Oh the noise noise noise noise!

by Ashley Weeks Cart

Coming off a holiday season when I watched The Grinch Stole Christmas at least 100 times, the title of the post feels just perfect. Thank you, Dr. Seuss and obsessive 2 year old.

I’ve entered an exciting stage of my life where a number of my near and dear friends are pregnant, trying to conceive, or newly minted Mamas. It is such a joyous thing to be able to share those common experiences with them, because with Sunny I felt very much alone and isolated during my pregnancy and early motherhood (thus why I originally started writing this blog!). This time around, I’ve got some women right in the bodily-fluid-filled trenches with me. And that’s awesome. Truly awesome.

On the other hand, I have come to realize that in many ways I was fortunate to blaze the maternity trail for my peer group. That while I may have felt a tad lonely and at a loss for whom to consult with about my maternity-related worries and thoughts, I also didn’t have to make sense of all the noise, noise, noise, noise! That’s what I think of it as. “It” being the bazillions of opinions, studies, judgments, choices, etc. that are attached to pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. I went through both my pregnancies without that noise and confusion of how different people were handling their respective pregnancies, births, etc. Because while in many ways pregnancy, maternity and motherhood are universal experiences, they are also terribly personal experiences. A confusing and complicated mix of realities.

And while The Interwebs is always a ripe place for conflicting opinions and worm holes of maternity related musings regardless of their presence (or lack thereof) IRL, I made a very conscious choice to avoid that noise. To steer clear of pregnancy discussion boards and anonymous, virtual voices.

In some respects, I had the luxury of going through two pregnancies without anyone telling me how they’d done it, how I should do it, what I shouldn’t do, what I could do, so on and so forth. I buckled down. Did my own research. Reached out to a doula with a ridiculous amount of experience, and worked very closely with her to figure out how I felt about all the myriad of choices available to me as a pregnant woman and soon-to-be Mama. I got to make my decisions about all those matters without the noise of fellow peers going through the experience. And while at times I craved that noise and firsthand experience, I also see now that I was in a lovely position to operate without anyone making me doubt or feel insecure about the decisions I was making as related to my baby, my body, my birth plan, my pregnancy, etc.

I have friends now calling, texting, emailing and asking a slew of questions related to all things Mommy and I feel so touched that they are comfortable reaching out to me, but I’m always conflicted in responding, not because I don’t want to share, but because I don’t want the way I did it or my own opinions to make them at all doubt their own instincts, gut-reactions or choices. Just because I was comfortable eating a tuna fish sandwich while pregnant, does not mean that you will share that comfort. Just because I didn’t want to use an epidural, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just because I used that midwife, or that hospital, or that doula, doesn’t mean that you should want the same things. Everyone has different comfort levels. Different threshholds. Different ways of drawing their own conclusions.

And so, I guess all this rambling is to say that if I WERE to offer overarching advice to a pregnant woman, it would be these three things:

1. Do your research. Don’t just rely on what your doctor or midwife has to say. Do your homework and make your own informed decisions. Take ownership and control of this experience, because it is yours. Don’t let anyone make you feel like it is otherwise. Ultimately, it is your body and your baby. You get the final say. Not the doctors. Not your partner. Not the hospital. Not your family. YOU!

2. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. After doing all of the research and homework, then go with your gut. What are you feeling most comfortable with? What resonates with you? Go with that. Trust that. My gut said, “Everything in moderation,” so I was comfortable having a cup of coffee or eating a bite of unpasteurized cheese. I know that that is not how everyone feels, so go with what you feel. What you think. Again, it’s your body. Your baby. Your decision. Just make sure it is informed.

3. And finally, work with a doula. Work with a doula. Work with a doula. Period. The end. (More info about how to find and hire a doula here).

Story to back up point 3: One of the first words out of James’ mouth after Addison was born was, no joke, “Tracy (our doula) was the best money I have ever spent. Ever.” This coming from the partner of the woman in labor. Not only did I benefit from her knowledge and experience, James very tangibly felt the significance of her role and place in our birth experience. I cannot stress how integral having a doula as a part of my maternity experience was. She was a life changer. And made me think about birth, pregnancy, my body, my baby, the whole process, in a really pointed, educated and thoughtful capacity that would have been lost had I just relied on my OB.

So enough of the rah rah doula promotion. At the end of the day, the female body knows how to handle pregnancy. Knows how to handle childbirth. Of course there are exceptions. But on the whole, trust your body to do what it was built to do.

Oh, and advice number 4: Do your kegels. For the hatred of postpartum incontinence, DO YOUR KEGELS!

And friends, don’t stop asking questions! I love it. It’s exactly what you should be doing. Just know that I’ll never be offended or surprised if you choose to do something 180 degrees different from what I did. I’m just one sound in all that noise noise noise noise! Find your voice within it.

Fellow Mamas, what would your pearls of wisdom be? I would love hearing your go-to advice for expecting or new moms!