Monday, 19 January 2015

What Pregnancy Has Taught Me Thus Far...

It has been ages since I wrote my last post and I felt that it was maybe time to give some a little more mature, sage advice. Obviously this is all personal to my experience but from what I gather, us ladies tend to have a crossover of opinions and emotions during pregnancy and, if I could be bothered to draw a Venn Diagram, I'm sure we'd all nod our heads in collective agreement over at least some of the things I've learnt from my first baby.

 Everybody has an opinion, whether you asked for it or not.

 When I first found out about my pregnancy, I was reluctant to tell anyone because I was always seen as a bit of a wanderer, in terms of where my life has been. Hence, the second anybody found out about me, I was instantly reminded about how I must 'grow up' now... by people who knew nothing more about me than what I was like as a teenager (and, if you've read my previous post, you'll know I was a grumpy-ass teen). The level of rudeness from others can never be underestimated, and you'll probably hear people who disagree with everything from your name choice to what nappies you were thinking of buying- and God help you if you bring up the matter of breastfeeding! Understandably, during a time when you're happy one minute and anxious as all Hell the next, this is not helpful and can raise your worry-levels to all-time-highs.

My Advice: For me, my pregnancy is a very personal thing. I haven't posted much about it on Facebook/Twitter, other than the original announcement and a pic of my bump around xmas-time. I talk to my other half about our little girl (yes, we found out on NYE that it's a very wriggly, bouncy baby girl at our anomaly scan) all the time but I no longer ask for opinions from anyone else unless I genuinely think they might have something valuable to input. I have, however, joined up to BabyCentre as I've found their app both informative (they have a page which gives you a day-to-day update of your baby, as well as things you should be preparing for) and the other members helpful (this may vary from board to board, on the forums but my group- May 2015- are a good mix of 'Feet-on-the-Grounds' and 'Head-in-the-Clouds', in terms of advice and counselling). This is effectively a great way of getting all the silly first time mum questions out of the way and also finding a support network that you don't need to be reserved around.

Everything is so damn expensive

Did you know that the general amount for a cheap nursery set is 500 quid. FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS?! Who even has that kind of cash lying around?! And that's just for a cot, wardrobe and changer. Sod. That. You'll suddenly find yourself desperately looking for sales, scouring eBay and hoping that people will be nice and help you buy at least some smaller bits and bobs

My Advice: Every shop these days has a baby event. Keep your eyes peeled and jump on them. Don't get snobby about buying thing second-hand (although there are a few essentials you will NEED to buy new, such as a mattress for the cot). Join groups such as Bargain Buys for Busy Mums who are on Facebook and have their own website (they have a lot of useless things on there but a few gems, too). Don't fall for every marketing ploy out there and check on the forums for recommendations from other mums- Aldi and ASDA make some of the most popular nappies around (often ranked more highly than pampers!) and are a fraction of the cost.

You will suddenly realise you know nothing about pregnancy, birth or babies

Suddenly you will find yourself asking questions that you've never thought about before. I think most women who are honest with themselves will know they have asked themselves whether they will be 'ok' after baby is born and how the whole carrying-a-small-person will affect them but very rarely do we found ourselves questioning whether water and cotton is best for nappy-changing or wet-wipes. And you will find yourself asking this, at some point. How much room do we need in a changing bag, really? What do I even carry in a changing bag? Will I be better off carrying baby in a sling, or buying a pram? Which pram is best for public transport/car journeys/long walks? And, of course, the all important 'how do I get people to not bombard me after I've given birth?' This obviously doesn't include those who claim to know everything, of course- whether they've had a baby or not (see previous point).

My Advice: Ask! It doesn't matter what people think of you! Even if it is a stupid question, it's a question that you don't know the answer to, and anyone who is a decent human being is not going to let you flounder around in a Sea of New Stuff. I figured out which pram I wanted by asking a stranger at the bus stop what pram she was using and how was she finding it? The woman was an absolute star- even demonstrating how the pram changed positions and telling me where I could find it cheaper! We then went on to have a 20 minute discussion- and incidentally both missed our bus- whereupon she gave me some great advice about not trying to get EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW (she'd spent loads on toys etc. only to discover that her wee one preferred everything she didn't have).  It's much more important that you get the answer than it is to not be embarrassed for 5 minutes while you gain the courage to ask someone who, at some point, had to find out the answer, themselves.

Strangers are lovely, after all

Call me crazy but I had to pop this in. Don't get me wrong, the general public are generally insane and total arseholes (years of working in customer service may have skewed my views a touch) but, for the most part, this changes when you're pregnant. You instantly have what I like to think of as a Sieve System. This basically means that those who are rude, arrogant etc. generally stay away- because those kind of people don't like to be around others who are likely to gain more attention than them (and, as awkward as it might be, pregnant ladies just get a lot of attention). Luckily, this means that those who are left are, generally speaking, the kind of people who will put others before themselves. People you've never met before will ask you how you're feeling/how far along as you/are you excited? And so on. If you're big enough to be showing, you will be offered seats and first dibs in public areas and, as previously mentioned, you will be given sound, helpful advice by those you have never met before.

My Advice: Enjoy it! Pregnancy is hard. Like, really hard. You are the only worker in a baby-creating factory and your shift is 24/7 with no breaks and no relief (what fun!). You're sick for the first 12 weeks, feeling baby kick for the next 14, then hugely uncomfortable until you pop. It's nice to have people smile at you for no reason and help you with little things you probably could have managed yourself. These are the people who help you to remain independent when, in any other case, you'd probably be sat at home wondering why nobody gives a damn. They are proof that you are bringing a little 'un into a world that is not as hopeless as it may have seemed before.

Baby comes first. In everything.

One of the first things I explained to Jeremy when I first found out about our unexpected little rascal was a simple truth. "From now on, it's Baby first. Then me. Then you". Now, I'm so incredibly lucky to be in a situation where I have had to put this into a hugely life-changing effect. But every decision I make from hereon-out is based entirely on what is best for my little girl. The simple fact is, if you are still in a position of wanting to do things your own way, at your own time, with just yourself in both action and reaction, then you are not ready to have a baby. It's a hard, important truth which I honestly find is often overlooked by people who seem to firmly believe that they can live the life they did, beforehand... with a baby. You won't just affect your newborn while pregnant and breastfeeding- your lifestyle will affect them when they're a couple of months old, 5 years or 18. This is not meant to scare anybody who is pregnant, or thinking about pregnancy. It's simply a reminder that having a baby is a lifelong commitment to somebody other than yourself- and one which you can't separate from. Oh- and the reason I come second over Daddy? I'm currently the biggest provider for baby. He was actually shocked when I said that, if worst came to worst during labour (I'm ever the optimist), I wanted him to do everything to save baby, rather than me.

My Advice: This is actually a good thing. Once you've realised what exactly you've committed to, and gotten over the anxieties of 'will I be good enough?' (hint: you will), you'll notice just how easy it is to think about what is best for baby. You can still enjoy your life and all the little treats and naughties you had before you decided to go for it- you'll just naturally ask yourself how that will affect everybody's life.

Your dreams will affect you.

We've all had that bad dream which has you waking up, certain that a close, loved one has betrayed you or gotten themselves into terrible danger. But, when you're pregnant, your lovely hormones play a game called 'what do you really fear?', and this manifests itself both in random moments of panic after your brain has suddenly spiralled into a negative cycle and in dreams (yup. Even when you're not conscious, it's all about the baby and your future). These will be personal to yourselves and your own most-dreaded scenarios but mine have consisted of everything from being totally alone, to having baby taken from me and not being able to find her, to losing my baby and having to give birth to her, stillborn (and yes, they're very graphic... and men wonder why we get so upset at the slightest thing!)

My Advice: Talk it over. If you're with a partner, then it would be natural to go to them first, but you should have a whole network of people with well-working ears. Your midwife should be your first port of call if you find that your fears are getting harder to ease, as she can refer you to proper counselling- or simply put your mind at ease with solid facts. Never be ashamed to ask for help.

You will change

If it wasn't obvious enough at this point, I should probably tell you now. Pregnancy is a life-changing, pivotal time in your life that will affect you (hopefully for the better). You will all have your own reasons as to why (some of you may have tried for years and finally been blessed with a sticky little bean, while others might have suddenly had this thrust upon you) but the most important point I'm trying to make is that this new, wonderful era of your life is about to begin and you will get to see how your lifestyle and decisions affect the little part of you that yourself and someone who has impacted your life have created together! How amazing is that?!

My Advice: Embrace it! Enjoy the moments when your fears are eased by a loved one, or a stranger tries to touch your bump (a weird moment, if ever there was one!), or how your horrible dreams mean you cuddle up to someone you love and tell them how much they mean to you- because you've been reminded of how much you need them, or would miss them if they weren't around. Smile when you feel baby kicking so hard that they actually make you jump and think about whether they'll be just as strong outside the womb (perhaps they'll be a future footballer?) and what kind of person they'll be.
Enjoy your new life, with a life you have created.