Letter to my pregnant friend

17 Feb

ImageMy My dear sweet friend,

I am so happy and excited for you to join the ranks of motherhood!  I wanted to take this chance to write down a few things that I have learned (and many that I am still struggling to learn) during this amazing first year as Ruby’s mom.  Obviously we are different, and you can take this all with a grain of salt.  As my very wise sister Rebecca says “advice is easily given and just as easily ignored.”

First, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to have the perfect pregnancy.  Eat well, sleep a lot, and keep exercising if you can (the pool is the best!).  Everybody has a different opinion about the perfect pregnancy diet, but I liked my midwife’s advice to enjoy what you want (even coffee) in moderation.  Please also enjoy your pregnancy—it is magical in so many ways.  For me, carrying Ruby gave me a whole new appreciation for this body that I have been fighting with for so long.  It may be a bit bigger than I would prefer, but it kept Ruby safe and warm and that is amazing.  I tried to also be mindful of the fact that there are so many women out there who would love to be pregnant and can’t be, so while I didn’t delight in every inconvenience and ache and pain I did try not to dwell on them or complain too much.

Research childbirth.  I so wanted a natural, drug-free childbirth after doing copious amounts of research that convinced me that birth is a natural process that our bodies were designed for.  My main motivation was medical—I truly believe that fewer interventions are better for baby and mommy, but there was also a small (big?) part of me that wanted to prove how brave, or strong, or brave and strong I am.  Things didn’t turn out at all how I had planned, and one emergency c-section later I felt like a complete failure BUT I was also at peace with every decision Matty and I had made during labor because I was very well-informed going into the process.  I questioned the midwives, nurses, and doctors every step of the way and never felt bullied into anything.  Many women I know who have had negative birth experiences did not speak up for themselves when they disagreed with the doctors.  Doctors do things a certain way and expect their patients to go along with them, but if you speak up and ask questions they will listen to you.  If they do not then demand to talk to someone new.  Be informed before you go into labor so that you feel confident to voice your opinions and ask relevant questions.  Also, reading birth stories can be very empowering!  My very favorite childbirth book is “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin.

Be surprised!  Ok this was my own personal preference, but I absolutely loved not knowing Ruby’s gender until she was born.  It was an awesome surprise after a long and difficult labor, and it forced us to get gender-neutral big stuff (car seat, strollers, etc) and people gave us all the basics rather than a bunch of frilly girly outfits (which I adore, but aren’t super practical when a n infant is usually just chilling at home).  Obviously Matty and I were in the super minority, but it was just so much fun to keep guessing the whole nine months.

Breastfeed.  Rebecca and I are self-styled breastfeeding evangelists.  It is the absolute best first decision you can make for your baby and for yourself. Babies need the specific nutrition that breast milk provides but they also crave the comfort and closeness.  Breastfeeding is so much easier than bottles, especially at night and when you are out and about, because it is always there and always the right temperature.  Also, a study by Yale University researchers showed that women who breastfed for two years or longer reduced their risk of breast cancer by 50 percent!  How amazing is that?  If you have issues breastfeeding or need encouragement then call me, or a lactation consultant, or contact a local chapter of La Leche League.  For when you return to work and need to pump, the Medela Pump in Style double electric pump is pricey ($300) but worth every penny.

Consider cloth.  I never thought that I would be one of those women, but I LOVE my cloth diapers.  I briefly considered cloth when I was pregnant and then decided against it for some reason I can’t really recall right now.  I finally ordered my first cloth diaper around Thanksgiving and really started full-time cloth diapering about two months ago.  (Ruby does still wear disposables when she is with Elise, but cloth whenever I am with her).  You save a TON of money, especially the earlier you start and if you have multiple children, and they are adorable, and I like the thought of doing my little part to keep a tiny fraction of a landfill free.  If you have questions I would love to talk about my favorite brands and what I plan to do with Baby Shellock #2, whenever he or she comes along.

Hold your baby.  As much as humanly possible.  I know that it is cliché, but babies do grow up so very fast—I cannot believe that Ruby will be a year old in less than a month.  A lot of people get very wrapped up in putting the baby down to sleep, and it is definitely true that I got a lot less sleep because Ruby preferred to be held, but I wouldn’t trade those moments (and hours) with her for anything.  There is just nothing like a sweet sleeping baby to make everything right with the world.  Ruby is finally sleeping through the night in her crib, but we still hold her for all of her naps.  While I was on maternity leave I would sit in our big armchair with her every afternoon and drift off to sleep with her on my chest.  I had laundry to fold and dinner to make and a messy house, but I also had my precious baby sleeping sweetly in my arms.  Babies want to be held and loved and cuddled.  They have just spent nine months all snuggly warm in your womb and are confused when they emerge into this big bright world.  The best way to make them feel safe and secure is to hold them (and breastfeed too!).

Motherhood is hard—so much harder than I thought it could possibly be.  Don’t get me wrong, it is also amazing and wonderful and beautiful, but it is really hard to have a teeny tiny person completely dependent on you, 24/7.  It’s ok to cry when your world seems to be closing in on you, or for no reason at all.  As hard as it is at first it gets easier quickly—you establish a routine of sorts and get used to putting baby’s needs above your own, all day every day.  Matty is amazing with Ruby but he doesn’t understand what it is like to be a mother—no one can until they have experienced it.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, and enjoy the happy easy moments.

You are a wonderful person and will be a wonderful mother.  I am here for you whenever you need  me.

Love you,


2 Responses to “Letter to my pregnant friend”

  1. Joan D. February 17, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Sarah, how lucky this woman is to have you as a friend! Reading this was like reading my brith story and then first year with Charlotte. I loved every minute of my beautiful and easy pregnancy and was absolutely under the impression that my birth would go as planned and that this follow on year would be a breeze. Well, one emergency c-section later my whole world changed….. And I wouldnt take a second of what has happened since then back. Motherhood has been amazing, challenging, and totally different then what i ever could have imagined. These recommendations to your friend are so perfect for every parent, i plan on passing these along to some of my newly pregnant friends!
    Thanks for putting it into words!

    • sarahshellock February 17, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Joan you just made me cry! Thank so much for your kind words…motherhood is quite the crazy ride, isn’t it?

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