really only started thinking about what baby items we would get until well into my second trimester. I had some ideas, but hadn’t started making any purchases. Living in a country town also made it tricky, as we have no dedicated baby store here. So shopping online or making the trip to our nearest city were my only options. I read so many reviews online for things like prams, carriers and car seats, and thought I had my mind made up on exactly what I would be purchasing. But when I physically visited the stores and tried out the products, I ended up coming home with completely different things than I originally thought. It really is so important to see the big ticket baby items in person, and for this you need time.
Be sure you also have the practical necessities ready for your baby’s arrival well in advance. I had so much fun decorating Eleanor’s room, but hadn’t even thought about packing my hospital bag until 37 weeks. I thought it was going to be quite an easy task I could do last minute, but it actually took a lot of thought and organisation. Rushing around the shops with a heavy belly and tired body wasn’t the most pleasant experience either! Fortunately Ellie didn’t arrive until 39 weeks, but she could have come much earlier and I would not have had a thing packed. A dear friend of mine, and mother of 5, said she tried to have her hospital bag ready by 35 weeks. I will be heeding her advice next time. A good way to look at it is, if my baby was to arrive today would I have everything they need ready to go?
One other thing I was so thankful I had organised ahead of time were some freezer meals. My amazing Mum spent a whole day cooking with me to create a stockpile of dishes for our freezer. This was such a HUGE help during those first few weeks of adjusting to life with a baby. When we were tired, we simply defrosted one of the meals and didn’t have to think about what we would cook that night. Not to mention they were far more nutritious than getting takeaway! It was a real blessing.
Be informed but don’t overwhelm yourself. There are literally hundreds of books on the market dedicated entirely to pregnancy and preparing for a new baby, and every mother you meet will have her favourites. I am a big believer in knowledge being power. When you are informed about something, you have the ability to prepare, plan and make better decisions. However, sometimes there really is such a thing as too much information. I actually didn’t do a whole lot of reading during my pregnancy, simply because I got too overwhelmed by the sheer amount there was to know. You may be someone like my husband, though, who really enjoys absorbing as much information as he can about a topic. If that is you, go right ahead and read away! If you are like me, however, just know it is not necessary to read a whole pile of books in order to be ready for birth and motherhood. For me, I read about things as they came up in my antenatal classes and midwife appointments. For example, we found out at one point that Eleanor was likely to be in the breech position for birth. Based on this knowledge, I went ahead and googled all things breech baby related. There was a need, so I read. But if Ellie hadn’t been in the breech position, there really wasn’t a reason for me to know about it.
There are so many ‘what ifs’ in pregnancy, and sometimes reading can make you worry about things unnecessarily. Pick and choose what information you absorb, and put the book down or close your Google search if it is causing you anxiety. If you are wanting to do some reading, look into the important things, like how often your baby should be fed or the types of pain relief on offer to you for birth. These are topics you will have to learn about at some point, so informing yourself about them is wise and helpful. At the end of the day, what you don’t know before your baby arrives you will learn on the spot when they do. And you will have the support of wonderful midwives, medical staff and friends and family to guide you.
Trust your instincts. Now that you are a Mum, you are equipped with God-given instincts that will help you care for your baby. You can’t explain it, but you will ‘just know’ when something isn’t quite right with your little one. I was blessed to have midwives who absolutely believed in the importance of trusting your motherly instincts. They encouraged me to act on them straight away if I was even the slightest bit unsure about something during my pregnancy. So don’t ever be afraid to trust your instincts, even if it means turning up at the hospital or contacting your midwife/obstetrician three times in one day to have your baby’s progress checked. If there is nothing abnormal, wonderful. But if there is, trusting your instincts may just be the difference between sickness and health for your baby.
Dedicate time to rest and self care. Throughout your whole pregnancy, but particularly in your third trimester, try and set aside time in your day to rest. It can be a really difficult task, especially when you have so many things you’d like to tick off your to-do list before baby arrives. Helping your little one into the world requires every ounce of your energy and strength, and although our mama bodies are amazing in their ability to function on such small amounts of rest, keeping your sleep bank full will help immensely in those first demanding days of motherhood. You really will be thankful you gave your body that time to relax and physically prepare for birth.
Don’t forget to also dedicate some time to self-care in the weeks leading up to your bundle’s arrival. Go and get your hair done, have a massage or enjoy a pedicure. Sit for an hour sipping tea at your favourite cafe, read a magazine in the park or take a walk by the beach. This time for you is incredibly precious and while it won’t completely vanish once your baby is here, it will become a rare gem. Looking after yourself is the best way to look after your baby.
I hope these little words of wisdom have been an encouragement to you.
Hindsight is such a blessing and has given me the confidence to know that when the time is right for our family to start the pregnancy journey again, we will be that little bit more equipped for the wonderful process ahead. Despite the challenges it can bring, there is nothing more special and beautiful in the whole of life than growing a baby and welcoming them into the world. Enjoy every kick, every hiccup and every precious moment of your pregnancy. And remember, you are already an incredible mother.
Psalm 139:13-14 ‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.’