I started having babies young; I was just 21 when I got pregnant with my oldest. I’d never given any thought to a philosophy of mothering. I had taken care of younger siblings and I had babysat a lot, I knew I would breastfeed and be a stay-at-home mom, but beyond that I was pretty clueless about pregnancy, birth, and mothering.
Early in my pregnancy I was surprised by a call from an old family friend, a mom of 8. She had simply called to encourage me, and she probably still doesn’t know how that simple call changed the course of my mothering career, simply because she had brought things up that I had never thought about.
She showed me that I needed to be intentional in how I handled pregnancy and birth. She encouraged me to be nurturing and responsive to my new little baby. Here are a few things she shared that I’m so glad I put into practice as a new mom:
Eat healthfully and exercise during pregnancy. Now I know that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and clean proteins with limited sugar is best.
Prepare for birth by practicing conscious relaxation. Go limp, like a rag doll. Practice this till you can maintain this state of relaxation for a long period of time. She sent me a book on the Bradley method of childbirth, which in my opinion is the best way to approach natural birth—or any birth, for that matter.
Shoot for as little intervention in birth as possible. My friend had all home births. I was having a hospital birth, and she reminded me that Jesus was in the hospital too. I needed to have a clear idea of what I did and did not want and be willing to stand up for those things, within reason. I wrote a birth plan to clarify these wishes to my doctor and hospital staff.
Breastfeed right away. Follow baby’s cues and feed her as often as she wanted to eat. Don’t use a pacifier. Breastfeed for at least 2 years, while baby’s brain was growing the most.
Hold and snuggle baby and respond to her cries. This is a baby’s only method of communication. Cuddle and comfort her. Holding and loving on her would not spoil her! God designed babies to need many hours of touch and snuggles each day, and he designed mamas to meet that need!
Sleep with baby. Co-sleeping did not work for us, but it was a relief to know that it was OK to bring baby to bed if I needed to.
These principles helped me establish a solid, nurturing relationship with my baby that carried us through some tough times later. I’m so thankful for an older mom who was willing to pass her wisdom on to me! It saved me untold grief!
Did you have an older woman who guided you through pregnancy and the days of new motherhood? What did you learn from your mentor?