Raising Richmond: Letters to our pregnant selves

Pregnancy is a scary time for moms-to-be. The physical changes and uncertainties about what life will be like after the baby comes lead to a lot of fear and anxiety for some women. In an effort to offer comfort to those expecting a baby soon, we present today’s question: What would you say to your first-time pregnant self?

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the latest installment of our parenting column written by two Richmond mothers: Patience Salgado (veteran mother of four gorgeous children), and Valerie Catrow (a parenting rookie who has only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Pregnancy is a scary time for moms-to-be. The physical changes and uncertainties about what life will be like after the baby comes lead to a lot of fear and anxiety for some women. In an effort to offer comfort (and a little advice) to those expecting a child soon (and to those who have recently brought home their new bundles of joy), we present today’s question:

If you could write a letter to your first-time pregnant self, what would you say?

Dear Pregnant Patience,

I know you are in total shock. I mean, who knew an antibiotic could mess with your birth control? It’s ok, maybe you weren’t supposed to catch that information this go around anyway. There are some things you should probably know, because I know you’ll be obsessing over information, trying to get it all right, and worrying about the unknown. Here are some mad tips from the future. Just call me Marty McFly.

1. Spend some money on cute maternity clothes. Don’t be a cheapo, do something nice for yourself because you are gonna have like a gaggle of kids. Go big for jeans; you’ll be wearing those bad boys for quite some time.

2. Take the time to celebrate. Throw one of those awesome gender reveal parties with all your friends. Make it pretty and fun, send home awesome party favors — the kind people actually use and like. Have a blessingway, too. Don’t be afraid to let people show their love for you, even if you don’t like being the center of attention.

3. Pick a care provider that feels kind of like a mom. The nurturing, you-are-finding-your-own-way kind of mom, not the I-know-it-all and you-just-wait variety. Pick someone that really listens and is older and wise — this is a good match for you.

4. Let your husband take care of you. I know you really love to pretend to be Wonder Woman because let’s face it, that cape is awesome, but skip it this time. There will be plenty of moments to show your power, so let the people closest to you care for your body and soul. Sometimes it takes more courage to say what you need and want anyway.

5. Tell your story. You are creating and living your story, so capture it beautifully. Pay to have that maternity photo session, write in your journal or blog. You’ll forget all the little things along the way that turned you into a parent. You’ll totally laugh at yourself later, but it’s good to see and remember how far you’ve come and how much you cared.

6. Forget the haters. Now is not the time to listen to 57,000 bad birth stories and how you’ll never sleep again. Surround yourself with people and other parents that you really respect and people who believe in you. You know your life will change, but walk the road with people who can be both honest and offer hope.

7. You don’t have to please everyone. If there was ever a time in your life when you can be selfish, it is now. Protect your space and mind, forget being polite, let your husband run interference for you about all the topics you are avoiding and boundaries that need to be made. You are having a baby with him, not the rest of the world.

8. Take the Babymoon and make it long. Hole up after that baby is born. Lay around, nurse, forget the clock entirely. Get lost in baby goodness and don’t stress about sleep or accomplishing anything. Just be. For the love of all things holy, DO NOT worry about your body. It will return, not totally the same but don’t make any snap judgments two seconds after you have a baby. This one will be hard for you but you can let go.

9. Be vulnerable. You don’t have to have it all sorted out or even know what you are doing. You have a lovely intuition and will be fine but remember, you can just let it unfold and learn together. The baby will help show you the way. Trust each other.

How did you get so chatty? I know, you are one of those, but it’s really fine. Oh, and one more thing, you’ll be kind of sad so I’m telling you now; there are no flying cars in the future. There is however, a really rad, happy life ahead.

Dear Hugely Pregnant Valerie,

I know you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed right now — physically and emotionally. There’s not much I can do about the physical part (other than to tell you to stop re-folding onesies and go to sleep already), but hopefully I can assuage some of your fears about the other stuff. And I know you’ve got them because, well, I am you; fretting is kind of your default until you’ve had time to process a situation.

Your impending labor and delivery experience is weighing heavily on your mind right now, so rest in the knowledge that it will be wonderful. Things will not go at all according to (your) plan, and it will be a long, hard process… but it will still be wonderful. And if I may be a tad feisty for a moment? Don’t let anyone tell you that how that baby ends up getting here is any indication of how strong of a woman you are (because there will be some who will try to suggest that). Remember that you need to make decisions that are best for your health, the baby’s safety, and for your family. Frankly, it’s not anyone else’s business — and feel free to tell them that if they get pushy (because some of them will).

As far as the day-to-day things those first few months, know these things:

  • No one cares what the baseboards look like except you.
  • Changing out of your pajamas makes a world of difference.
  • Staying in your pajamas also makes a world of difference.
  • Drink water. And when you think you’ve had enough water to drink, go ahead and have some more.
  • Your child will poop in the bathtub. Yes, it’s gross, but it’s really not a big deal.
  • The one time you don’t have a burp cloth on your shoulder is when your child will vomit down your back.
  • When you’re packing up the diaper bag, be sure to toss in an extra shirt for yourself. Trust me.
  • If something is worrying you, call your child’s pediatrician. If he/she is annoyed with a brand new mother calling often, he/she probably shouldn’t be in the business of caring for infants. (Note: our pediatrician was always lovely about our calls, and I can’t imagine the blubbering mess I would have been if he weren’t.)

Now on to the less tangible things…

I feel like I need to be upfront and tell you that things will be hard at first — harder than you ever, ever thought possible. Not so much because of the exhaustion; loneliness is going to be the big one for you. As you know, you’re the first in your group of close friends to have a baby, and that can be isolating at times. But it doesn’t have to! Everyone you know will be champing at the bit to spend time with you and your new little one. When they say they want to come over to chat, help you fold laundry, go for a walk, etc… THEY MEAN IT! Take them up on it! Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that accepting help means you can’t do it all yourself. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And that handsome, blue-eyed gentleman who helped get you into this situation? He also means it when he says he wants to help. Let him. Please?

Lest you think the coming months (and years) will be all woe and uncertainty, know that you’ve got so much goodness coming. It will reveal itself in a variety of ways — through moments of pure joy and after moments of complete brokenness. Carrying, birthing, and raising your kid will teach you more about yourself and how you want fit into this world than anything you’ve yet to experience. Your highs will be higher, your lows lower — probably because you will feel like you have more at stake now. Certain things will start to matter less to you, while others will matter so much more. Be open to these shifts and let yourself change if you need to. There’s a certain rawness to this mothering thing that will leave you feeling constantly exposed and vulnerable…but in the absolutely best way possible. There’s no such thing as feeling too much or loving too much. Don’t fight it; use it.

You’re gonna be great, kid.

Much love,

Me (which is You, I guess, but we’re much less huge now and not at all pregnant)

PS: You were right. It’s a boy.

Now it’s your turn…

If you could write a letter to the first-time pregnant or first-time parent version of yourself, what would you say? Knowing what you know now, what advice or inspiration would you share?

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Patience Salgado

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