I learned how babies are made when a family friend got pregnant and I refused to accept any of the traditional explanations offered to young children:
- She has a baby in her tummy. (“Why did she eat it?”)
- The stork is coming with the baby. (“Why does she want a baby bird?”)
- When two people love each other… (“But they fight all the time.”)
Finally, my mom told me about pregnancy and I was completely grossed out. So I decided that when I had a baby, instead of giving birth, I would just get her from Sesame Street where all of the Muppets lived. Because what could possibly be better than having a Muppet baby? Problem solved.
That was literally my expectation…for years. I was going to be the mother of the next Super Grover.
Although my doctor recently informed me that I am not going to be the mother of the next Super Grover (Boo!), being pregnant has come with a slew of new expectations. Here are a few of them:
Third Trimester Free Time
I had a list, y’all. A long, well-considered, awesomely productive but not overwhelming list of what I was going to accomplish during the third trimester after I stopped working. (Okay, I’ll wait for those of you who are already parents to stop laughing.)
Unfortunately, during these final weeks I’ve only had the energy to be productive a few hours each day. Between carrying around the extra weight (my twins had a growth spurt), my body warming up for labor, and my mind just generally wandering, I’ve been forced to realize that completing my list is no longer a reality. Mostly, I’m drinking smoothies and watching old episodes of Scandal and Peep Show.
I’m exceedingly glad that my parents visited during the second trimester and we set up the nursery and baby-proofed the house. Now, my husband and I can relax and spend these last days hanging out with each other and my stepdaughter before the infant-blitz hits.
Other friends had their third trimesters cut short by premature labor, bed rest, and other unavoidable complications. So, just so you know, you might not have as much time as you think.
What will the kids be like?
I have this fantasy: Lincoln Center. Sold out performance. The audience shifts in their seats with anticipation. The house goes dark. There’s deafening applause. My twin music prodigies, all of 15 years old, appear on stage. They play a beautiful concert (her on the violin, him on the piano) and bow. Then they point to me. A spotlight falls on my returned-to-pre-pregnancy shaped body encased in a chic evening gown. Everyone turns towards me and applauds.
When I tell my husband this fantasy, he asks, “Am I there?” I say, “Of course you are there. The kids are pointing at us.
In my mind, I’m thinking: “Nope, it’s all about me.” But I don’t tell him that. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
I love thinking about what the twins will be like; sometimes drawing inferences from what music I’m listening too or what food I’m eating when they move. However fun these excursions into expectation are, I know that they probably won’t match the reality of life with twins.
Reality is where the Center (https://centerforparentingeducation.org/) comes in handy. It’s been a great resource for us when it comes to my stepdaughter and I am glad that it will be there with practical, real world solutions as our twins grow up.
But, for now, it’s just the twins and I amid thunderous applause at Lincoln Center. Maybe my husband’s in the bathroom.
The Expectations of Others
Amy’s* mother-in-law had her decorator mock-up a few possible nurseries for her future grandchildren. The decorator emailed Amy the designs, and they sent us into fits of hysterical laughter. Amy and her mother-in-law clearly had different expectations. Not one of her mother-in-law’s ideas was actually functional – there was a modernist all white nursery with a boxy rocker, a retro ‘70s nursery filled with pillows but little else, and a blindingly bright Pepto-Bismol pink explosion of a nursery in all its’ pastel sateen glory. While her mother-in-law was sincerely trying to be helpful, we both know that placing form over function in a nursery is probably not a good idea. However, we managed to find a few elements in the designs that my friend actually liked. That way, she could sincerely thank her mother-in-law for the ideas, and truthfully tell her that they were being incorporated into the nursery, but didn’t have to commit to any singular design. The approach worked and she and her mother-in-law continue to enjoy a friendly relationship.
Amy and I found that balancing everyone else’s expectations can be tricky but that mostly people are just trying to help. By finding humor in the sublime to the ridiculous, we’ve been able to relieve a lot of the pressure of others’ expectations and focus on what we feel is important for our families.
Babies (the documentary) & The First Year
I find it easy to get wrapped up in worrying about the babies’ first year. (Will they meet all of their developmental milestones? Will I be able to breastfeed as long as I want to?) The documentary Babies follows the first year of life of four babies being raised in different cultures around the world. Seeing a true diversity of how babies live during the first year helped me tweak my expectations. I think that what they really need – food, love, shelter, warmth – we’ll be able to give.
I don’t think anyone expects to suffer from postpartum depression. However, 11-18% of new mothers experience it (according to a 2010 survey by the CDC). Consider sitting down with your partner and discussing the symptoms of postpartum depression now. That way, if it strikes, your partner can quickly identify the symptoms and contact your OB-GYN. Your doctor can look for signs and diagnose you so that you can get immediate help. There’s no shame suffering from postpartum depression; you’ve been through an amazing yet daunting experience over the past year, and might just need some help healing from it.
Straight from the new parents’ mouths…
“I expected to spend third trimester crafting up room decor, blankets and clothes. I got hit with really bad carpel tunnel, from swelling/poor circulation or whatever. I had to wear wrist braces and even then, I was in constant, miserable pain that kept me up and woke me up at night. My forearms/hands functioned as paddles. Cutting with scissors, sewing, was impossible. I was very disappointed, and stressed out that I wouldn’t be able to hold my baby. It took about two months post partum for it to wear off.” –Jennifer
“During pregnancy I was expecting to be very busy once the baby was born. Turns out I did not have much to do for a while.” –David
“My husband had more expectations than I did. Finally, near the end, he was getting frustrated because he didn’t think I was “nesting” and therefore the baby would be late. He was nesting enough for the both of us though! He got morning sickness and back pain, I think he gained some weight too, and all the while, I just felt fine. The labor and delivery got me though; I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I had back labor and the baby got stuck, ended up with an emergency c-section, and postpartum depression. Luckily, my baby was just perfect and I could at least smile when I looked at her!” –Carla