A couple of our dearest readers are in their third trimesters of pregnancy. One of them is a first-time mother, the other is what we in the Mom Biz call a “repeat offender.” I was chatting with one of them yesterday, which got me to thinking about some of the most common misconceptions (hah!) held by starry-eyed primiparas.
The Birth Plan. Even though by that point I knew better, I slaved over the “birth plan” for my third child just as assiduously as I did for my first. I suppose somewhere there's a labor that proceeds like they do in the textbook examples: the breathing helps, the pain is “discomfort,” and the baby is pushed wide-eyed into the world to the rousing strains of the Hallelujah Chorus. It is nice to think about an ideal birth experience: water deliveries vs. labor stools, chanting, home births, the whole family present. I think that most of the time you can even have a lot of your chosen elements available to you during labor and birth. The problem comes when people get so fixated on a particular process that they feel like they've failed as women if things deviate from the plan. Babies are notorious for coming in their own ways, on their own schedules; things may come up that you didn't foresee. It may hurt more than you expected, or progress more quickly than you had planned. You may get anti-nausea meds that make you fall asleep between contractions, or a c-section may be warranted. Maybe your husband has never had the opportunity to learn that the sight of amniotic fluid makes him faint. Try to remember the basics: the ultimate birth plan is one in which the baby who's inside of you becomes the baby who's outside of you. Anything else is a bonus.
Instant Bonding. You may feel a deep, overwhelming and permanent love for your baby. You may not. Either is perfectly normal. So much as been made over the “mother/baby bond” that many a woman expects to leap off the delivery table ready to sing an aria about their eternal devotion to the tiny scrap of humanity she just met. Be realistic: you may feel exhausted, overwhelmed and in need of nothing so much as a full meal and a fat nap. Sometimes “the bond” develops over time, but it does develop. Another surprise (if you've already had children) is how much MORE you love the “old” baby than the new baby. That doesn't mean you're a bad mother. You've spent so much time caring for and loving the child you already have, it would be surprising if there WASN'T a small flash of, “who the heck are YOU?” Of course you may take one look at your baby and realize that he was all the world needed to be perfect. That's good, too!
The Learning Curve. First-time parents often feel a little shy around people like pediatricians, lactation consultants and their OWN parents, because they think these people know what they're doing. Of course they do, in general terms; but for this specific baby, all bets are off. A sixteen-year-old single mom and Mary Poppins are both starting at ground zero when figuring out whether this new kid prefers to be burped over-the-shoulder or sitting up – and Mom has a better chance of figuring it out first, because she IS the Mom.
The Supermom Trap. If you work really hard and never sleep, yes, you can do it all. You can nurse the baby, rock the baby, change the baby, play with the baby, keep the house sparkling clean, cook 3 nutritious meals a day and regain your pre-baby figure all in the first month after giving birth. The question is: Why would any sane women try it? Oddly, Repeat Offenders are even more likely than first-timers to try and get right back on that horse. I say, revel in your status. People want to help, so let them do it! Every frozen dinner or hour of yard work gives you that much more time to nap or bathe or coo over the curl on the top of Baby's head. Don't worry, you'll pass all this good karma along to the next new mother . . . and you'll be happier now!