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My sister is pregnant (yay!) and I'm getting to see this whole journey through her eyes. As the older sister, my instinct is to guide, protect and shelter her from hardships that I faced when I was pregnant. And as pregnancy and early motherhood goes—there's (what feels like) about a million different hurdles to overcome. However, my sister has already had a much different pregnancy than I did, and everything else is different, too—from her marriage to her work situation, and I'm sure her baby will be different than mine too.

It goes against all my instincts to solely listen to what she's saying and not dump a ton of information, opinions and directives on her in response. You see, my whole life I've shown her the way. I've shared my challenges and how I overcame them so she wouldn't have to suffer through the things I suffered through. I thought pregnancy would be the same.

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My unconscious reaction will be to explain (justify) what I did in a particular situation so I can convince myself that I didn't do anything wrong. But I'm realizing that we're going to do things differently on our motherhood journeys and I know I really need to just be there for her—to listen and help when asked. To trust that she knows I'm here and will ask me when she needs something or wants to know my opinion.

She told me that all the random unsolicited advice she's been getting from people has been hard to deal with and digest. She said she smiles and nods and lets it go, which would be my advice anyway. Because at this point it is all theoretical and she doesn't have any context for the information just yet.

I remember when I was pregnant and I got advice from every stranger, acquaintance and friend:

"Sleep in now, you'll never get to again!"

"Parenting is the hardest but best thing you'll ever do!"

"Just take the drugs. Trust me, don't wait—just take them."

And I remember smiling (or maybe grimacing) and nodding, and not really knowing where to put the information.

Then once my little guy was here and I wasn't sleeping and I was struggling with the humongous learning curve of motherhood, it started making sense. My newborn didn't know it was Saturday and that we could sleep in. I ended up having an unmedicated birth, but could definitely understand why someone would want to do otherwise. And it was definitely the hardest thing I'd ever done—like people said—but was also SO amazing.

But there was no way I could understand any of the random advice until I was there myself.

So now I'm patiently waiting for my sister to ask me the questions and I'm realizing that when she does ask a question, it's a question she's ready to hear the answer to because she's in that part of her journey. For example, she's starting her registry, so we're talking through what you need, why one stroller might be better than another, etc.

Three months ago she had no interest or place to put that kind of information. So I know that the more I let it be her journey and follow her lead, I'm actually able to be there for her in a more supportive way.

My son was a difficult baby, a difficult sleeper, very active and very loud. He wasn't one of those babies we could just bring to a restaurant who would look around quietly, content in his car seat or one that we could have someone babysit and he'd just smile and sleep peacefully. He was (and is) very particular, opinionated and active.

I'm preparing myself for her to have a super calm, easygoing baby that they can bring everywhere and who sleeps like a champ. I'm preparing myself to not be resentful and to accept that my sister may not fully understand what I went through personally—because our motherhood journeys will be different.

I guess that's true for all moms. We all are constantly bombarded with information and opinions. I can usually recognize when people just need to vent (they don't really want to hear my solution)—they just need to be heard. I know when things are hardest for me I just want someone to listen and say, "Yes, that's hard."

I know I can do better when other moms vent to me not feel the need to try to solve all their problems unless I'm directly asked for suggestions.

I think moms would be more vulnerable in sharing their struggles with others if we all just listened to each other and said "I hear you, that's so tough. You're doing a great job and you're a great mom."

My eyes just teared up writing that. I guess it's what I needed to hear too.

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Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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