As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making “mistakes” during my first pregnancy that were more acts of rebellion than clueless gaffes. “Oh, was I not supposed to eat that entire bowl of sweet potato chips? Sorry, I assumed they were all for me, since I’m, ya know, pregnant.”
Though I definitely ate for two at times during my pregnancy, which is not recommended, there were some rules I totally didn’t break. I stayed away from deli meat and raw fish. I abstained from alcohol. I never missed a prenatal appointment. The same went for my second pregnancy, because there are just some chances I am not willing to take. I never wanted to worry that I was jeopardizing the health of my child. I could wait for sake and sushi.
But here are some of the “mistakes” I’m glad I did make during my first pregnancy. Because by making them, I was able to figure out my burgeoning identity as a new mom while simultaneously maintaining some semblance of autonomy in a society that often feels entitled to criticizing mothers (and don’t get me started about working moms).
I was overzealous in the beginning of my first pregnancy, and checked out or purchased every book for expectant moms that had a 4-star rating or higher on Amazon. That turned out to be overwhelming. It was simply too much information to take in, and only made me nervous that there was so much I didn’t know. Not once did I read anything in the books that assured me: “Hey, women have been doing this since the dawn of humans. Trust your gut.” So I just stopped reading and tuned closely in to the inner voice that was getting stronger with each trimester.
Much like going overboard with the pregnancy books, I dove right into the sea of parenting anxiety that are message boards aimed at new moms. Again, very little confidence to be gained from this cesspool of worry and judgment, with the occasional bonding over gross pregnancy effects. No one told me to stay away from these boards when I was pregnant.
But I did find them helpful once my baby was born and I was living new motherhood out in real time. Then, and only then, was I thankful for the community of other new moms connecting over cluster feedings.
I legitimately was tired for the majority of my pregnancy, so bowing out of social engagements like concerts, where I’d be on my feet for hours, or parties, where I’d have to power through with non-alcoholic refreshments, was acceptable.
But I did occasionally use the excuse of my pregnancy to get out of some things… like back-to-back meetings (sorry, doctor’s appointment), or Super Bowl gatherings (yeah, sorry, I just can’t be comfortable for that long), or being awake at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday when I’d much rather be napping.
I didn’t solicit it because I’d know I’d get it anyway.
During my second pregnancy, though, I think I did ask my mom some questions about life with two kids. I learn from my “mistakes.”
This might have been a legitimate mistake. All I did was get a cold and become very bored thanks to the very limited adult interaction. But I did get a lot of nesting — mostly laundering and folding onesies — done between conference calls (don't tell my boss).
I know a lot of other moms who get their childcare squared away well in advance. I didn’t. That might have appeared to be lackadaisical on my part, since I am a procrastinator by nature, but it was intentional.
I planned on taking 12 weeks of maternity leave (most of it unpaid, unfortunately), and I just thought we’d figure out childcare during that time. If felt odd to be thinking about someone caring for a child of mine who hadn’t even entered the world yet, and I wanted to get to know my kid before I could consider who might be a good fit to care for her.
First of all, it wasn’t a “nursery.” It was the second bedroom in our apartment where the crib and changing table were going. Other than the basic pieces of furniture, there wasn’t much going on in there, mostly because I didn’t want to overplan how the room was going to be. What if I went all in on a jungle theme and hated it? Home decorating for me is like dating for others… I have trouble committing.
Even though nothing went according to my birth plan, the exercise of preparing one was not in vain. It really made me think about what the perfect scenario could be, and what choices I’d have to start making if things didn’t go exactly my way as a parent.
It also was one of the first steps in training me that I have to adapt, and find a way to deep breathe my way through motherhood’s many disappointments.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.