I definitely don't have all the answers, but here are some things that have worked for me, my family, and my life. I hope they help you!
- Don't waste money on a fancy body pillow. You may find a great one, but none of them have worked well for me. Plus, they take up so much room my husband would have to sleep on the couch. One of the best tricks I found for getting comfortable is using a big blanket, quilt, or comforter and, in addition to putting it between my legs, wrapping it under my belly to support it as I lay on my side.
- Dealing with calf cramps...these really made an appearance during my third trimester. They started out happening only at night, but started persisting into the day. One day it was so painful to walk that I had to figure out a solution. I started adding coconut water to my smoothies (I included a couple recipes in the "food" section). You may be able to handle drinking it straight, but I think the flavor is pretty intense. It has seemed to help me. Also, my doctor's office told me not to stretch my calves too much on waking. This advice was very counter intuitive to me as I had been stretching them during the night and in the morning. Gently flexing them when I notice the start of a cramp during the night, but avoiding deep calf stretching seems to be making them less intense overall.
- The pool actually does help! I had no idea how much of a help it would be, but it worked wonders for me. Better than taking a bath (and with less water waste) because my whole body and belly are submerged. It feels wonderful to feel weightless, though getting out makes you feel extra heavy. Now, if I could just have a pool in my room so I don't have to make the long trek out to our apartment pool.
- I started having some serious calf and foot swelling and numbness around 36-37 weeks and keeping my feet elevated and iced wasn't doing much to relieve it. My husband and I both read that compression socks could help so we decided to give them a try. They made such a difference. I don't know the science behind why they help, but my husband bought me a "light compression" pair at CVS and since wearing them my swelling has gone way down.
- Try sleeping on the couch when you can't get comfortable in bed. I've tried all sorts of sleeping arrangements, and, unfortunately because of the extreme pain I'm in now nothing helps too much, but generally speaking, when I'm really struggling in bed, the couch works better for me. I find that supporting your back against the back of the couch while lying on your side can make a real difference. In general, since dealing with pelvic instability, the more secure I can get my pelvis (i.e., back and pelvis supported, pillow between legs, blanket wrapping around to support and crevices) the more bearable my pain is.
- Be mindful of stretching too far, and practice pelvic stabilizing exercises. I had a horrible time starting around 34 weeks pregnant with pain resulting from pelvic instability due to the relaxin in my body. Because I am so flexible the extra relaxin caused some hypermobility in my pelvis which resulted in seriously debilitating pain. Next pregnancy I will be much more aware of protecting this area, and potentially start wearing a pelvic stability belt, earlier in my pregnancy.
- Your water breaking does not feel like you are peeing your pants. The liquid keeps flowing, and happens more with each contraction. Also, the consistency feels a little different, though I don't know that I can adequately describe it.
- Trust the decisions that you and your significant other (or whoever is helping you) have made. You can definitely change your plan as you go, but change it because you want to, not because someone else convinces you to or guilts you into it.
- Have the camera ready and nearby if you want to take pictures or videos after the baby is born. There will be a lot going on, so the closer it is to you, the less likely you are to forget to capture the moment.
- If you are anything like me, there will be plenty of times you feel overwhelmed, emotional, way too sleep deprived, like you are failing on all fronts, discouraged, confused, unsure if you can do it, etc. Hang in there. These feelings will also be broken up by precious moments when your baby wraps his arms around you, looks into your eyes for comfort, smiles (even if they aren't real smiles yet), makes precious sounds, and so much more. It's tough. Know that you're not alone and that it's okay to feel those negative emotions.
- Try not to beat yourself up if you are having trouble breastfeeding. It's hard.
- There is no "right" way to parent. Cut yourself some slack, trust your instincts, and know that the books and internet are not always experts.
- Get a stability ball (yoga ball) and bounce on it while holding your baby. It's good exercise for you and calming for them.
- Fold the backs of your baby's diaper down about half an inch (the folded part facing in). I didn't learn this until a few months in, but it helps catch blowouts.
- Your bedtime routine doesn't have to look like everyone else's. We eat dinner when Derek gets home from work, go on a family walk, Henry and I do bathtime, and then I breastfeed Henry to sleep while Derek and I *gasp* watch TV.
- Take baths with your baby. It's a good way to clean them and a fun bonding time.
- Once your baby starts practicing sitting (before they can sit completely unassisted), fill a laundry basket with toys and blankets and keep it in the bathroom, kitchen, or wherever else you need to set them down.
- Walk outside and get some fresh air when nothing else is calming down your baby (it generally works for Henry).
- There's no such thing as too much love.
- Babies can't manipulate. If they're upset, they're just trying to get their needs met, not attempting to win or pull one over on you.
- Don't worry about breastfeeding to sleep or for comfort. See the tip above.
- Give countdowns before everything you do. Countdown to bedtime, leaving the house, going somewhere. I usually start at 30 minutes out, but will start as far out as an hour before bedtime.
- Tell them you love them every day. Let them be babies still. Give them cuddles, hugs, affection. They may be older, but they still need it.
- Distract them from things they dislike doing by making them feel in control. For example, before a diaper change, I'll ask Henry what he wants to hold while I change his diaper. He'll go searching for two things and then bring them to me for us to change his diaper. It works more often than not, and definitely ends in much less battles before I did this. The same goes for getting in the car. I'll ask him what he wants to bring with us. He focuses on getting the objects and not on the fact that he has to get in the car.
- Have a box of toys in the car. If they can reach it even better.
- Don't worry so much about what everyone else thinks and is doing, trust yourself as a parent.
- Play with your child. When he invites you, join in. Be silly. Pretend play. Dance. Talk in silly voices. Read books. Run around. Play.
- Let your child be himself. Whether he loves pink or blue, trucks or dolls, cooking or cleaning, indoors or outdoors, building or drawing, whatever your child enjoys, let him. It won't be long before he is influenced by others' opinions, so let him have this time to be true to himself.
- Give your child smoothies. It's the best way to get in lots of vegetables.