I sure can be opinionated about a lot of this stuff. In 2014 I actually published a list of 75 pieces of advice for pregnant moms and the list GROWS.
Looking over the mega-list, if I had to pick out one thing, it probably would be to warn more people about post-partum recovery. I think it's a very overlooked topic, the biology of healing after childbirth. This is both a motherhood and a feminist issue for me, so it's kind of my public service announcement, even though my second childbirth recovery was really easy. My first was NOT and I felt totally caught off gaurd and after talking about it, more issues surface. The bottom line is that my healing could have been made easier with real pain meds, witch hazel pads, colace, ice packs, and I had none of these things, I was under some stupid idea that I could just tough it out for a few days. My own naivety after never having any kind of surgery or major injury, maybe. But if I missed the memo, it means someone else might, too.
When I read Half The Sky I was struck by something. We all hear creation stories: nearly every culture in every corner of the world has some unique and interesting story about how the world was made. What we don't all talk about is that nearly every culture of the world has some unique and interesting story about how women are supposed to suffer to bring babies into this world.
Consequently there's a whole list of "lady problems" that I think STILL get swept under the radar. From menstrual cramps to morning sickness to postpartum depression, doctors told us it was all in our flighty lady heads for decades. We're slowly crawling out of that, but not quickly enough. The severe form of pregnancy sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, can be deadly, and forums are filled with women who can't function but who are still trying to convince their doctors to actually treat their symptoms instead of flippantly telling them to eat more crackers.
So my real advice for first time mothers, now that I'm narrowing this rambling entry down: you are not supposed to suffer.
You are not supposed to be crying for weeks, haunted by images of doing something terrible to your baby. You are not supposed to tough out having your vagina sewn back together with ibuprofin and water, ESPECIALLY while attempting to care for a five-day old. You are not supposed to feel totally alone.
Motherhood can be beautiful, but it's also hard, and you should talk about what you're going through to see if something can be done. Be honest with yourself and your network. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I'm not trying to scare you. Maybe nothing that awful will happen. But it's not like you're just bracing for impact that you know will be terrible. Listen to your body and be pro-active in taking care of yourself. Like they say on airplanes, put your own oxygen mask on first, then you can put it on your child. Don't let anyone blow you off.