Social Media Parameters for BB

I’m not a very private person (said the woman with a blog about childbirth…) though I had grand plans while pregnant to keep my baby’s stupidly adorable face off the Internet. I aspire to be one of the parents who rarely posts about their kids. One of my high school classmates has had three kids and never once posted a pregnancy announcement– they just kinda show up in her family pics like, “oh, we had another one.” I envy that kind of non-sharing! I’ve loved going through my parents’ collection of old photos to find pictures of me as a kid I’ve never seen before. Will our kids have that?! Or will they just expect that all kids have had their picture taken thousands of times before they’ve even started kindergarten?

My husband calls me a luddite in that I think it’s SO F*CKED how much we rely on technology and how kids’ (and our) brains are warped by social media. For someone who spends a lot of her time and work hours on Instagram, I’m fully terrified of what it’s doing to our society. I cringe when I see birth announcements featuring the baby’s full name, birthdate, weight, etc. Might as well tell everyone their social security number, too! I’m friends with a lot of peripherally work-related acquaintances who don’t need (or probably want) to see my son jammin’ up their Facebook feed. On one hand, I can see him growing up like, “So there’s hundreds of pictures of me online that strangers have had access to?” and on the other, he’ll be like, “Um, duh– it happened to every one of my classmates; that’s totally normal that you wanted to share about me.” Dilemma!!

There are non-Facebook apps that you can have family members download and share photos with that are allegedly more secure (because remember, you don’t actually own any of your own content on your social media feeds! How are we so cavalier about this?!) but my older family members have trouble enough sending a coherent text, let alone downloading a completely separate app with a password they have to remember to log in to occasionally. We decided to have a private Facebook album for family & close friends who are invested in this kid’s life where we do a photo dump of his most adorable moments every couple of weeks. I’ll post a timeline pic of him occasionally so all other parties know he’s still alive (aka my god, Brittney had the cutest kid in the world???) but to my average Facebook friend, there’s not too much baby out there.

Instagram has become another story because apparently I’m the stereotypical Millenial white bitch who loves coffee and her overweight five-month-old. (He’s not fat; he’s sturdy!) The kid is in my stories probably at least once a day, and I feel… fine about that. Turns out, your social media habits pre-kid are probably going to be your habits after they’re here, too. It is absolutely braggadocious for myself and my peers to be putting up pics of our kids on Instagram, but isn’t that why we’re on the platform? I do wrestle with sharing about our joy when I know we have couples in our circle who are experiencing infertility. A person in our community due about a month after me experienced a stillbirth just before 30 weeks and I think of her ALL THE TIME when I’m posting about my baby. I know you shouldn’t edit yourself to accommodate others, but a little sensitivity and self-awareness doesn’t hurt anyone.

The pandemic is one reason I’m more lax about putting my baby online. This parenthood thing can be lonely! Our family members are thrilled any time they get an update about the baby, and it’s much easier to throw it in a Facebook caption to 30 of ’em than send out individual texts (because ohmygod if you’re still replying to group texts in the year of our Lord twenty twenty-one, your phone privileges are revoked forever, GRANDMOTHER.) Including my baby when sharing my mom joys and struggles on Instagram stories has been a true lifeline to a community of support I can’t currently access in person. I’m surprised I didn’t lose hundreds of followers in the first four months when all I did was complain about our lack of sleep. (Apologies, loyal fans. I am a more interesting person than that, I swear.)

If you’re still expecting, make sure you and your partner are on the same page about this stuff. You AB-SO-LUTE-LY will need to have a conversation with your parents and family members about what’s ok to share and what’s not. It is not uncommon to threaten people’s lives if they put information about the birth online before you do. Shut that shit down right now, and if you’re more stringent than me about your baby’s face not going online, you might have to really get tough with those you love. If you’re already a mom and living part of your life online, please join in me not including just the cute milestone moments. Occasionally throw in a selfie after you’ve gotten spit up on. We all know you think you have the cutest kid in the world. I wanna see those postpartum bald spots!!

Postpartum Hormones + In-Laws

I was going to text Natalie about this instead of making it a public post, but this blog is about things I wish I knew, and this topic is definitely something I wish I knew. After talking to other new parents, turns out I’m not the absolute bitch monster I assumed I was, and many people have experienced the same. I know many pregnant people right now who don’t have the great relationship with their in-laws that I do, yet this still happened to me, so they may need a double heads up. If you are one of my in-laws reading this, hopefully you’ll realize the point is that you never did anything wrong! My brain just decided you were scary thanks to the insane amount of who-even-knows-what pumping through my new mom self.

I have a great relationship with my in-laws: they’re lovely people, I want my son to love and have fruitful relationships with them as he grows, and hopefully in a post-COVID world they’ll be a reliable source of occasional childcare… basically zero reason to expect anything would be different I gave birth. And yet! While I was comfortable with some of my own family being around the baby, something inside of me became very anti-my partner’s family. They never did anything wrong– if anything, they were far more respectful of our new parent boundaries than my own family. But thanks to postpartum hormones, it felt like the baby was mine, and they couldn’t get it on it.

What was I afraid of? Nothing that could be well articulated. That they were going to steal my baby? Push me out? Overstay their welcome? None of the above, and yet all of the above. Like most things postpartum, it’s hard to describe– it was just a strong motherly urge; another feeling that made me feel absolutely crazy on top of the sleep I wasn’t getting.

I read a theory that this happens because your primal parent instincts come rushing in, and even though your in-laws might be the warmest, most respectful people on the planet, they’re not your tribe. When the cavewoman hormones flood your brain, your family is safe while the clan you partnered into is unknown. They’re not your blood; they might eat or steal your baby. Is there any science to this? I have no idea! But it makes a little bit of sense to me, and I hope you read this in time to know it might very well happen to you.

So what do you do. If you have truly overbearing in-laws– the kind that are wildly inappropriate or don’t respect your boundaries for COVID protocols or anything else– you are completely justified in drawing a hard line and not budging. I’m not saying you have to keep your baby away forever, but this is a fragile time for your new family, and if trying to force time with them is going to put you over the edge, please prioritize your baby and your mental health. If it’s too much for you to be around but you value your in-laws getting to meet baby, consider having your partner take the kid for a visit, or you going out for an errand while the in-laws come over. If the in-laws are over and it becomes overwhelming, you can either exit the room solo for some downtime, or you can excuse yourself with baby to go nurse, put them down for a nap, or just get your mom hormones back down from “internal rage” by taking the baby to snuggle yourself. Does this sound selfish as I type it out? Yeah, kinda. But you’re already giving 145% of yourself to someone else; your mother-in-law can deal with not getting to hold the baby for her entire visit.

This is a great time to lean on your friends who are already parents. They will 100% understand if you send a text “sister-in-law is here plz help.” You both know your sister-in-law is only excited for you and over the moon to meet your kid, but a great friend will respond, “SHE’S THE WORST” even though they’ve probably never met. You can do a lot of loving kindness meditation towards your in-laws later once the hormones clear and you realize they’re actually extremely helpful to have around (hopefully.)

Your Hospital Stay

I might be a big birth nerd in that what happens inside a hospital, most especially in the maternity unit, fascinates me. I chose the medical route of doctors & a hospital birth for my first baby, and while I would definitely give birth in a hospital again, I will likely seek out midwifery care if there’s a baby 2.0 sometime in the future. But that’s a post for another time! This is all about the hospital stay, and I’m coming at it from my recent stint in labor + my PRN status as a hospital employee who gives maternity center tours on two area medical campuses. Obviously all hospitals are different, and I highly encourage you to seek out a virtual tour from your hospital or birth center if in-person tours aren’t currently an option.

BRING SNACKS. You’ll need to keep your energy up during labor, you’ll need to replenish your energy stores after giving birth, and your birthing partner will need to eat during their stay, too. Yes, hospitals have cafeterias and food delivery options and some have nourishment rooms with basic food supplies for birthing patients, but you will not regret bringing some of your own favorites. We also packed Powerade Zero because many doctors won’t let you consume anything besides clear liquids once you’re admitted. Ask if your hospital has a mini fridge in the room or a communal fridge so you can bring cold stuff, too!

Get vocal! I’m not talking about labor sounds– though some truly… interesting? primal sounds will escape your throat before that kid comes out– I’m saying use your voice to advocate for yourself and your baby about your hospital stay. ASK QUESTIONS! If you don’t get admitted knowing every single pain management option available to you like I did because I’m a nightmare know-it-all, ask. If you know there’s certain things you definitely want– delayed cord clamping, a certain person to cut the umbilical cord, no one in the room to speak because you want your voice to be the first thing baby hears– you gotta speak up. The hospital staff won’t judge you, they should let you know what’s allowed and what’s not (and why! Not just because they don’t feel like it.) They see hundreds of birthing patients a year; it’s their job to make this experience as safe and positive for you as possible.

Don’t be a hero. You’ll have the option of having baby sleep in the nursery at night (or have them hang out in the nursery any time you need a break.) A lot of first time moms think they’re a monster person if they take the nurses up on this offer, but don’t be a hero, Natalie. Maternity center nurses have chosen their profession because they really like babies– caring for babies in the nursery is kind of their thing. You’ll be leaving baby with the most highly qualified people available, so take them up on it, especially at night when you need sleep. They’ll still bring baby in when it’s time to eat, they should ask you in advance if it’s ok to give baby a pacifier in the nursery, they’ll bring your baby back the second you want them with you. You will be laying in bed, not sleeping, on your first night home with baby thinking, “Where are my angel nurses with their magical nursery and how can I get them to move in with me??”

Visitors? Ha. This is one area in which COVID has a silver lining. Many of our patients were upset at the beginning of the pandemic that no outside visitors were allowed, but have since said, “Best thing ever!” Grieving the moment your parents get to come meet their new grandchild in the hospital is completely valid, and a doctor I talked to said the only thing he misses is seeing a very proud big brother or sister holding their new baby sibling for the first time. But! Once that passes, not having visitors is something I would choose for any subsequent births, even after hospital visitor restrictions are lifted. Physically, so many things are still gushing out of your body even after the baby has exited. You might be trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, and the easiest option is to just kind of have your boobs out 24/7. You likely haven’t gotten a lot of sleep so your face looks like it got ran over with a truck. Hormonally, so much is happening– am I on Cloud 9? Am I not bonding with my baby yet like everyone said I would? How is my partner doing? Add in the amount of interruptions– nurses taking your vitals, pediatricians coming in to check on baby, hospital techs coming in to give them their first bath, lactation consultants popping in, food service employees dropping off and picking up trays– it’s a lot. As sad as my mother was that she had to wait until we were home to come meet her grandson, I can’t imagine when she would have ever dropped by the hospital that wouldn’t have added on a ton more stress to an already completely foreign situation.

Practice the car seat in advance. Legally, you can’t leave our hospital without a car seat, and the nurses aren’t allowed to make adjustments to it or baby. Not only does the base need to be properly installed in your vehicle, I highly recommend taking the time to figure out how the car seat operates before you have a very alive newborn to put in it. We did not do this, and watching my husband and I try to figure out how to get the poor kid strapped in had to be like watching a sad clown car on fire. We were stressed, baby got stressed, we couldn’t figure out the damn straps, and the nurse had to just stand nearby like a cheerleader and lightly suggest, “I think if you push that button, you can get more slack on the straps…” Practice with a teddy bear, borrow a neighbor kid, whatever you need to do to figure out what buckle goes where and which buttons make which handles move.

Take everything not nailed down. Giant pads? Peri bottle? Diapers? Wipes? Formula samples? Water bottles? TAKE ‘EM HOME. They’re yours now.

To bring: phone charger with an extra long cord, Chapstick because it’s dry AF in a hospital, whatever will make you feel slightly more human (fave shampoo? mascara? floss?) baby book if you want a set of baby’s footprints put right on the page, hair ties, a going home outfit that will make you feel a little bit less garbage-y before you go home and spend many weeks or months barely getting dressed, something for baby to wear home. There’s only about a thousand lists + YouTube videos on what to pack, but err on the side of keeping it light. Hopefully you and baby will be healthy, and you’ll only be spending 2-3 nights there.

Freezer Meals + Gifting Food

Natalie is due next month (!!!) which means she’s in prime freezer meal time. Prepping food to eat in the weeks after birth was top priority since I’m the only cook in our house, and I’m cheap as hell when it comes to spending too much on takeout. I’ll outline how I tackled it below, but know that how you eat food now is how you’re gonna eat food after baby comes. This is the time to be realistic, not aspirational (maybe that sentence should just be sewn onto pillows and sold as the catch-all phrase for life postpartum?) If you’ve never used a Crock Pot, now is not the time to research Pinterest’s top 100 slow cooker recipes and assume you’re going to start using it once you become a parent.

  1. People will give you food. This is very nice of them! Many will ask in advance what you like, and honey, this is not the time to be coy. “Oh, we’ll eat anything!” is not helpful to you, a person who does indeed have food preferences, but especially not helpful to the person offering. Outline a few things you don’t like– no mushrooms or coconut in this house, thank you!– and point them towards a region or a few dishes you know you’ll appreciate having around (“we love any kind of Mexican food” or “breakfast items I can eat with one hand!”)
  2. If you want vegetables around, you’re gonna have to get ’em yourself. There are always exceptions, but people tend to gift comfort foods in times of life upheaval. Be prepared to get a lot of cream-based casseroles, pastas, and beige-colored foods. Refer back to the above advice and get direct with your mother, “Before you come over on Thursday, can you pick up some dip-able veggies? A bag of apples? Anything resembling a nutrient?” You’re so out of it hormonally the first week or two that you likely won’t care or really taste what food is around, but your body will thank you.
  3. If you’re the one gifting new parents a meal, make sure it’s a complete one. Don’t make a pan of meatballs and sauce just assuming they have a box of pasta in the cupboard. I’m not saying it needs to be four courses plus tableware, but logically think through how you can make this meal + leftovers as easy as possible. This includes using reusable or recyclable containers– the absolute last thing a new parent wants to do is put “return Pyrex to friend across town” on their to-do list.
  4. You can gift food well after the baby arrives. We are so in love with every single person who poured their generous hearts into nourishing us that first week or two, but the most memorable food gift came about six weeks after we were home from the hospital. My former boss brought over a pan of STILL WARM apple crisp and a GALLON OF ICE CREAM. Was it indulgent as hell? Absolutely. But it was unexpected in that society assumes you’ve got some sort of grip on the grocery game again after the first month. I’m three months postpartum now and would fall to my knees weeping if someone brought by a sandwich tray and said “lunch is taken care of for the week.”
  5. Alrighty, how I did it. I’m not a huge recipe person, rather I usually prep some protein early in week, then have veggies on hand and various items to mix and match with pantry staples to create decent meals. Basically I took my weekly strategy and bulked it up thanks to a trip to Costco (aka hell. Why do I hate going to Costco so much.) I prepped like 10 pounds of chicken breasts, then shredded the meat and froze in containers that held enough for a couple meals. I cooked up 5 pounds of ground turkey and did the same. (If you do this, just season the meat with salt, pepper & garlic powder so it can go with anything.) I got bags of frozen veggies and made sure we had multiple bags of rice, cans of beans and salsa, jars of pasta sauce and Indian simmer sauces, burrito shells, pasta, tortilla chips, etc. We’d then take one thing of meat out of the freezer and build from there out the pantry– did we want tacos, stir fry, pasta, salad?
  6. Don’t forget breakfast. I blended green smoothies ahead of time and froze them individually in plastic cups, as well as baked oatmeal squares and eggs with veggies you make in muffin tins (the Internet is your friend for any of these recipes.) You will be holding a baby and most of your eating will be done with one hand, so plan accordingly!

Early Pregnancy Advice

If you’ve recently found out you’re expecting for the first time, congratulations. My number one piece of advice as you begin to tell others the news is: lie like a damn rug about your due date.

If your EDD is 10/19 (me!) tell people that baby’s due date is the first week of November. Give yourself at least a two week buffer, but not because first time babies often arrive late. This is to protect your sanity and your relationship with those around you in those final few weeks of pregnancy.

Sometime around 38 weeks, the texts will start. They’ll seem innocent at first– of course people mean well. “Just checking in!” “Any signs of baby yet?” Maybe you’re a nicer person than me (most everyone is) and you’ll think it’s so lovely that people care. But maybe you’ve been isolated for most of your pregnancy due to a pandemic and really thought this baby would be coming early so your fuse is shorter than normal. This is why you lie from the beginning.

If you’re still pregnant a week before your actual due date and you haven’t taken my advice, the texts become phone calls. “When’s that baby coming?” I DON’T KNOW, GRANDMA. Shut off your phone. Just shut it down. Absolutely nothing constructive will come out of your mouth after 39 weeks. You will not need reminders from everyone around you that you’re pregnant. Did people do this in the olden days before instant communication? I doubt it. Pretend it’s still 1954, Linda, and don’t waste a phone call on, “You had that baby yet?” You are 100% allowed to get snarky as hell. “Oh shit, there’s a baby coming?!” Save a Google images photo of a baby of a different race than yours will be and text it to people, “He arrived last week. Forgot to tell you!” (Is that problematic? Probably.)

My frustration came from: 1- if you’re close enough to me to inquire about the status of my uterus, you will be told when it’s empty. It’s not like we’ve kept the pregnancy from you; why would the birth be any different?! and 2- No one, and I mean no one, Mother, wants this baby out more than me. I want to meet him. I want to see what he looks like. I don’t need you reminding me every day that he’s not here yet. The WORST is when they follow it up with “Oh well, he’ll come when he comes.” THEN WHY DID YOU ASK. I don’t want your platitudes, I want an induction!!

Tangential advice to anyone with a pregnant person in your lives, if you hadn’t picked up on it already: don’t ask. Don’t ask the due date from the beginning. Don’t ask towards the end where the baby is. You’ll be told when you’re told. All I know about Natalie’s baby is that it’s allegedly arriving in March. Am I fully in my rights to start texting her the last week of February since NATALIE HERSELF violated all of the above rules and bothered me late in my pregnancy? I am. But I won’t because I’ve been there, and I know that she doesn’t need a reminder from me that something very big is about to happen. If I haven’t heard anything by mid-May, I might pick up the phone.