Before mini was born, I received more than my fair share of solicited and unsolicited parenting advice. There were empassioned entreaties on breast-feeding, on co-sleeping, on not co-sleeping, on sleeping when the baby sleeps (sigh), on discipline, on the use of language (i.e., “don’t refer to yourself in the third person, as in, ‘Mom said no!'” and “never tell a child she is good or bad; tell her she has made good or bad decisions!”), on first foods, on exposure to peanuts, on baby led weaning, on doctors to see, on doctors to avoid.
Amid the advice whiplash, a friend of mine — and mother to three — wrote this in a card:
“My only advice to you is that you know best. You are the mother. Trust your instincts!”
I loved her for this message of empowerment and encouragement. Aside from its potent truthfulness in implicitly acknowledging the fact that every child is different and that only you, as the child’s mother, truly understand the full picture when making a decision, I also clung to the casual and kind way in which she opened the door to the Mom’s Club and held out her hand. “You’re one of us,” was the subtext. “Your opinion is equal to anyone’s over here on this side of the fence.” I had been grappling with the unsettling feeling of outsidership as friends who already had babies would exchange knowing looks with one another, or would tell me, “Oh, just wait until the baby comes.” I had been feeling un-initiated, rube-like. And in some ways I was. There is simply no way to prepare for a child and — like every mom — there are things I thought I would never do pre-baby that I have done post-baby. “I would never co-sleep!” I remember thinking, recoiling at the thought. At the time, I didn’t realize how bleary and exhausted I would be and how appealing having her next to me would be from a convenience standpoint. I didn’t exactly co-sleep with mini because I was too terrified I would somehow crush her in my sleep, but I kept her in her bassinet glued to my bedside like a sidecar on a motorcycle. And then, these fateful last words: “Children under two should have no screen time.” Mhm…
But still. Despite the fact that no woman can be expected to intuit what it will feel like as a new mom (and indeed — I have learned that the process of matrescence required a recalibration and even shedding of expectations) and what contingencies and realities will factor into her calculus when making the millions of everyday decisions she faces, I love my friend for making the space for me to trust myself as a mom, for signaling to me that I was enough and that my opinion and instincts mattered more than anyone else’s in the raising of this child.
And so, this is the principle bit of advice I pass along to friends who are expecting. Trust yourself! You can do this! And you know best! The subtext, too, is that what might work for me may not work for you. And that’s OK.
What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?
+One of my major objectives with nursing this go around is to be a bit more level-headed about things and to give some thought to myself and my own self-care as I evaluate options. Last time, I had a chronic undersupply and spent the first month glued to a pump, breastfeeding, or supplementing/topping off with formula. I then committed to breastfeeding and topping off with a bottle (removing the pumping step) for almost seven months. It was exhausting work and feeding her kind of took over our lives. I had it in my head that every single ounce of milk I produced *had* to go to the baby because I was producing so little. I am still proud that I made it to eight months and I came to enjoy nursing her. But I have already implored Mr. Magpie to remind me to be realistic and a bit more generous to myself this go around if something similar happens. If I want to have a few glasses of wine one night, I’m going to let myself, even if it means pumping and dumping. If I can’t produce enough milk from the getgo, I’m going to do what I can but accept that formula will need to be a big part of the equation and make earlier peace with it. Or so I tell myself, pre-post-partem-hormones…
+All that said, I came across these and BINGO. How many of you fellow moms felt like you were wasting precious milk as you nursed on one side?!? Ordering. I’m also doubling down on the number of nursing bras and nursing-friendly outfits I have. I tried to get by with the minimum last go around, which meant I always needed to do laundry and/or would sporadically need to “make do” with a sports bra. No longer. I liked these in the early days — the pull-down style is so easy and comfortable; and these for everyday use. They’re not the chicest undergarments but they are definitely the best IMHO.
+My parents brought mini this dollhouse book from my childhood, which expands into an actual pop-up dollhouse! It is THE PERFECT THING for small Manhattan apartments, as it can be collapsed and stowed like a book, and it’s around the right size for her beloved Little People collection.
+A lot of parents-to-multiple-children have suggested that baby boy “give” mini a gift when he is born. (Did you do this?) I am trying to think of what a good gift might be — maybe this darling mixer, as mini loves to bake with me nowadays? Or a high-chair for her babydoll to continue to reinforce the idea of caring for baby? Other recommendations?
+IN LOVE with this sweet dress!