Discovering that you or your partner is pregnant for the first time is a terrific experience that you'll never forget: Like a roller-coaster it's both thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
And you spend the next nine months often idealizing how your future child will be and worrying about how you will cope with both the birth and the crucial infancy period. At times, other people's stories encourage you to really let your imagination run wild and you end up not knowing what to think at all. To help you make sense of this overwhelming period of your life, here are a few home truths!
First and foremost, conceiving and giving birth is as old as humanity itself. It's a totally natural process that other mammals seem to go through with very little fuss. At the same time, each pregnancy and each birth is unique: the more children you have, the more aware you will become of this uniqueness. Nobody can dictate to you how you should experience and feel about these amazing moments in your life.
You'll often hear people say pregnancy is a wonderful period for a woman: you feel at one with your body, your skin and your hair are in peak condition and you're bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. It is certainly true, but not always, certainly not for the whole nine months and not necessarily for all women.
So don't let yourself feel disappointed because you're not feeling how well-intentioned people say you should feel. And don't think that because you spent 6 months with day-long morning sickness for your first pregnancy that it's sure to be the same the next time round – it isn't. It is also true that you may experience new sensations that disappear as mysteriously as they appeared during the course of your pregnancy.
For example, you might discover that you have a highly developed sense of smell – and that you can't stand the perfume of the loo paper that you've been using with no problem since you set up home and that your partner can't smell at all! Or your libido might prove taxing for your over-cautious partner. My advice? Make the most of it while it lasts!
When the time comes for Baby to make his or her entry, you basically have two choices: let the medical corps take care of it for you or call the shots yourself and explain what you want. It sounds simple, but in fact, few births actually happen as we imagine they will. It is important to be well-informed and open-minded. You need to know what you want if things go to plan, and how you would like things to be handled if a plan B is necessary.
Don't imagine that because your second baby popped out at home and landed in your partner's arms before you knew what was happening that giving birth to baby number 3 will be a piece of cake. And don't make the mistake of believing that you're destined to have difficult births because your mum did. Giving birth is like participating in a sporting event: physical preparation is all important, but what makes all the difference is how you prepare yourself mentally.
Great athletes rehearse their event in their mind and think it through time and again before the day to make sure they stay on top and in control. But even great athletes have their off days, when they don't manage to get it together for some reason or another. Don't blame yourself if you find giving birth overwhelming, and make sure you let the medics know how you're feeling: they'll know how to help you get back on track.
Parenting is probably the most important job we do in the course of our lives and the only one that there's no real training course for. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every child has a natural propensity to learn, and that the role of every parent is to help their child to learn – at their rhythm, in their own time.
That means spending time playing with your child, observing them, learning to understand how they communicate with you using their voice and their body right from the start. After nine months in his or her mother's womb, an infant has a whole new world to discover. As a parent, the greatest gift you can offer your child is to educate him or her to understand that this world doesn't revolve purely around them and that there are rules to respect. Enjoy every moment of those early years: time passes so quickly and there's no going back!