How Could I Give You Only Half of My Heart?

Everyone promises you’ll love all your children just the same. The truth is, it’s hardly possible. But there’s no question you’ll have enough to go around.

Walking through the familiar halls of the birth center, I clung to the tiny hand of my one-year-old and headed for the exam room.

Coming in the opposite direction, a mom with a newborn and toddler in tow locked eyes with me. She glanced at my babies – the one who could barely walk, and the one still nestled snugly in my womb. She saw one of my hands resting gently on the crest of my stomach and the other pulled and stretched downward.

“Don’t worry,” she smiled softly. “You’ll love them each the same as the other.”

I smiled as the mom hormones rushed through me, and I fought to keep the tears from welling in my eyes. How could I possibly love anyone as much as the boy I’d been blessed with last year? How could I open my heart to anyone else? I didn’t know.

It’s not true what they say when you’re pregnant with your second child. Not even a little. You won’t love them both the same. There will be days when one needs you, and the other wants only to push you away. There will be days when one self-assuredly ventures out on his own while the other stays close to your breast.

There will be days, long days, many days, filled with yelling and fighting and laughter and tears and sticky sweet snuggles. They will become monsters and firemen, doctors and bad guys, princesses and mommies.

You won’t love them both the same because these two children aren’t the same. You won’t love them both the same because they don’t need you both the same. Don’t be afraid though. You will love them. You will love them fiercely and entirely and with every fiber of your being. And their differences, their quirks and strengths, their faults and follies, will worm their way right into your heart. 

Our first child was planned meticulously. We timed my ovulation and tracked my basal temperature. I knew the estimated due date for every upcoming cycle. I obsessed over the tiniest details. When we got pregnant right away, I did everything by the book. When we found out it was the boy we’d both secretly hoped for, we were over the moon.

He was born in October, so I had the whole winter to cuddle that tiny little thing against my breast. The love was easy and simple. He was exactly what I had wanted.

But because he was so perfect and everything worked out the way I’d planned, I blamed myself whenever anything didn’t feel right. When he wouldn’t sleep, or woke up soaking wet, or was sick or injured, I knew it was my fault because I was the one who had planned this all so meticulously. I felt indebted to him for the perfect arrival he’d been, and I worked tirelessly to pay back my debt with love.

He’d stuck to his part of the deal. Now it was my turn.   

Then, before he was even a year, before he could walk or talk or sleep through the night, I found myself in the bathroom staring at another positive pregnancy test. But this pregnancy test wasn’t bought months ago, stored carefully at the correct temperature, and taken out ceremoniously on a day circled on the calendar.

Instead, I’d woken that morning with a start. I felt just slightly nauseated, hungover but without having had a sip to drink. Suddenly, jarringly, it occurred to me that my irregular, still-breastfeeding period hadn’t made an appearance in well over a month. I sat up and sent my husband to the store for the pregnancy test that I threw on the counter after reading. 

“I’m pregnant. I knew it,” I snapped at my husband, who was smiling. I was not. I stomped out of the room.

“I’m going to miss my brother’s wedding,” I snapped again. My only sibling had, just days earlier, finally set a date. Now, as I quickly counted the calendar in my head, I realized it was days apart from when this baby would arrive.

“And I’m definitely not going to spend my own birthday pushing out another kid,” I grumbled, when I realized that there was a decent chance that I would.

This was not how I had planned it.

I spent the rest of that week wishing this weren’t happening right now. I wanted another baby, but I wanted him later. It wasn’t supposed to happen now. Unplanned pregnancies were for teenagers and losers. Addicts maybe. Ignorants. Definitely not mostly-happy married couples with mostly-happy babies.

It didn’t take long to adjust to the idea though, and soon I was just as excited about baby number two as I’d been about my first. When we found out it was another boy, I beamed through tears of joy just imagining my two sons growing up as brothers, a year and a half apart, and best friends.

The pregnancy was harder physically, but easier emotionally. I knew what to expect and, this time around, I couldn’t blame myself for anything, as this had not been something I’d planned. I felt such relief at owing no debt. This hadn’t been my idea.

Even his birth was blissful. When my birthday and due date both came and went without a baby, I downed a few shots of castor oil, put my older son to sleep, and caught my baby in the bathtub three hours later. I was completely amazed by him.

Yet somehow I could never shake the knowledge that when I first found out he was coming, I wasn’t filled with love immediately. I didn’t cry tears of joy when I saw those parallel lines on the pregnancy test. I felt guilty.

When he got sick just a week after we brought him home, I felt like there was some karmic justice due to me. We spent a week back in our local hospital – just him and me – before the doctors decided he should be transferred to the bigger children’s hospital in the city. He wasn’t dying, or even really that outwardly sick, but the idea that he could be, and that I’d somehow wished him away for even a moment before I’d ever met him, burned inside of me.    

He’s better now, but when I hold him and his tiny hands press against my shoulder blades, his arms and legs clenching his body against mine, I feel how desperately he wants to be with me. I wonder if it’s because I love him back with the same desperation. I yearn for his affection. I savor his quiet moments.

I can never love him hard enough to erase that moment when I wished he wouldn’t be.

He climbs up my body, clawing, all bony nubs and sinew. He clutches around my neck and we squeeze each other just a little too hard. It’s as though we’re each trying to absorb the other into our very selves. My heart aches for him at the most unexpected moments. He’s exactly what I needed, even when I thought we were already perfect without him.   

But my older son’s body melts into mine. He leans into me with the ease of someone who’s been here forever. My arms drape gently, comfortably over his shoulders. The kisses and snuggles are so simple, so easy, so sweet. When he slips into my lap, hands me a book, and nuzzles his nose under my chin, it feels just right.

He is the perfect fit.

Before I go to bed, I sneak into their rooms to check on them. My older son, his yellow bangs stuck to his forehead in ringlets, his face hot and his breathing heavy. I pull his blanket down and tuck a light sheet around his shoulders. He stirs and rolls over, laying a hand heavily on my shoulder. When I kiss his forehead where the ringlets meet his brow, he quietly blows a kiss back at me, eyes still closed and head unmoving.

In the adjoining room, his brother is curled into a tight ball. At the sound of the door his head pops upright. “Mama,” he sighs blissfully, reaching a hand through the rails of his crib. He clenches my fingers in his balled up fist while I stroke the soft baby hair at the nape of his neck. His face relaxes, but his grip is still tight. I use my other hand to pry open his fingers and free mine. I lean in and try to kiss him through the crib rails but I come up just short, getting only a breath of him.

These boys, who’ve stolen my heart. These boys, one sensitive and calculated, the other passionate and fiery. These boys, who’ve always been this way. I could never love them both the same. I could never give to one exactly what I give to the other.

I could never give them each just a half of my heart.

In Pregnancy and in Life, It’s All Temporary

The intense states that come and go in the weeks of a pregnancy are, in many ways, a prelude of what’s to come.

Next week I’ll be 10 weeks pregnant. Soon it’ll be time to tell our friends. We’ll start shopping, just a little bit, and thinking about baby names, and I’ll get out the box of maternity clothes I shoved onto the top shelf of my closet a couple years ago.

A few weeks after I start wearing those maternity clothes, I’ll begin to feel the kicks below them, and I’ll begin settle into the reality that a baby is coming.

When the second line appeared on that pregnancy test stick, I was both overjoyed and reserved in my excitement. There wasn’t surprise as much as quiet satisfaction that my time, maybe, had come, and a silent prayer that this time it would last.

Before the second line there was a year of trying, with an ectopic pregnancy in the middle. There were ovulation predictor kits and trips to the doctor. It wasn’t easy like it was with my son, and the months between when I wanted to be pregnant and when I became pregnant were hard. Despite my desire to be patient and relaxed and calm, I found myself charting my temperature and buying early pregnancy tests and making promises to myself, every month that if I was pregnant, I would feel nothing but gratitude for every ache and stretch mark and contraction.  

Nearly as soon as I became aware of my pregnancy this time I got sick. The nausea started in the morning and stretched itself throughout the day. I threw up every day for a month and still feel sea sick throughout the day most days.

With my son, I was sick for almost an afternoon, just long enough to be grateful that morning sickness wasn’t my thing. As I threw up each morning this time my little boy ran into the bathroom and patted my back. “I sorry mommy, feel better mommy,” he murmured. I vowed to remain grateful for the sickness as it meant my baby was growing.

There was cramping at the beginning, too. Attune to every twinge, I worried with each tightening in my belly that the baby was already gone but each time I called my doctor I was told that it was normal to experience cramping; that unless I was bleeding it was probably fine. So I decided to relax and reaffirmed the promise I’d made to myself to find gratitude in the aches and pains. And each time I saw the heartbeat, fast and fluttery, I calmed. 

The exhaustion came more slowly but more forcefully than the nausea. At first I began to crave afternoon naps. Then my bedtime began inching earlier and earlier. Then I could barely keep my eyes open through the workday. And then my husband found out he would be working out of town Monday-Friday for a month and I worried about how I would care for my toddler. During that month, weeks five through nine, I did nothing but work, pick up my son, and struggle through dinner before putting us both down for an insanely early bedtime.

Though I had vowed to remain grateful, the exhaustion made it difficult. I was frustrated about my inability to get anything done and wondered when it would pass. When would I feel like myself again? I walked on the treadmill at work to stay awake but my productivity suffered. I normally work with a deep focus during my office hours to be sure my time away from my son is as well-used possible, but each day I left with half of my to-do list unchecked.

I stopped cooking, I stopped cleaning, and I stopped working at night as the precious few hours after my son’s bedtime that I usually use to get things done disappeared to exhaustion. I whined and moaned to my husband. I complained to my mother. I wanted desperately to feel energetic again.  

I’m still sick and I’m still tired but now, as I begin to feel the uncertainty and the nausea and the exhaustion of the first trimester leaving my body, I’m encouraged by the cautious promise of a baby. And I can appreciate how temporary it all really is.

As a parent, I should know by now that things pass as quickly as they come and that no stage is permanent but, in the moment – the moment of feeling so utterly unlike yourself – it can be hard to remember that it won’t last.

When (I’m saying “if” less and less as the weeks pass) my little one is born, I’ll be the mother of two and I’m sure my world will shrink again. Just as it was in the first few weeks of my son’s life, everything will be about healing and making sure there is milk and learning about the person we’ll be raising. This time it will also probably be about managing the expectations of a toddler and retaining as much normalcy as possible in his earthquake-shaken world.

And I’ll be tired. Exhausted. Unable to do anything but the most basic of tasks. And I’ll be okay with that because it will, after all, be temporary.

Marijuana Use in Pregnancy Is Major Risk for Pre-Term Birth

New research finds a direct link between continued marijuana use during pregnancy and pre-term birth.

International research led by the University of Adelaide has for the first time shown a direct link between continued marijuana use during pregnancy and pre-term birth.

“Our results suggest that more than 6% of pre-term births could have been prevented if women did not use marijuana during pregnancy, irrespective of other risk factors,” says lead author Professor Claire Roberts from the University’s Robinson Research Institute.

Professor Roberts says these results have implications for pregnant women the world over.

The proportion of very early pre-term birth was higher, with 36% of marijuana users having delivered at less than 28 weeks’ gestation and 64% at less than 32 weeks, compared with non-users: 5% at 28 weeks’ gestation and 16% at 32 weeks.

Source: Marijuana Use in Pregnancy Is Major Risk for Pre-Term Birth

 

Having Kids Using a Sperm Donor

It’s not a lesbian thing. It’s a biology thing. Some straight parents can’t create families through sex either. But parents are parents are parents.

I am a gay parent. This is not a confession, coming out story, or apology—just a fact.

I am gay, married to a woman, and have three kids. Translation: I am a very tired human being who wishes she had more date nights with her spouse and fewer conversations with her kids about the proper way to wipe their bottoms. I am just like you. Sort of. Since I started writing stories about being a parent, I have been very deliberate to write from a perspective to which most parents can relate.

Parents are parents are parents.

I believe gay parenting is just parenting. Parents are parents are parents; our kids’ behaviors, the emotions they make us feel, or the desire to have kids in the first place is not changed or determined by sexual orientation.

Now that I have convinced you that we are the same, there is one way we are different: Gay parents do NOT produce children by having sex with their partner of the same sex. Shocking, I know.

Some straight parents do not or cannot create their families through sex either.

This difference can also be a similarity, though. Some straight parents do not or cannot create their families through sex, either. For a variety of reasons, families are created in many beautiful ways. Adoption, surrogacy, and egg and sperm donors are options individuals many choose to bring a child into their lives and homes. I cannot speak for all gay parents, because, well, we don’t all know each other, but my partner and I used an anonymous sperm donor to create our family.

And just like I can’t speak for all gay parents, I can’t speak for all parents—gay, straight or somewhere in between—who used a sperm donor to have kids, because all of our stories are different. But I am happy to tell you a few things I know about using a sperm donor to have kids.

It’s not a lesbian thing. It’s a biology thing.

Lest someone reading this may have forgotten, babies are created when an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Reproductive cells produce babies, and there many ways for these cells to meet. You know the most common way, but fertility is not always guaranteed. And just because I am in a same-sex relationship, I am not infertile. My partner and I have all of the working lady parts, we just needed sperm. So we bought some from a reputable cryobank. We chose an anonymous donor who is willing to meet the children he helped create when the children turn 18. We felt it was important to give our children this option.

Save the turkey baster jokes.

Actually, don’t save them. Don’t use them ever. Some families who use a sperm donor may do home inseminations, but unless you know it is okay to joke about it, don’t. There are no accidents for couples who require fertility assistance, and baby making should not be belittled with stereotypical jokes. Also, frozen sperm is REALLY expensive. For this reason, my partner and I chose to use a fertility clinic to perform the insemination. We were informed that the success rates for conceiving were higher if done via intrauterine insemination (IUI) vs. home insemination.

It’s just sperm.

Yes, it is a vital part of the baby making process. And so is the egg. Two things: sperm is not some sacred seed that should be worshiped; and let go of the fifth grade giggles when it’s talked about. It’s just sperm.

My kids have a sperm donor, not a dad.

My oldest child is five years old. When she was three, my partner and I began the conversation about how she was conceived. She will happily and proudly explain to you that she was made with love from my partner’s egg and the sperm of a very special man who wanted to help her mamas make a family. She will also happily and confidently tell you she has two mamas, no dad.

Our twin boys will be three in a few months, and they are starting to understand this story, too. We started conversations with our children early because we want their narrative to be something that just is and not something that shifted or changed at a specific place and time in their memory. The story of their sperm donor is an important detail in their family history, but just one of many important details and not a life changing realization.

We also used books to help us have these conversations with our children. I highly recommend What Makes a Baby and Zak’s Safari. Both are great children’s books written in a kid-friendly and easy to understand way. And they’re visually fun. The sperm and eggs in each book are cute in their own cartoonish ways. The books have detailed and helpful information for parents, too.

My kids have donor siblings.

A feature about the cryobank we used, which is common with many, is the ability to join a sibling registry. On a voluntary basis, families who purchased sperm from the same donor are able to share information with each other. The donor is not privy to any of the information, and families can choose the level of detail they are comfortable volunteering.

We connected with another couple who used the same donor, and despite my initial hesitation to let strangers into our lives with children who shared half of my children’s DNA, it has been a lovefest from the very beginning.

After several vacations together, lots of forethought, and numerous conversations between the four parents and six kids, memories and stories have blended together to create the foundation which is our family. The oldest kids know they share a sperm donor, and they call each other brothers and sisters.

I have written about this unique relationship several times. If you want to know more about how we explained the concept of donor siblings, check out my article, Sisters Born of the Same Sperm: I Used a Disney Movie to Define Donor Siblings, which was featured by The Next Family.

It’s (probably) none of your business.

I am an open book and have been writing about my journey to and through parenting for many years. I will answer any question if it comes from a place of kindness and a willingness to learn or understand. But not everyone feels this way or is this open. Asking same-sex couples with children questions just to satisfy your curiosity, or assuming straight-looking parents conceived their children via a romp in the sack may be hurtful and could close the door for future conversations.

There are millions of men and women who have used infertility clinics for assistance in achieving pregnancy. There are also a growing number of transgender men and women in opposite gender relationships living the same parental dream you and I are. The last thing any of us want is to feel judged for the way we became a parent.

All individuals—no matter their sexual orientation—should be able to have children if that is their desire. Eggs and sperm make babies, and sometimes people need help making reproductive cells meet. Every parent’s journey is a bit different.

But I can say this about all parents: we’re tired and we need all of the kindness and support we can get.

The Memories That Stick and Those We Trade For New Ones

I was shocked that my mother had forgotten so many details of my birth. But after I had my son, I realized there was so much I too had forgotten.

When I first learned that my son was swimming around in my belly, I craved nothing more than information.

I wanted to know how big he was and how fast he was growing and when he would get his arms and his fingers and his eyes. I wanted to know when my belly would begin to swell and when I would begin to really feel pregnant.

I dug into my grad school books on fetal development and signed up for weekly emails on my baby’s growth, but the information was vague, all averages and anecdotes. I didn’t care to know that the average woman began to show between 12 and 20 weeks, or that her labor often lasted between 16 and 24 hours, or that the average baby was between 7 and 7.5 lbs.

I wanted to know when I would start to show and how long my labor would be and how much my little one would weigh.

To satiate my curiosity for personalized information, I turned to the woman whose experience I thought mine would most closely mirror – my mother.

As we laid together on the couch, talking about the future, I asked her about the past. I wanted to know what time I was born: “Sometime in the morning,” she responded. I asked how much I’d weighed and how long I’d been: “A little under eight pounds and pretty long, but not that long,” she said.

I was shocked that the details of my early life had been somehow lost over the decades.

Confused by the vagueness of her memory, I dug deeper. My first food? She didn’t remember. My first word? She thought it was “car” or “dada,” but it was tough to recall. She didn’t remember exactly how old I was when I first rolled or crawled or walked, though she guessed for each.

I understood it had been a quarter of a decade since the events I was asking her to recall had taken place, but I was shocked that the details of my early life had been somehow lost over the decades.

When I asked what she did remember, she told me about how happy I was on the day I met my little brother and the way I used to stay up late talking to my sister who wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

She told me about swim lessons and softball games and afternoons barefoot in the creek. She also talked about middle school dances and high school tears and the fact that even now, pregnant with my own child, she still saw me as her baby.

As my belly grew, question after question that had raced through my mind in the early weeks of pregnancy was answered. As it turned out, I would never have morning sickness, I would start to show around 14 weeks, and I would gain over 40 pounds. My pregnancy would last exactly 40 weeks; contractions started just after 4 a.m. on his due date.

On the day of my son’s birth, more answers fell into place: Labor was nine hours, he drew his first breath at 1:19 p.m. He weighed nine pounds, nine ounces and was 21 inches long. His eyes were slate blue, his head nearly bald. His knees were thick and his cry, soft and sweet, left me breathless with joy and disbelief.

It was the most wonderful day of my life and I swore, in the moment, that I would memorize every detail, and hold onto the memories forever.

As I began to test my memory I realized that there was already so much I had forgotten.

A few weeks ago, just after my son’s second birthday, I was chatting with a friend about my boy and how quickly he’s grown. I recounted the day of his birth, still beaming with pride and overcome with joy.

“Was it cold on the day he was born?” she asked, and suddenly, I couldn’t remember.

I’m sure it was, he was born in January, but I couldn’t remember a thing about the weather on the day of his birth. As I began to test my memory, I realized that there was already so much I had forgotten: What I had done the day before his birth, what I packed in my hospital bag, what my son wore home from the hospital, and how we spent his first afternoon once we got there.

Though the prospect of losing these details once puzzled and horrified me, in that moment, I began to understand. Once, my boy was just an ultrasound. I treasured the curve of his elbow and read tenderness into the way he sucked his thumb in the grainy black and white image. I swore I wouldn’t forget when I’d felt the first kick.

Then he was a birth story, the hours and the pushes and the weight and length, and I treasured the details of his arrival, ascribing kindness to his promptness. I swore I would remember them all.

And then he was a first roll and a first babble and a first laugh. I treasured them all, trying my best to capture them in video or journal or photograph.

Now he’s my boy, strong and tender and kind, and as I treasure every moment of his early boyhood, I’m trading old memories for new ones.

The human brain can only hold so much.

The human brain can only hold so much. The memory of the weather on the day of his birth was probably replaced with the memory of his first steps, with the way his hand slowly loosened its grip as his foot stepped forward. The memory of the contents of my hospital bag was likely replaced with the memory of his first day of preschool and the nerves and tears that swallowed us both.

The memory of his first outfit and what we did when we got home from the hospital was probably replaced with the memory of his first joke, told just last week.

Becoming skilled in avoiding bedtime, he called me into his room with a panicked sounding, “Mommy! Hanky foot stuck!” I ran in to help and, when I noticed his foot was neither tangled nor trapped, I asked, “Stuck where buddy?” With a giggle and a grin he spit, “To the end of Hanky’s leg!”

If these are the memories that stick or, if someday they disappear, too, replaced by something even better, I think I’ll be okay with that.

How Does Oxytocin Impact Mother-Child Bonding?

A new study examines the impact of oxytocin levels on mother-child bonding, and what it might mean for baby’s healthy development.

Recent research regarding maternal mental health has prompted health care experts to consider that postpartum depression likely begins during pregnancy, and not after.

While the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an influential government heath panel, now recommends that pregnant women be screened both during and after pregnancy, the factors contributing to postpartum depression, and its impact on a developing newborn, are still not entirely understood.

New research currently being conducted by psychologists at Florida Atlantic University considers, “how breast feeding, oxytocin and face-to-face interactions between a mother and her baby are impacted by depression and the mother’s oxytocin levels.

It’s commonly understood that oxytocin — a hormone with anti-depressive effects — increases during pregnancy and is also released during breastfeeding. Is this different for mothers who already suffer from depression? How does it impact the child? Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D. of FAU explains the various aspects of the new study:

…we are looking at oxytocin levels in pre- and postpartum mothers who suffer from depression to see how they differ from mothers who don’t have depression. Another novel aspect of the study is that we also are examining the oxytocin levels of the infant once they are born and how these levels change across development.

Why is this significant?

We are really trying to understand how these varying levels of oxytocin affect the mother-infant emotional relationship as well as the baby’s emotional development and their emotional bond with their mother. 

Jones continues,

In our previous studies on breast feeding versus bottle feeding and depression, we found similar patterns of brain asymmetry in the baby and the mother. What appears to be happening is that these babies are either inheriting or developing a pattern that is similar to their mother’s depression. They focus on the negative emotions and withdraw from stimuli as if they are withdrawing from the world.

The importance of the study lies not only in understanding which factors impact the mental health of the mother, but also the healthy development of the child.

If depression in mothers-to-be is not addressed and treated, these mood disorders can negatively impact the child’s well-being and the important mother-child bonding process.

Source: Newswise via Florida Atlantic Newsroom

Beyond “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps” – 7 Tips For New Parents That Are Actually Useful

Throughout my pregnancy I mostly heard the same advice over and over.  To help out all the soon-to-be-mamas out there, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite, never before heard newborn survival tips.

When I was pregnant with my son I was big. I started showing early and, by 28 weeks, people were asking how far past my due date I was.

Despite not being able to see my feet or shave my legs, I loved being big. I’d looked forward to experiencing pregnancy since I was a little girl and, after the loss of my first pregnancy at nearly 10 weeks, my round belly and the constant kicks my little one gifted me with felt very reassuring.

The only downside to being so obviously pregnant for so much of my pregnancy was that it left me absolutely inundated with advice.

Reminiscent grandmas told me to “savor every second” and haggard moms in the grocery store shouted over their own fighting kids that I better “sleep now because you won’t for the next 10 years.”

Strangers on the street stopped me to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be eating and the best positions to labor in. Though trying to process all the advice coming my way was tiring, a big part me was listening, desperately, for anything that I thought might help ease into the biggest transition of my life.

Though I didn’t know exactly what parenthood was going to be like, I did know that life was going to change in a big way and, every day of my pregnancy that passed, I got a little more nervous about what was ahead.

Throughout my pregnancy I mostly heard the same advice over and over.

While “sleep while the baby sleeps” actually turned out to be a pretty good tip, there were several gems, uttered by family and friends and strangers, that came to be far more important in my sons first few months.

To help out all the soon-to-be-mamas out there, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite, never-before-heard newborn survival tips.

New baby mom and dad

1 | Buy a mattress pad, not for the crib, but for your bed

This one came from my aunt. Though I’d always heard mom’s talking about the importance of the little plastic under sheets that keep the baby’s crib mattress clean and dry in the case of a diaper incident, I’d never thought of getting one for my bed until my aunt told me it was an absolute necessity.

The thing is, the baby won’t just be having blowouts in its own bed – it will also, definitely, be pooping and spitting up and peeing all over yours too.

During the newborn period you will also be exhausted and, while it may be hard to imagine now, I promise that there will be a night (or a lot of nights) when your baby does one of these things and you, in your utter desperation for sleep, just throw a towel over the spot and scoot over.

It’s times like these you’ll be particularly grateful that you have a mattress pad under your own sheets.

2 | Don’t even bother with a baby bathtub

As I browsed the bathing section of Babies-r-Us, my husband pushing the cart and me massaging my growing bump, I imagined the not-to-far-off day I would be giving my own child their very first bath.

As I tried to imagine which tub my son would like best, a toddler mom zipped past and shouted, over her shoulder “skip the tub, they’re never going to use it!”

On that day I didn’t believe her and, as I bought the fancy tub, I wondered why other people always seemed to think they had a right to give advice. And then my son was born and, indeed, he never ever used his fancy little tub.

I tried to set it up once, but, before I could get it out of the box, my son spit up on me and, as I stripped off my own shirt, I decided a co-shower would be pleasant.

I was surprised at how much my boy seemed to love snuggling up to me under the warm water and, from that night forward, I didn’t even try to get the tub from it’s box.

3 | It’s cool to keep wearing your maternity clothes

… and I don’t mean for just a few weeks. Once, when my son was about a year and a half old a co-worker complimented my sweater and asked where I got it – I sheepishly replied that it was a maternity sweater. Almost immediately all other moms in the group, even those with kids well into elementary school shouted out that they were still wearing a few maternity favorites.

No, you might not want to keep wearing the shirt that says “baby on board,” but if something fits well and looks good don’t ditch it just because it says maternity on the label.

4 | Stock up on restaurant gift cards while your pregnant

After you have a baby people are nice to you. For a little while at least, they cook you meals and shovel your driveway and ask if you need a sitter.

All too soon, though, they totally forget about you and you’re stuck with a cluster-feeding one-month old, a bank account running on empty due to unexpected baby expenses and absolutely nothing for dinner.

A friend suggested I splurge on a few restaurant gift cards with money people give me at my shower and, a few months later, I was deeply grateful she had suggested it.

5 | Get some kind of stretchy, wrappy thing for your jiggly-wiggly post-birth belly

I’m sure it’s possible for your belly to shrink back to it’s normal size without being held together in a compression tank top, but I’m not sure that it would have been possible for me to walk out of the hospital without one.

In the hours, days and weeks after giving birth, it felt like my organs were bouncing around falling back into place every time I took a step – that’s because my organs were bouncing around and falling back into place every time I took a step. I got a cheapo post-natal wrap off Amazon, but I’m sure that just about any tight tank top or wrap marketed for this purpose will do.

This piece of advice came from the woman checking me out at the maternity store and, in those first few weeks, I was immensely grateful that I had listened.

6 | Pick a pediatrician whose office is near good restaurants

There are a lot of articles on picking a pediatrician – these articles suggest you find someone who shares your parenting philosophy, who is a good listener and who will work with you to meet your parenting goals.

These things are important, but what really matters, is what restaurants are next door to their office. In your baby’s first year of life you’re going to take a ridiculous number of trips to the doctor – it’s also likely going to be one of the only places you’re able to get yourself out the door to in the early weeks, so make each visit count by rounding it into a lunch or dinner outing somewhere good.

This parenting tip is all my own and, as I chow down after every doctor’s appointment, I give myself a hearty pat on the back for choosing my pediatrician so wisely.

7 | Just go ahead and buy the bulk pack

Before I had my son I didn’t think I would allow him to use a pacifier. I worried they would destroy my sons nursing latch or mess up his future teeth, but five days in, when I realized that he needed to be sucking something LITERALLY 24/7, I broke down, bought a pack of pacifiers and regained a tiny piece of the sanity I’d lost over the past few days.

My son was soothed by a pacifier, but also had a tendency to spit them so quietly and surreptitiously that we often found ourselves tearing the house apart to try to locate one as he fussed on the verge of waking up in his crib.

A turning point in my life came when, on another mad dash to the store for more pacifiers, my mom suggested I just but five packs. A light bulb went on, and I thanked her for her genius. That afternoon I distributed the 15 new pacifiers among the rooms of my home and my little one was rarely out of reach of one for long.

Whether your kid’s thing is pacifiers or a specific type of blanket or swaddle, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and buy the big pack – they’ll use it, I promise.

So, soon-to-be parents and already-parents out there: What’s the most useful parenting advice you’ve ever received?