Whether you are pregnant, the partner of someone who is pregnant, are a new parent already, or even just starting to think about becoming a parent, everyone has advice for you. While usually well-intentioned, this advice is probably unsolicited and often just plain annoying. People love to tell you things you damn well already know, and you did not ask for a reminder.
In fact, it can do more harm than good when you hear opinions that put more pressure on you to do or not do something (as if you don’t already feel it!).
Collected anecdotally and from lived experience, here are five pieces of advice you can absolutely ignore, responses you can feel free to use to gently end the conversation and action steps to help you to live true to yourself.
And if you’re someone who doles out advice like this, I do get it- you mean well, and I don’t want to make you feel bad. But please stop.
Sleep now, you’ll never sleep again.
Reality: As my friend and pregnancy & postpartum physical therapist, Dr. Lauren Dela Cruz said to me, “I’m not a bear. I can’t just hibernate.” The reality is, we have jobs. We have older kids who need us. We have other people who count on us. We are human beings, and we have other responsibilities. As much as we would love to sleep and lounge all day to “conserve our energy” for a new baby, we cannot.
Response: I’m getting as much rest as I can.
Action: Do rest when it’s possible, don’t stress about it. Make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin during this season of life change. Hold your boundaries and say no when you don’t want to do something.
You have to get an epidural / have an unmedicated birth.
Reality: It’s nobody’s business but your own.
Response: I’m going to do what feels right for me.
Action: Do understand your options and have a general plan so that you are not caught off guard with decisions while in labor. In other words, have an idea of what you would like to happen and write it down or share it with your support person. In addition, understand that unforeseeable things can happen, and the ultimate goal of successful labor and delivery is a healthy mama and a healthy baby.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Reality: Another version of “sleep now, you’ll never sleep again” except, honestly, kind of worse. At this point, you’re really exhausted, this is the last thing you want to hear, and you now have a whole other human attached to you 24/7 that requires your care.
Response: Scream at the person, I KNOW!!! (Add profanities to make your point). Just kidding. But really, do so if you feel compelled. Alternatively, you can revisit the response from #1: I’m getting as much rest as I can.
Action: Sleep is truly important but that doesn’t mean you want to be reminded of it all the time, especially when you’re already so tired. Let’s talk about sleep a little more, though. It’s a protective factor against postpartum mental health difficulties, helping regulate mood and anxiety.
Think of sleep as your security blanket.
Keep in mind: quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep, and there are things you can do to optimize the quality of your sleep.
Lowering room temperatures, keeping your room dark when you sleep, calming a racing mind by practicing a boring count or naming things in a category you choose, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation exercises are all ways to get you to sleep faster and enjoy a more restful sleep.
Cherish every moment / enjoy every minute.
Reality: You do not have to cherish or even enjoy every single moment. Who made that rule? That is so much pressure! It is impossible to remember it all and you do not have to love it all.
Response: This journey is definitely something special!
Action: While you do not have to succumb to this guilt trip, it is possible to spend a few seconds a day, maybe even multiple times a day, noticing something special. You can simply take note, perhaps even jotting down some special moments to remember later, those moments that do fill your heart, when time stands still, to carry you through the rest when things are not so idyllic.
It goes by so fast, doesn’t it!? Blink and you’ll miss it.
Reality: Not exactly, but yes, this one is sort of true if you are too removed (i.e., if you are constantly worried, stressed, or frequently in a low mood).
Response: I live as mindfully and presently as possible.
Action: Cultivating a mindfulness practice during pregnancy and postpartum can help new parents adjust. Adapting one as part of the daily routine may also help parents feel less stressed and like they are truly present as opposed to time simply flying by. To practice mindfulness as a new parent (and beyond) means to connect with your body and with your baby by grounding your awareness and attention to the present moment.
Here are examples of simple mindfulness practices:
- Bring awareness to your breathing, and take 10 long, slow deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, feeling the air fill your entire body, and out through your mouth, letting out a sigh as you exhale.
- Choose a word that is meaningful to you, that is intentional, and that helps you feel calm. Use it as the word for this period in your life. (This word can change as often as you need!) This word can be something like the present, grounded, peace, calm, or anything else that feels right to you and your own experience. Try practicing it along with deep breathing. Say it in your head as you breathe or out loud as you sigh and exhale.
- Ground your attention, especially when you are feeling extra stressed, worried, irritable, tense, or like your mind is all over the place. Focus on something physical on your body such as the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet. Focus on what your hands and feet are touching and feeling. Is there weight on them? What texture are they feeling? Focus on those things.
- ) Engage your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and touching? Even better if you can engage the senses focused on the baby in the present moment.
I’ll leave you with the parenting advice I actually do like and follow myself: don’t spend more time worried about the future than you spend living in the present, don’t worry about rigid schedules and programs, go with the flow, and don’t let other people stress you out. You’re the only expert on yourself, your baby, and your family. Trust yourself.
Dr. Ellen Kolomeyer from Unpolished Parenthood provides perinatal depression treatment in Plantation and virtual services to clients all over Florida. If you haven’t been feeling quite like yourself, get in contact at 305-619-3264 or message us now.