Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Assive welcome here

I have this niece and she's the cutest little thing you ever did see--big brown eyes, curly black hair, a puppy dog's heart and a bright, warm smile that would melt the heart of Jack Frost in Winter. She's two-and-a-half years old and you have never met a more lovable toddler. Her name is Carrie Ann.

The only trouble is, Carrie Ann isn't two and a half anymore. She somehow grew up while I was getting old and now she's 26. She teaches elementary school on contract in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in Canada. She loves the arts, plays ball hockey and longs to make the world a smidgen better by her own hands. She's smart and goofy all rolled into one. I'd be lying outright if I said I'd never heard a cuss word cross her lips; and yet, she still calls me Auntie Susie in this sweet little girl voice that can't help but melt my heart. It's no wonder I still carry a big piece of her toddler self in my mind's eye.

Last Friday night, Carrie called to tell me she's pregnant. The pregnancy was unplanned and was definitely unexpected from a medical standpoint. Carrie has always wanted children even if she wasn't sure she'd be able to have them. Sure, there will be financial issues and housing issues and all the other kinds of difficulties that come from having a child before either partner has permanent (or even steady) employment, but she has a long-term, loving partner and an extended family that is financially and emotionally ready to help them along through the first tough year.

What I'd like to do with your help is pass along some advice to Carrie and her partner. I'm looking for the meaty kind of advice that never gets doled out on Baby Center and iVillage message boards. Our comment compendium will have the added bonus of containing far less beeyotch slapping and absolutely no acronyms. So how about it BTDT Moms? I'll start the ball rolling and we can all continue in the comments section.

Mad's Mad Assvice For the Expectant Mother

1. The ratio of time that most healthy pregnant women spend worrying about labour & delivery vs worrying about having a small human being permanently entrusted to their care is approx. 95% to 5%. Try to reverse this ratio.

2. Avoid the What to Expect Books. Reach for Sheila Kitzinger instead.

3. You can and should draft a birth plan and have your Obstetrician sign it. Remember, though, that it will most likely be ignored completely by the healthcare profession. Drafting it will ensure that you, your partner and your families are all on the same page when it comes to lobbying for your needs. And, maybe, if there is a rare solar eclipse on a blue moon, you'll give birth according to plan. (You have decided on an OB and not a Midwife, right? If the latter, then yay! you have options that weren't available to me and I can offer no advice whatsoever.)

4. For the first few weeks of a child's life, breastfeeding requires that at least two adults be present for every feed. All three parties involved will cry. It's better to know this and prepare for this than to be taken out at the knees by it.

5. There will be one issue (at least) that will break your spirit (at least). Practice self-acceptance and self-forgiveness well in advance. I cannot say this one loud enough. It's ok. It's not your fault. You are doing a fine job. If you need help, ask for it. If help is offered, accept it.

6. Find a mother's group or two, corporeal and/or virtual. Spend a couple of hours a week together for that first year because no one else in your life will remember the ready answers to questions like "how do I treat cradle cap?" or "What is Ovol?" or, hell, I don't even remember any of the 1,000 little questions that I knew were vitally important way back when.

7. Nothing will prepare you for the love you will feel for your child. You may not, however, feel this love on the first day or even in the first week your child is born. Do not beat yourself up about it because it is not uncommon for mothers to take a little while to grasp all that has happened to them. The love will come and it will be bigger than anything you have ever experienced.

8. Matt, when your babe is a month old, please read this. Ron, you do the same.

9. Carrie, watch closely when your Mom and your Aunts hold your babe. They have mad skillz. I can't tell you how much Nan changed my life in those first few weeks. I sometimes still do the bob and weave just for nostalgia's sake.

10. As much as possible, don't listen to the fear mongering pre- and post-natal. It will just make you feel small, and it will leave you no better prepared to deal with anything that may or may not go wrong along the way.

So, wise readers, what say you?