Dear Soon-to-Be Mom,
Congratulations on that little baby in there! I hope your morning sickness wasn’t too bad and that those lovely, rolling kicks are soft and well-aimed.
When we started talking the other day, your baby in your belly and mine on my hip, you complained that everywhere you go already-moms are full of advice that you’re simply tired of hearing. I’ll admit, it stung a little when you said it, especially because I’d just shared some of my very best newborn-care tips. But then I took a breath and remembered—it wasn’t so long ago that I was the pregnant, first-time mom, the one who was annoyed by all the advice that already-moms kept throwing my way. I remember wishing time and time again that that all the big-kid moms would just tell me congratulations and leave it at that.
Now that I’ve been on both sides, I’d like to officially, unequivocally issue an apology: From all the already-moms to all of the soon-to be moms, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry we stop you on the street to give you advice.
I know how obnoxious it is to get advice from people you don’t know. When I was pregnant, I wished desperately that I could go out in peace without some mom at the grocery store or the restaurant or the park shouting obscure advice about feeding or sleeping or keeping the romance alive with my husband.
Now, I get it though. We already-moms see that big belly of yours and know exactly what’s coming your way. We know about the love and the giggles and absolute joy, but we also know how overwhelming and hard new motherhood can be. We’ve been there, and we want deeply to spare you the desperation and isolation we felt in those first few months. We tell you the things we wish someone had told us, the things that made a difference to our babies. If only we’d known the sound of a vacuum cleaner would sooth our crying newborn or that a pacifier wouldn’t wreck nursing or that the best way to bathe a baby is to just get in the tub with them, those first few months would have been so, so much easier. I know our advice is a pain, but please, know it’s coming from a place of love.
I’m sorry we tell you our birth stories.
I know you’re already pretty anxious about the whole person-making-their-exit-via-your vagina thing and hearing the words “tearing,” “stitches,” and “never the same” probably doesn’t help. I promise, when we tell our stories it’s only because we want to help you out, and when they come off sounding terrifying, it’s only because it’s really hard to strike a balance between being real with someone and not scaring the heck out of them, especially when it comes to birth.
Before I had my son, an already-mom in my circle told me that labor really wasn’t that bad and that proper breathing had helped her to feel almost nothing. After giving birth, I asked her what the heck she was talking about. “Oh,” she responded, “I didn’t want to scare you. Of course it hurts like hell!” While all those scary birth words probably aren’t necessary, we want you to know that, yes, it’s going to be very, very painful. But then as suddenly as it started, it’ll be over and you’ll have a warm, wiggly baby on your chest. And in those after moments, you’ll know all the pain was worth it.
I’m sorry we ask you the same questions over and over and swoon over every detail you give us.
Due date? Sex? Nursery theme? It’s weird that people pay so much attention to pregnant women, but when already-moms do it, it’s often because they’re reminded of their own pregnant days and the fact that their big kid used to be a tiny newborn too. I know that it’s a pain to answer these questions over and over, and I promise we’re grateful for your indulging us as we reminisce.
I’m sorry we scoff at your all-natural, 100-percent organic, screen-free parenting plan.
I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re talking to an already-mom and share with her that you plan to raise your baby 100-percent screen-free or prepare all of their baby food by hand, and she scoffs, “Yeah, we’ll see how you’re feeling about that in a few years!” It can seem unkind when already-moms respond this way, but what they’re often trying to convey is the simple fact that priorities change.
Before your baby arrives, you know that you want the best for them, but you don’t yet know them. You read books and listen to experts and make promises and vows to be the best parent you can be. And then the baby gets here and all the plans you made change, and then they change again, and then they keep changing every month and week and sometimes day. When that happens to you, we don’t want you to feel the guilt that we did.
The truth is, if you plan something before birth, you can stick to it, most of the time, if you’re committed enough, but sometimes (often) when you get to know your kid, those best-for-everybody things fall out of favor as you begin to learn what’s best for your baby. Most moms have broken at least one of the I-will-nevers she claimed during pregnancy, and when you do, we’ll be right there with you, laughing together about all things we used to think mattered.
I’m sorry we ask you questions that are way too personal.
When we ask if you’ve begun to dilate or if you plan to breastfeed, it’s our way of welcoming you into the circle of motherhood. I know you’re probably super weirded and grossed out now, but I promise you, a week after that baby gets here, you’ll be talking to your friends about the contents of diapers and begging your sister to tell you how she handled postpartum self-care. Motherhood forces you let go of a lot of modesty, and the sooner you get there, the better. When we ask you personal questions, know it’s because we think of you as one of us already.
I’m sorry we tell you to sleep now, but hey, really, sleep now.
When you tell us how anxious you are to give birth and we tell you to go get your nails done or take a nap, please listen. I know it’s annoying when people act like there’s anything better to do in those last few weeks of pregnancy than chow down on pineapple and try to bounce your way into labor, but really, life’s about to change in the hardest, most wonderful way it possibly can. So, mom-to-be, take the time you have left to savor things as they are.
So, soon-to-be moms of the world, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the advice and the stories and know-it-all glances. I promise that I’ll do my best to hold my tongue when I see you if you promise to remember that my advice comes with the best of intentions. You’ve got so much coming your way, mama, and I wish you nothing but joy and love and patience as you enter motherhood. I promise, mom-to-be, that next time I see you on the street and my mind begins to race with all the things you just need to know, I’ll take a breath and say, simply, “Congratulations.”