"Don't believe everything you hear" applies to new motherhood, too!
One unexpected shock of having a baby is discovering how much misinformation, or plain lack of information, abounds about pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. The process of becoming a parent seems mysterious from the outside, so misconceptions about it run rife.
Some of these are obviously false (no, the stork doesn’t brings babies), but others persist to the extent that they’ve become embedded in popular culture. These are some of the most common myths about pregnancy and new motherhood, and the truth behind the legends.
1Some saltine crackers or a little ginger ale can cure your morning sickness.
This statement has some truth behind it, but isn’t entirely accurate. For one thing, “morning” sickness is a laughably inaccurate term, as pregnant women may feel ill at any time of day or night; in fact, many feel sickest in the evening, after a long and tiring day. At least there is solidarity in knowing you’re not alone: As many as 90% of all pregnant women experience some degree of nausea or vomiting during pregnancy.
It is true that ginger is touted as a natural remedy to relieve nausea, but many women find that it doesn’t help the “all day sickness” of pregnancy. Vitamin B6 is another option, but if that’s not cutting it, some doctors prescribe Diclegis, an FDA-approved prescription medication that makes a night-and-day difference for many women.
The good news is that crackers or other mild foods actually may help, since an empty stomach seems to be a trigger for feeling nauseated. But any other food will work just as well, as long as you can keep it down and the smell doesn’t make you gag. Unfortunately none of this will help the 3% of pregnant women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, who can’t keep food down at all, and experience such severe vomiting that they often require IV fluids and hospitalization.
2You'll have your baby on your due date.
Did you know pregnancy is not actually nine months long? Not only that, but the length of gestation can differ from woman to woman. It’s normal and safe for a baby to be born any time between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy—a span of five weeks.
The time when you expect a baby to be born really should be called your “due month,” especially given that only 4% of babies are born on their due dates.
3Your water will suddenly break in public and you'll have to rush madly to the hospital.
Many women are afraid of the embarrassment of their waters breaking in public, but only 15% of women have their membranes rupture at all before labor begins. On top of that, early labor can go on for hours or even days. Even once contractions intensify, active labor lasts 4-8 hours on average, so most women will have plenty of time to get to the hospital; in fact, many women use the hours in early labor as a chance to pack their bags or finish up any final tasks before the birth.
It’s true that some women do have wildly fast labors, leading to those stories of babies born in bathtubs or parking lots or by the side of the road. But this is not the norm. There’s actually a medical term for those shockingly quick births—precipitous labor—and it occurs in only 3% of pregnancies. Given that first-time labors are notoriously long and slow, there’s little need for concern that a first-time mom won’t make it to the hospital in time.
4If you do all the right things, birth will go exactly the way you want it to.
There are so many products and techniques out there that promise to support the peaceful, natural, empowering birth of your dreams. Hypnobabies, prenatal Pilates, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, daily stretches and inversions, hiring a doula, Webster technique chiropractic care, birthing with midwives instead of OB/GYNs, declining labor induction and epidurals … the list is endless. It’s tempting to think that you can guarantee a certain outcome if you do everything “right.”
But the truth is you can do all of those things (and more!) and still end up having a c-section. Or you might go into labor planning to get an epidural, but the baby comes too fast. Or you might have a pre-term birth, or pre-eclampsia, or a breech baby, or any of a number of other complications. So much about how a birth goes is simply luck of the draw.
If there’s one thing that’s true about parenting, it’s that there are no guarantees. Things (often!) don’t go the way you expected or planned. Birth is a crash course in that lesson. But this can be an opportunity to accept and lean into God’s will for you and your baby.
5Breastfeeding is natural, so it'll be easy to do from the start.
Yes, breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. Many women have a difficult start to breastfeeding, with complications ranging from tongue ties that make nursing painful to low supply that leaves your baby hungry. Fortunately, there are ample resources to educate and support women who want to breastfeed: You can read books offering helpful tips and strategies, and join local support groups all over the world.
It’s also okay if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you. Your worth as a mother is not tied to how your baby is fed, just as it’s not tied to how your birth goes. No one can tell if a child was breastfed or formula-fed, and honestly, in a few years the kids will be eating stale Goldfish crackers off the floor of the car when you’re not looking anyway.
So much of parenting is outside your control, but there are two important things you can control: your attitude, and showering your baby with love. As much as you can, nourish Christ’s peace in your soul, and just love that baby. Those might be the only things that really matter anyway.