Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dear Kate

News flash! Expectant royals Kate and Will have left her parents' country home for London and, presumably, a looming engagement at the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital. Kate is reportedly overdue now and the world is waiting.

Here's my first word of advice. Let them wait.

This time is about you, your husband and your new baby. So what if your imminent offspring will be the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom? So what if there are countless paparazzi hoping to fund their children's college tuition with the perfect shot? So what if you yourself have inherited your mother-in-law's honor (burden) as most photographed woman in the world? 

Let them wait. Just breathe.

Every mother I know can still recall how their privacy went right out the window when their baby was born. Doctors and nurses and interns and aids. Basically, you're there in all your glory and there's a virtual revolving door of hospital personnel. coming through. How much worse it must be for the princess! 

The process is neither pleasant nor quick (usually). It's hard work and fairly gory. Or, as Kate's pregnancy guru Christine Hill puts it, "No one prepares you for the true ghastliness of birth." 

I had never heard of a pregnancy guru before. In my business (advertising and marketing), the word "guru" is overused. People are "direct mail gurus," "email gurus," "social media gurus." I've always rolled my eyes; what we're doing ain't religion, people. But, real experts in pregnancy and birth probably deserve a spiritual title. Birth is probably as close to God as we get.

At any rate, it sounds like Kate is in good hands.

Even though she hasn't thanked me yet for my morning sickness advice (she's been rather busy), I thought I'd offer up some additional guidance for the weeks to come. My own baby is almost sixteen now, but I still remember those early days (not so much labor itself, gratefully). 

Here's my countdown of tips for my dear friend, Kate:

5. Don't worry about how you look.
From everything we've seen, Kate is a bit of a perfectionist. In this, she reminds me of myself (except that she's younger, prettier, richer, and married to a prince ... er, nevermind). She always looks neat and trim, pressed and polished. Dear Kate, it's okay to relax your standards just a little bit for just a little while. Try sweats and one of William's shirts.

4. Never wake a sleeping baby.
This was invaluable advice from my college roommate when she came to visit me two weeks after I had my daughter. She had finally fallen asleep in her swinging chair thingy (the baby, not the roommate). I was about to relax when I noticed the time and limped up off the couch to wake her.

"What are you doing???" shrieked my friend.

"I have to wake her up and feed her again," I groaned.

"Never wake a sleeping baby!"

Ah. Apparently I had a been a bit too quick to comply with the La Leche League. We had had some trouble with "latching on" that required a trip back to the hospital. The La Leche ladies were helpful, but in exchange I was expected to agree to some very strict instructions. Dead tired, I didn't bother to do the math. Enter my old friend (thank goodness) who helped me realize that if I nursed for forty minutes every two hours, I would only ever have an hour and twenty minutes to sleep. No wonder I was so tired.

3. Forget your "To Do" list.

Your only job is to take care of your baby and yourself. Thank you notes will keep. So will household chores (do princesses have any?). And working out. And reading. As long as the baby is fed and clean and safe and sound, everything else can go to you-know-where. If you've ever wondered what it's like to simply veg, this is the time to find out.

At this point, I should probably explain that I am no "guru." My advice is based on my own experience. I myself didn't veg out  at all. Every afternoon, I took a one-hour walk with my new baby snuggled in the Snugli. The result? I lost the baby weight. Good. BUT, I was perpetually tired and my daughter never learned to nap in her crib. Not good.

Chillax, Kate, chillax.

2. Remember, this is not a competition.

Very soon you and your baby will start hanging out with other new families. And, very very soon you will start comparing notes. Which baby rolls over first? Sleeps through the night first? Eats a Cheerio, smiles or gurgles a word first? Blah blah blah.

Bear in mind that babies develop at different speeds. This is not a race. And if some other mother's bragging becomes completely insufferable, just smile. Given your little prince or princess' future plans, it's probably better if he or she doesn't peak too soon.

And my final, most important bit of advice?

1. Hold on to every precious moment.

Even with all the support in the world, you're about to experience a rocky road of fatigue and emotion. Just hold your baby tight. You will eventually get a good night's sleep. You will eventually get that pretty figure back. You will eventually have a life that doesn't revolve around bottles and diapers and baby wipes.

But, you'll never get these sweet early days again. Enjoy them. I tell most moms to take lots of pictures, but you won't have to.

The world will take them for you.

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