- I wish there had been a requirement before pregnancy to shadow a parent for a week. I would have learned a lot.
- Anxiety is the enemy of instinct. I should have let my instinct kick in, rather than worrying about every little thing.
- Dropping out of the workforce left me with regrets – I think I would have been a better mum had I been doing something productive in the world too.
I was never a “kid” person. I didn’t babysit much as a teen, and before I had kids, I barely knew anyone with kids. I had no idea how to talk to a kid. But I knew I wanted one – the urge hit me at 30, and even with no partner in sight, nesting with a little one was what I craved.
So when I finally got married, pretty late in my 30s, and we finally got pregnant with the aid of IVF, I thought having a baby seemed like an OK idea. The IVF folks called this a “miracle” embryo for having implanted on my first IVF try, and it seemed like I was blessed. All would be well.
Then, we moved back to the east coast, and suddenly, my OB/gyn was administering tons of tests and frightening me with the possibility of problems. After all, I was labelled AMA, for “advanced maternal age.” They considered me a high-risk pregnancy. I had never been high-risk anything. I started to get nervous. I read up, obsessed, and worried.
Here’s what I would do differently, if I had it to do all over again:
1. I wouldn’t be as nervous about the whole process
There was no reason to be worked up about making it all perfect – there is no perfection with kids. Life with babies is messy. I would screw up, my kid would not be perfect, and it would all work out.
Being anxious did not help anything. Instinct would have kicked in better without the worrying. Sounds ridiculously simplistic, but read on, and I’ll tell you how I would have accomplished this.
2. I would have read less and hung around other parents more
I read up on all things baby – milestones, feeding, bonding – you name it and I read it. Instead, I should have spent more time around people with kids, especially ones with more than one kid. Their relaxed attitude would have taught me to stress less and trust my instincts more.
Seeing other people imperfectly parenting through difficult situations is a huge confidence-builder. Dinner with the mother of three whose little one just did number two on his brother because the diaper wasn’t on right – hilarious, appetite-suppressing, and a fabulous example of a good mum screwing up. I wish I had done more of this before I gave birth.
3. Not work so hard at breastfeeding
I was in pain, really bad pain that lasted through eight months of my two years of breastfeeding. Looking back, everyone may have been better off if I had relaxed and tried some formula.
I was happy to have fed a bouncing baby to the point where he was a huge butterball, and yes, I think breast milk is better. But what was the cost? I was in such pain that I think my misery may have rubbed off on my child – would he have been better off with a happier, less-stressed mum and some fancy formula? We’ll never know, but I look back and think the trade-off may not have been worth it.
4. Step back and let the kid fumble
Again, a product of my anxious condition – I was overprotective of my baby. The second he cried, I was there giving him what would calm him. When he tried to do something and couldn’t, I stepped in and helped.
Now I watch my second child fumble to learn physical coordination and cry to learn to feel her emotions and realise that practice makes better. If you do everything for a kid, they never have the physical experience of learning through sensations and failure. I did not figure this out with my first kid, and he missed out on a lot of learning. Plus, I hovered. And I am still hovering because he learned that mum can do anything.
5. Get back in the work world
I stayed home with my kid and didn’t go back to earning money. I did get a PhD and write a book, but I didn’t figure out how to make money while also being responsible for a baby. Ten years later, I think about all the time I missed – investing in myself, my confidence, and my workplace skills – by dropping out for so long. I wish I hadn’t lost all those years. I think I would have been a better mum to my kid if I had been more in the world myself.
Ah, but hindsight … well, you know. If I could go back in time and tell myself to let the cards fall where they may, I would have been happier and most likely, a better mum.