Dear Pregnant Woman…

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Toronto, May 2014

Toronto, May 2014

I recently learned that several friends were expecting and I found myself ridiculously happy for them. Of course, the arrival of a new human being on planet earth is always something to celebrate, but when you are a parent, you want to help, make things easier, share some wisdom.

I know, I know… I’m turning into one of these people who give unsolicited advice. Well, mine will be positive, I promise.

So, dear pregnant woman, this is what I’d like to tell you.

Trust healthcare professionals

I was asked early on where I wanted to give birth. Ottawa has several major hospitals, and of course I could have opted for a home birth (an option I didn’t even consider). I immediately went online to read recommendations, but no one agreed on the best place to give birth in Ottawa (which was pretty much what I had Googled) and everyone had some horror story about X or Y birth unit. Well, I had to make up my mind. I picked the Civic Hospital because it was the closest location and guess what—it was perfect. If you are lucky enough to live in a first world country, I think you can’t really go wrong with most major hospitals or clinics where you will receive the best care possible. Birth units aren’t hotel rooms. Reading reviews can be helpful but don’t overanalyze your choice.

Don’t listen to the “pregnancy police”

From the day I learned I was pregnant I felt every single decision I was making, even the most innocuous ones, was questioned by the baby police, aka folks who feel your body is their business and that they know best. Eat this, never eat that, do this, never do that, etc. Problem is, there is no consensus and there are few hard rules. The solution? Use common sense and listen to your body. You can also pick a few persons you trust and listen to them—and ignore the old guy in the bus who professes that “pregnant women blahblahblah”. Life doesn’t stop when you are pregnant. Don’t let the baby police ruin these precious nine months (and get used to these folks, because there is also a “baby police” and a “toddler police”…).

Stick to your guns

You will have to make a billion of decisions, from picking the name of your child to deciding on a birth plan, from buying a crib to deciding who will cut the umbilical cord. Relax. These decisions sound like a huge deal but really, in the long run, few of them will matter (just maybe avoid naming your child “Satan”, that one may be an issue). Whatever decision you make, go with what you and your partner are comfortable with. Don’t let other people bully you. Everyone has an opinion, they are free to share it (and you are free to pretend to listen) but ultimately, you are in control.

Every pregnancy and every baby is different

Your pregnancy and your baby are unique. Sure, there are some common points, but don’t expect your experience to be exactly as described in books. For instance, I thought a sure sign of labour would be my water breaking. Oh, it did… about five seconds before Mark came out. I didn’t get to use the “honey, take me to the hospital, my water broke!” line. Swaddling. I’m sure it comforts some babies but we quickly realized that Mark hated not being able to bring his hands to his mouth. Bottom line is, listen to your body and your baby and adjust accordingly, no matter what people say.

Your body will be just fine

I keep on hearing women complain that pregnancy “destroyed” their body. Sure, carrying a baby for nine months is a tough job but it’s something many women do. And how many times in a day do you look at a woman and think “OMG, her pregnancy completely killed her looks!” That’s right—never. You won’t look like a monster. Yes, you may get stretch marks but you can minimize them and they fade away with time. And every woman has stretch marks anyway. Saggy skin, weight gain, hair loss, etc.? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly not everything at the same time, and most of these “side effects” won’t last forever. Honestly, considering everything I read online, I was pleasantly surprise to see that I was back to my old self a few weeks after birth.

Don’t focus on horror stories

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who had a terrible labour and delivery experience. I’m not denying that things don’t always go as planned (and I’m aware of the fact I had it easy) but don’t forget that everyone is different. What is a terrible and painful experience to someone is absolutely nothing to another. Plus, people tend to exaggerate a little bit for drama effect. It’s a bit like when you tell your mates about a hike you took. Yeah, you were almost eaten alive by a grizzly. Except the grizzly was, ahem, locked in a cage at the zoo at the at the edge of the forest, but you will omit this detail, won’t you! For what it’s worth, giving birth was an amazing experience for me, and certainly not as bad as I thought it would be.

Whatever you decide will be best

Breastfeeding or not? C-section or vaginal birth? Home birth or hospital birth? Knowing the gender or not? Whatever you decide, people will try to convince you otherwise. Your decision is best. Your body, your baby, your family. You are in charge. Don’t feel you even have to justify your choice.

Your life is not over

I was so sick of people telling me that I should enjoy my sleep because I would never sleep again, enjoy traveling because that was the end of it, enjoy going out because I won’t have a chance, etc. Sure, your life may be put on hold for a bit. And by “a bit”, I mean weeks, not years. Babies can be taken to restaurants, you can travel with a kid (so far, Mark has been to the US, to France, to Mexico and in several Canadian cities) and guess what—they sleep too, even if not always when we need them to. This is the beginning, not the end!

Anything else to add?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

19 Comments

  1. There’s an interesting new place in Ottawa to give birth – the Ottawa Birth Centre: http://www.ottawabirthcentre.ca/

    It’s been open for a few months now and it’s like having a home birth, but in a place where midwives have all the equipment they need, and you’re only 10 minutes from the Civic if needed. They have cool suites with beds, couches, giant hot tubs, and fireplaces. I wish they’d been around when I was having mine!

    My personal advice: never tell anyone, even your parents, the name of the kid until after they are born. If you tell people, “we’re thinking of Sally,” you will be amazed at how many will say, “Oh no, that’s awful because of XYZ” before the baby is born – but if you present the kid and say, “This is Sally,” they’ll smile and say how charming. If there’s a name you really love, keep it a secret if you don’t want to have to hear all about how terrible it is from everyone else!

    Love your last point the best – life might be changing but it certainly isn’t over. So many new and wonderful experiences to share!

  2. Encouraging pregnant women to think and act for themselves is actually quite the opposite of being a member of the pregnancy police (and that translates to pretty much every situation, not just pregnancy).
    My motto is: listen to what people have to say, but make your own decisions. Much like you said, your own body is usually the best advisor you can find unless we’re talking chocolate ;).

  3. Yes ! I totally agree. Babies are a new beginning, not the end ! Sure, as parents our lives change dramatically, but that’s what life is all about.
    As for the water breaking… We had taken a “pregnancy class” before the twins were born where the nurse specifically said to “wait until the contractions start” before going to the hospital, because most of the time it takes HOURS before the water breaks. Well, my water broke before there were any pain or contractions… I think it started very slowly once we were in the car, when we had decided to drive to the hospital anyway (about 30 min to 1 hour later). That was definitely not covered in the class!

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