Advice to our Formerly Pregnant Selves

pregnant

I only have five or six photos of myself pregnant, which is both pathetic and insightful into that time of my life. And man, if I could go back in time and talk to my formerly pregnant self, I'd hand her a camera. I'd tell her to document it; document it all!

I'd tell her to write out how she's feeling — not just the good, but the fear and anger and rawness. I'd tell her to stop worrying so much about how her future baby (Noah! His name will be Noah!) will one day feel when he stumbles on her tear-stained, yellowed paper, scrawled with deep anxieties about the ruin of her life. I'd let her know that, as soon as he's born, there won't be a moment where he doesn't feel her love. So maybe that honesty will teach him that the most terribly difficult moments can turn into life-changing blessings. That we can't judge change as being good or bad, because life is consistently unpredictable, and things have a way of working out for the best. That we all go through dark times, and we all come through.

I'd tell her that everything will be okay.

I'd tell her that she'll be a stronger, smarter, better person.

I'd tell her I love her, and so does her baby.

But more than anything, I'd tell her to take some damn pictures. She'll only be 22 for one year, and she'll only be pregnant with her first-born baby once. Document it all.

***

When I asked the private Early Mama group what advice they'd have for their formerly pregnant selves, we got some incredible answers.

A lot of "breathe, it'll be okay"s. "Things fall into place" reminders.

A lot of "enjoy this, don't be ashamed, allow yourself to be happy"s.

I saw quite a few reminders to trust their instincts rather than following everything their mother said to do, which is funny because I'D TELL MYSELF THE SAME EXACT THING. I didn't feel like a grown capable adult, and so I deferred to those around me who "knew better." I'd tell that girl that she's capable and valid.

Claire agreed, writing, "I would tell myself to listen to my mother less and my instincts more about things like natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. I let things get far more medical than they needed to be in delivery because I didn't have faith." And Daniella added, "Stick to your guns on how you want to raise him."

Here's some more advice from readers:

Take countless naps and bubble baths before she’s born. Stop prolonging the inevitable ending of some friendships. Stop letting people feel like you don’t deserve to still go to college. And she is far less scary than you think she is now, and she will be worth everything you’re going through.
— Andie
To be kind to myself. This includes releasing the guilt of not being a ‘better’ mom and my perceived failings, but also allowing myself time and energy for me, because I will be a better mom when I make sure to take care of myself.
— Liann
Think about how you want to do things with your new baby (feeding, sleeping, etc.), but don’t be hard on yourself when you need to change the plan. Same goes for a birth plan. Have some ideas of what you want, but go into it with a flexible mind.
— Tara
I would have reminded myself to eat a little better, as these last 15 lbs. of baby weight aren’t coming off. Also, establish breastfeeding support ASAP.
— Leigh
[Don’t] let your significant other slack so much because 9 years from now he’ll be doing the exact same things because you let him off before. Best piece of advice my mother ever gave me that I should have listened to: Start as you mean to go on.
— Jaime-Lynn
The thing that got to me the most, and still does to some extent, is that my mother-in-law projected her bad feelings about her own early motherhood onto me. It left me feeling unhappy during my entire pregnancy as well as the first few months of Rory’s life. If I could tell myself to understand that it really wasn’t about me, it would have saved me a lot of heartache (and Kleenex).
— Lauren

***

Of course I can't go back in time and chit-chat with a former version of myself, but maybe in some weird cosmic connectedness, I can send this out into the Universe and comfort a kindred spirit of sorts. Maybe there's a 22-year-old magazine intern who wakes up every day and has to remind herself that, yes, she's pregnant; no, this isn't a dream. This is real life — scary, uncertain, demoralizing — and her entire future looks like a bleak, blank slate. She cries a lot, and goes through the pregnancy motions, yet — on some level — is in a weird state of denial.

This is for her. And you. And me.

Breathe. You'll be okay. You'll do great. Everything is as it is, and that's the way it's meant to be.


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