How old were you/what was your situation when you had your first child?
I was 21 when I got pregnant and 22 when my first child was born. I had been married a few months when I got a positive pregnancy test, and he was born just after our first anniversary! I was in the middle of my second year of a BA in English Literature at Bar Ilan University and conveniently gave birth during the winter break, so I just went back to school a month later. I hired babysitters to take care of him on campus while I was in classes, and I left for the five or so minutes it took to nurse him every once in a while. It was actually pretty easy.
Did you always want to be a mommy? Why or why not?
Always? I think I never really considered not having kids, it was just something I assumed I would do one day.
How did your husband/partner and family react to you being preggo?
Excitedly — all smiles. Thank God.
What was your pregnancy like?
My pregnancies were both mostly textbook, as were my labors. I've been quite lucky in that regard.
How did you decide to start telling people you were preggo? Did you wait to reveal the gender?
I always tell close friends and family early on, because my theory is that if I were to miscarry, those would be the people I'd need for support … so why not tell them? Plus we get to share the excitement. Same with gender. We spoke about names a few times during pregnancy but didn't decide definitively until right before the brit.
How did the pregnancy affect your work, schooling, or family?
It makes things harder because it's exhausting, you're always the wrong temperature (i.e., sweating mid-winter and no one will open a window) and always have to pee at inopportune times. In terms of school/work, the only annoying part is having to take off so often for doctors appointments. I missed basically one class a month in one course because I could only get appointments at that time.
In the days and weeks leading up to the birth, what do you remember experiencing or feeling?
Anticipation, excitement, anxiety.
How did you infuse your Jewishness into the pregnancy/labor experience?
Not really. I find the Jewish spiritual take on most things too "fluffy" for my tastes; it feels more real to connect to the life inside of me and then thank God for it.
If you’ve had more children since your first, how were the experiences different? Were you more or less prepared? Was it harder or easier?
Similar pregnancies, but I was prepared the second time, so that was easier. The nausea was harder because I had a 2-year-old to take care of while lying pathetically on the couch, but other than that, not bad. Labor was much shorter and easier in that I knew what to do.
What would be your three top tips for a first-time mother?
- Read. As much as you possibly can. Inform Thyself. You are your own best teacher and advocate.
- Hire a doula who will be there for you no matter what choices you make in labor.
- When the baby is born, remember: everyone else can bathe, change, and diaper the baby, wash the dishes, make the food, sweep the floor, do the laundry. Only YOU can nurse the baby. Do so however often and for as long as you damn well please, no one else needs to feed the baby to bond with him/her. They can hold the baby while you shower, if you want. But it is YOUR baby! Remember that.
Any advice from dad to other dads?
Husband likes to say "Remember: Everything is normal." How's that for a foreshadowing of doom? :)
Chavi's commentary: This Jewish mom's experience was so different than the first, I can only imagine how many different shades of motherhood I'm going to see during the span of this project. I have to give a nod to the doula comment, just because I initially thought "no doula, no nothing" because that's my personality (I can do it all!). But living in Israel and realizing how much the language barrier would probably make for a very intense birthing experience, I found a doula and I couldn't be happier. Also? I'm going to have a serious challenge with the helping out with the baby. I have this sinking feeling I'm going to be one of those possessive first-time moms. Why? Not sure. Probably that same A-personality rearing its domineering head. But like all things, you never know until you get there!