6 Things To Know When You're Expecting: A Letter To My Cousin

by Kara Lawler
pregnancy tips
Dean Mitchell / iStock

To my cousin:

I heard the news tonight that you are having a baby girl; your mom, my mom’s sister, was so excited about the news. The first image that came to my mind, before any other, was of the two of us on the beach as little girls. We’re probably around 3 and 4, and in the picture, we are lying on our bellies, our elbows in the sand, our heads resting on our hands. Your blonde hair is a sharp contrast to my dark hair, and our smiles tell the story: We were happy little girls, playing together on the beach.

Many years have passed since that photo was taken, and with the passing of time, our relationship has changed. We grew up in different parts of the state—me in the country and you in a suburb of a major city. Even though our mothers tried their best to ensure that we were close, time and distance has a way of making that difficult. We’re no longer the little girls in the sand, but I often think of us that way. When I heard you were pregnant, I felt like the protective, older cousin.

You are about to set off on one of the greatest and most difficult journeys of your life: You will become a mother, and I know you will be a fantastic one. Here are the things I wish someone had told me when I was pregnant:

1. Enjoy These Last Months of Being Unencumbered

While you will have time alone again, it will never quite feel the same. When you’re home alone after the baby comes, the quiet will almost seem like it’s too much at first; the silence will seem deafening. And your little one will never be far from your mind. So, watch movies, read books, and take long baths now. While these things will not be gone forever, you might find that you can’t spend as much time alone once the baby arrives.

2. Take Some Time With Your Partner Before the Baby Comes

While I truly felt blessed with the birth of our first child, I remember missing my husband after our son arrived, and he hadn’t even gone anywhere. He was right there with me. But after so many years of just focusing on one another, it was hard to figure out who we were now that we were three. It’s hard to prepare for that, but keeping the lines of communication open will help. Spending some quality time together now will also help.

3. Don’t Stress Yourself Out With Reading Every Single Parenting Book

I spent every minute toward the end of my first pregnancy reading parenting books. I poured over so much information that my head was spinning. I actually had my OB/GYN tell me to stop reading because it was information overload. So, read the books if you want, but try to remember that you will figure out what’s best for your child. Sure, the books can help, but don’t drive yourself crazy.

4. Have a Birth Plan if You Want, But Try to Stay Flexible

I think it’s totally important to know how you’d like your birth to go. After all, this is your experience and it matters what you want and think. I just wish I had known to be more flexible. Sometimes, we have plans and they just don’t go the way we want or expect. I’ve spoken to some friends who were so stuck on their birth plans that when an emergency arose, they ended up feeling inadequate and guilty that things turned out differently than they expected.

5. Pack Yourself a Bag for the Hospital

Of course, everyone says to pack a bag for the hospital, but I ended up packing so much stuff for the baby, that I hardly had anything for myself. Warm socks, candies and your own maxi-pads are some of the things I would recommend. A robe, slippers and new pajamas also made me feel better. Also, remember to pack a sports bra or nursing tank. Finally, go easy on yourself. I remember a friend telling me that she packed her pre-pregnancy jeans to wear after the baby was born! Don’t do that. Plan to wear your maternity pants for a while as your body adjusts.

6. Finally, You Will Find Your Own Way

You’re going to have tons and tons of people trying to give you advice, but the reality is that you will find your own way. And what worked for me, our moms or our friends, just might not work for you and your baby. You’ll figure it out just like we all do. Just know that I’m right here if you need me.

I’m so excited for you to become a mother and for our little girls to play together. I still have that photo of us on the beach and would love to take one of our baby girls playing. Your baby and my youngest will be two years apart, almost the same distance that we are. Let’s stage that photo again. Until then, I wish you the very best of luck and can’t wait to meet your sweet baby.