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Motherhood is the last thing I expected to be writing about when I graduated high school. Scholarship, scholarship, scholarship was all I could think about. When I got one to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, I switched gears and focused on GPA, GPA, GPA. After graduating it became career, career, career. But after working for four years I found myself married and pregnant with my first child. It wasn't a long, thought-out decision. If I considered it at all, I thought, You get married, you get pregnant. Right? Right!
My son arrived in 1993, two weeks early. I was on my way out from work when my labor started. When I took him home from the hospital, I was about as uninformed as I could possibly be. I had read What to Expect When You're Expecting, of course, but I hadn't touched a childcare book. I figured taking care of my baby would just come to me and I would like it. I was wrong.
After about two weeks of feeding on demand (a.k.a. putting a bottle in my son's mouth every time he cried and my son not only eating poorly but screaming all the time)I was convinced he could not be mine and was ready to return him to the hospital. How can women enjoy this? I thought. "Liars, they're all liars," I told myself.
I scoured the bookshelves for help but found none. Not only did the books not cover this incessant crying or what to do about it, but they seemed to skip the truth about those first days and weeks altogether. I needed some answers, so I called the doctor. The doctor said he would grow out of it in about three months. Three months! What was I supposed to do for the next three months? Recreational drugs were not an option. I was sinking and sinking fast. I had gone from managing an accounting office of five professionals to holding, rocking, feeding, and changing a cranky infant. There was no smile on my face and not many on his either.
I could not believe this was motherhood: Misery and crying and being enslaved to a demanding infant. I was desperate for help. I needed the truth and I was willing to search for it wherever I could find it. Books didn't have it. Doctors were out. Finally I realized that other mothers would have the answers I was looking for. I started with my own.
"No one really likes it in the beginning," she confessed. Now she tells me. "It takes a little while to get that first smile and then you'll see it's all worth it."
It was a relief to discover that my own lack of happy feelings was normal, but I quickly moved on to more pressing matters.
"Demand feeding?" I asked. "I'm feeding this kid all the time and he still cries."
"I'm on it," she said. She spoke to a friend who let her in on "the schedule" and the rest is history. "The Schedule" was the first new mom "insider information" that I received in my quest for help. I discuss baby schedules in detail in Chapter Eight. Once I learned about the schedule, I suspected that there was more information out there to be discovered.
I was right. My continued research unearthed a treasure trove of tricks, secrets, and tips that mothers don't advertise. They remain tight-lipped because so much of what they have to say may not be considered politically correct. After all, who wants to actually admit that this experience of motherhood isn't always like the Ivory soap commercials?
The insider information was so helpful to me that I decided to record it so I could share it with other mothers. Survival, I felt, was all I was after. As the months passed and my son developed a reasonable schedule, I decided to research the other issues I was dealing with. That research took the form of informal discussions with other mothers working full-time outside the house. After two years, I decided to be an at-home mom. Here is where things started to get interesting. I had a whole new territory to explore. I began visiting the places stay-at-home moms go — shopping malls, indoor playgrounds, outdoor playgrounds, parks, schools, and preschools — and I spoke with anyone who would talk to me. The questions were generally the same:
* How much is too much spit up?
* Do you use a schedule?
* How many weeks do you think it is before a mom can expect her baby to sleep through the night? * Do you let your baby cry?
* Do you feed cereal before the first year?
I also loved to ask the "forbidden" questions, although I reserved those for mothers of older babies and children.
* How do you feel being at home?
* Do you miss work?
* Has your relationship with your husband changed?
* Why don't women talk about how they really feel?
For twelve years I recorded other women's thoughts and my personal experience with what really works. The learning spans three children, a move across country and back, and several forays into the workforce. This book is my best effort to provide new mothers with help in a humorous and honest voice — an alternative to the old adage, "It gets easier. I promise."
Of course, one of the most common sources of information on the subject of pregnancy and childrearing is books. I, too, read books in preparation for pregnancy and found their information useful; I still do. What I felt these books were lacking and what I have tried to provide for you is the uncensored advice. You know, the "behind the scenes" advice that no one ever tells us. This is the kind of counsel I was desperately searching for on the bookshelf and ended up finding by talking to other mothers — those from my generation and from past generations. I am excited to share it all with you because I honestly believe it will help tremendously in your efforts to take care of your new baby and to take care of yourself and your family in the twenty-first century. It will at least give you a leg-up on the experience.
It was a bit disconcerting to realize that new motherhood was not quite as easy as I thought it was going to be. I was always looking over my shoulder, wondering if anyone could tell that I didn't actually like motherhood every second of the day. The truth is, although many will never admit it, new motherhood is incredibly tough. It is back-breaking, neverending, confusing, frustrating, and largely thankless. Aren't you glad you decided to read this book? I sure know how to spread the sunshine around, don't I? The good news is — help is here. Read on to uncover some great advice from research and experience that will open the door to the truth about motherhood and the ways to make it a bit easier. Taking some of this advice to heart will enable you to actually enjoy motherhood a whole lot more without your having to lie about how you really feel.
It's strange how everyone keeps the truly helpful advice to themselves when you're pregnant because a pregnant woman receives no shortage of unhelpful and unwelcome advice. The source of that is usually strangers who mistakenly believe that your pregnant body is public property. When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I had a woman stop me in the mall and tell me that I shouldn't be drinking diet cola. For some reason when it comes to a pregnant woman, all etiquette flies out the window and everyone seems to have something to say.
Ignoring "advice" from random strangers is probably a good idea — especially when it comes with a dash of judgment or negativity. Another good thing to ignore is everyone's scary stories. You know the kind. The "I was in labor for ten days and I only dilated to three centimeters" kind. Ignore them. You probably shouldn't even dwell too much on the "scary" chapters in books. Years ago our mothers didn't even have access to this information. I wonder sometimes if it's better to go into the situation a little less knowledgeable of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Did I say scary? Did I say things that could go wrong? Forget about that. Let's focus on before-birth preparations — and I don't mean preparing a fancy nursery. I'm talking about the advice you really need that no one tells you.
Unnecessary Preparations The "Birthing Plan"
After seeing close to a thousand episodes of A Baby Story, you may feel motivated to prepare a birthing plan. The nurses in the hospital just love these by the way. They have a good chuckle. The birthing plan is a step-by-step plan for the faultless delivery that will welcome little Kaitlyn or Noah into the world.
Most birth plans include these "essential" elements:
* Stay at home for as long as possible when labor begins.
* Play soothing music.
* Watch a video.
* Surround yourself with all your relatives.
* Refuse all drugs.
* Squirt the bundle of joy out while your husband feeds you ice chips and coaches you through your breathing.
* Celebrate with champagne after delivery.
* Fill out form for the most faultless delivery of the year.
In reality most women experience something like this:
* Feel total uncertainty about whether or not you are even in labor.
* Try to do the breathing/ice chip thing for about ten hours.
* Husband rubs your back for about ten minutes and then exclaims that his wrist hurts.
* The doctor checks your cervix and lets you know that after all that hard work, you're still only three centimeters dilated.
* The doctor breaks your water with something that looks like a knitting needle. Could that really be a medical instrument?
* Walk around or sit in a rocking chair.
* Listen to the amniotic fluid that continues to splash on the floor every so often.
* Climb back in bed and continue with your breathing as your husband and the doctor discuss the score of the sporting event that is on television.
* Realize that breathing does absolutely nothing for the pain, which ironically does not go away completely when the monitor shows the contraction is over.
* Beg for the anesthesiologist. Although the needle used to seem terrifying, it now appears as a beacon of salvation.
* Ignore your husband who reminds you that medication was not on the birthing plan.
* Dutifully explain that if you don't get the epidural you will perform a vasectomy on him yourself when you leave the hospital.
* Feel the almost instant relief from the epidural and swear that after this is over you are going to leave your husband for the anesthesiologist.
* Start pushing.
* Push for about an hour before the doctor decides that in addition to an episiotomy, he's going to use suction to retrieve your baby.
* The baby emerges with a conehead and pees on your husband.
* Ask the nurse to place your birthing plan in the trash can.
* Forget about the champagne and ask for a turkey sandwich instead.
It's okay if you want to have a birthing plan, but just put "Keep an open mind" at the top of the list. Births don't always go as planned. The important thing is that you survive the birth and go home with a healthy newborn. If the pain is greater than you expected, ask for an epidural. Be open to making some changes to your birthing plan as your labor progresses.
Necessary Preparations To Medicate or Not to Medicate
The decision to use medication during labor will probably result in your first encounter with mother-guilt. If you're trying to make that important decision, watch out for unsolicited advice. "Try not to use medication. It's not good for the baby," most people say. Forget about that. The choice is yours. You are the one going through labor and delivering the baby. If you want to experience labor without medication, try it! However, do not feel guilty if you change your mind.
Most sources note that 95 percent of expectant mothers use epidurals. The medication is there for your use and it does not pose any threat to the baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology offers this view on the subject:
Labor results in severe pain for many women. There is no other circumstance where it is considered acceptable for a person to experience severe pain, amenable to safe intervention, while under a physician's care. Maternal request is a sufficient justification for pain relief during labor.
Works for me! Where was this quote when I was having my first child?
Talk to your doctor about epidural procedure contingencies. Specifically, if your doctor is not available at the hospital when you are in labor, find out who else can authorize the epidural for you. A close friend of mine was told she could not receive the epidural because her doctor was not there to okay it. She had to go without. Ouch!
The most important thing about this momentous decision is this: The choice is yours, and you can always change your mind! Just give it some thought before you get into the delivery room.
Breast or Bottle?
If the decision to use medication during labor is a new mom's first test of mother-guilt, then the decision about whether to breast-feed is definitely her second. Everyone wants you to breast-feed. Your obstetrician, your pediatrician, society, LaLeche — everyone. As the saying goes, "Breastfeeding is best!" Here's the problem: None of those people are going to be with you at two in the morning when you are feeding your newborn for the twelfth time that day — or for any of the hours of any of the days for that matter.
Breastfeeding is a personal decision for a new mother; after all, it intimately involves her mammary glands. The vast majority of women I've interviewed who have tried it love breastfeeding and absolutely swear by it. But there are some women who have tried it and hated it. Those women report that they found it unfulfilling, physically draining, and painful.
What I've discovered (and you undoubtedly have to) is that there is no shortage of opinions on the subject. All the mom books have an opinion. Some try to talk you into it, and other books include the author's confessions and apologies for either not trying it or not sticking with it. In Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, Stephanie Wilder-Taylor describes how she lied to her postpartum doula, telling her she was continuing to breast-feed after she had given up and switched to bottles. Imagine that, being afraid to tell the truth to the person you're paying to help you! Likewise, in Baby Laughs, Jenny McCarthy had me in stitches when I read her "sure-fire way" to get a "breast-nazi" out of your hospital room is to tell her that you just "shit the bed."
Where does all this leave the new mom? Well, most importantly I would advise you to have an opinion before you get to the hospital. The hospital personnel will ask you right away if you are going to breast-feed because they'll want to start the process right away. If you are not quite sure by the time you go into labor, ask as many questions as you want and keep an open mind. If you are sure that you do not want to breast-feed, get your opinion out in the open early. Let everyone who asks know how you feel and state it with conviction.
When I had my first child, I was the first of my friends to get pregnant. Not only was I unaware of the breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding debate, I also hadn't read a thing or researched a thing about breastfeeding. I literally went from the business world to the "new mom" world with no stopping in between. I felt no guilt about feeding my firstborn with a bottle. I was going back to work and breastfeeding didn't seem like a long-term possibility. I didn't know many new mothers, so there was no one to give me a hard time about not breastfeeding.
When I had my third child seven years later, the breastfeeding landscape had changed dramatically. I planned to stick to what I knew — bottle-feeding — but I was definitely lobbied to try breastfeeding in the hospital. I found I had to be firm. I purposefully stated to anyone who would listen, "I'm bottle-feeding, thanks!" Finally, when my pediatrician entered my room for my baby's first check-up he said to me, "Do you realize that you are the only mother out of seventeen in our maternity ward who is not breastfeeding?" I did not; I hadn't been out of bed conducting a survey. Then he said something really surprising: "Good for you!" Interesting, huh?
I discuss breastfeeding tips and issues in more detail in Chapter Four. However, let me state here that I would fight for a mother to either breast-feed or bottle-feed. I feel strongly that if a mother wants to breast-feed she should do it and be able to do it at work, in the park, or anywhere in public for that matter. It cracks me up that a society that allows breasts to be shown on TV, in movies, on magazine covers, in Hooters, and just about everywhere else gets so offended when faced with a breastfeeding mother. I just don't get it. Give her all the support she needs, all the time she needs, all the freedom she needs to do it.
Excerpted from It Gets Easier! ... and other LIES We tell new Mothers by Claudine Wolk Copyright © 2009 by Claudine Wolk. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted May 17, 2011
Followed the advice of putting your baby on a schedule and it was the best thing i could do. An enjoyable read for the mom to be who had enough of those serious motherhood books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2010
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Posted July 7, 2011
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Posted August 8, 2011
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