No, I’m not pregnant again. But if I were, I’d do some things differently:
1. Get help from a female friend with kids for the first fortnight. Having a baby taught me the importance of wisdom passed on from generation to generation. Husbands are all well and good but a mother really does know best.
2. I would not leave the house for the first two weeks postpartum. When I heard of people doing this I thought, no way, that won’t be me – and in fact I was out and about pretty quickly, and by week 2 I was already at mum and baby zumba. I would never do this again. Not because I wasn’t keen to get out and about – I was – nor because I needed to rest from the birth – I was thankfully blessed with a straight-forward labour and a quick recovery – but because in the beginning breastfeeding is an all-consuming, continuous activity. I only learnt this retrospectively. Basically for the first two weeks you are constantly feeding, and the baby sleeps completely sporadically. None of this ‘every 3 hours’ stuff, that’s more like a mean average.
3. No visitors for forty days. Forty days of rest used to be the normal expectation in mai countri (South American/Continental Europe culture). This makes total sense and I can't believe it's not more widely recommended. Next time I will let grandparents visit once, and I would not want anyone else to visit at all for the first month or so. With my son we had visitors the first week and it was incredibly demanding – I’d have a social mask whilst they were there and then I’d be completely exhausted from the exchange when they left, but I’d have to look after the baby instead of being able to rest. Never again.
4. Have a breastfeeding station. I thought this was a complete gimmick, since women breastfeed on the go, on trains etc, so why couldn't they just sit on the sofa and do it? But this was due to my own ignorance regarding the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t just happen, it has to be established. Now I’ve experienced the exhausting reality of that process, I would 100% have a breastfeeding station next time round – comfy seat, pillows and endless snacks you can eat with one hand, at a reachable distance (holler if you've been a breastfeeding mum and your husband brings you a snack and places it on the coffee table a metre in front of you, just far enough for you not to be able to reach it without unlatching the baby and having to start the ordeal all over again). Also not forgetting the laptop permanently positioned in front of you, with programmes to watch at the ready so all you need to do is press play. Plus a sixpack of large water bottles. Refilling a sports bottle every half hour whilst establishing breastfeeding quickly drove me insane and in the end I would end up preferring to be thirsty than having to get up endlessly.
5. Get a pedicure at the start of mat leave. I also thought this was a dumb piece of advice you find on a pinterest page, but during those first few postpartum weeks where you really don’t have any energy to take care of your appearance, it helps to be able to look down and feel a tiny bit pretty.
6. Make more of a fuss when contractions start. I let my husband sleep through two thirds of my labour. It was daunting and lonely. Next time I’ll be more forthright.
7. Make more of a fuss generally. Becoming a mother has taught me that if I use up my energy on something I don’t have energy left for my son, and likewise if I don’t recharge my batteries, I don’t have energy left for my son. In the first few weeks postpartum I was still doing household chores, or letting people visit, or agreeing to get takeaway when I wouldn't enjoy it since I'd have to eat it cold because the baby was always awake and fussy in the evenings. Next time I’ll ask for things to be done for me so I can focus on recovering from the labour and teaching a new human how to be alive.
8. Keep track of output. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is a euphemistic term for your baby’s poos and wees. I had no idea I was meant to keep an eye on their frequency, and when midwives asked me about them I entered a state of panic. Next time I will ask my husband to keep a tally so I won't have to rely on baby brain memory.
9. Buy nice maternity clothes. I didn’t want to spend loads of money on clothes I’d only wear for nine months, so I just got some simple (ie boring) stuff that looked nothing like my regular clothes. It meant I didn’t feel myself throughout pregnancy, and I wished away the time. In retrospect, I’d say it’s definitely worth investing in some more expensive pieces that make you feel attractive and that resonate with your usual style – it'll make the pregnancy feel less like a time out from your 'real life' and you can always eBay it on after to make back some of the money.
10. Do the perineal massages and pelvic floor exercises. A lesson learnt.