1) Pregnancy is really great unless it's not. I know some women love being pregnant, feel wonderful for nine months and have that "pregnancy glow," but I secretly think that the "pregnancy glow" is code for looking tired because you can't sleep and have to get up to use the bathroom 18 times a day.
2) Your baby bump will probably be a baby bus by your ninth month and that's normal. I gained less than 30lbs during my first pregnancy and I was frequently asked if I was having twins. The askers thought it was hilarious. I did not.
3) You will look six months pregnant immediately after you give birth, no matter how well you ate. Considering the latest in pop culture, maybe I should name this the "Jessica Rule." Unless you are Jessica Alba, try not to be as surprised as Jessica Simpson that the baby weight doesn't disappear when the baby comes out.
4) Breastfeeding is really easy and really hard. I had a pretty easy time breastfeeding both of my kids: They latched on well, they ate quickly and ate a lot, but it was still trying and painful the first few weeks. It takes effort and dedication to breastfeed when you're tired and recovering and--despite that dedication and effort--sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work out. If you decide to (or have to) stop nursing, it doesn't mean you're not a dedicated mother. It's better for a baby to have a sane mother feeding a baby formula than it is to have a frustrated, exhausted mother resenting breastfeeding. Most of my generation was brought up on formula and we all turned out okay.
5) Sleep when the baby sleeps. Sure, everyone says that, but who wants to go to sleep at 5pm? You do, because your cutie-pie is going to be up all night and you'll need some rest to handle it. I resisted sleeping sometimes because I wanted to be with my husband and visiting family, but in reality, I needed the sleep. If you want to take good care of your family, you have to take care of yourself first.
6)Mom is in charge of input (milk) Dad is in charge of output (diapers). This rule set up a very clear division of labor the first few weeks after delivery. I nursed Monkey and my husband, who had never before changed a diaper, changed almost every single one of Monkey's diapers for the first 10 days. It bought me time when Monkey woke up an hour (I could have sworn it was a minute) after I had fed him in the middle of the night and it gave my husband a task that allowed him to talk to and get familiar with his new little boy.
7) Put Dad in charge of bathtime. Many dads love their newborns, but don't really know what to do with them. A lot of moms need a break, but don't know which task to delegate. Enter baby bathtime! After that last little piece of umbilical cord falls off, give Dad the task of bath time every evening. It's a concrete task with simple steps: undress the baby, put the baby in warm water and gently clean him off, cuddle and dress the baby. Although a majority of TV commercials imply all men are incapable of managing their children, they can handle bathtime all by themselves.
8) You have a mother's instinct. Use it. Even if you've never been into kids before or held a baby in your life, you have a mother's instinct and you should trust it. That doesn't mean you'll know what the baby wants every time it cries, but it does mean you'll figure it out. If someone is telling you your kids aren't sick when you think they are, find out more. If you think your child needs to an extra hug, give it. You--and your partner--will slowly figure out what is best by listening to your heart and your gut.
9) You will feel like a pack mule for the next three to five years. First, you find yourself hauling a bulging diaper bag, then their push toys they no longer want to push and soon you'll be able to balance two kids and the 96 items you didn't know you needed from Target. This might only be true for city moms who walk all over the place, but I think suburban moms probably carry their share of backpacks and leftover goldfish snack containers too.
10) You have the right to change your mind. Every day. Parenting is about evolving. One day you feel great about going back to work and two months later you decide it's not for you, that's okay. You tried cloth diapers and decided you didn't like them? Switch to disposable. You're against sleep training until surviving ten days straight without sleep? Go ahead and sleep train. Do what you think is best until you decide otherwise and remember that the person who will judge your change of heart most harshly is you.
11) Mommy wars don't exist in real life. I belong to a mother's group that has 700 members and hosts discussions (in person and on our message boards) about every single hot-topic known to parenting: breastfeeding vs bottle, to sleep train or not, working full time vs part time vs staying home. I can count on ONE hand the number of times that members have been judgmental of another mother in their comments in the last four years. I've had nothing but good experiences with other moms and can't think of an instance where I felt publicly judged, even in cases of vastly different parenting styles. There have been, however, countless instances where mothers have received help, toys, food, babysitting and advice from other moms, some of whom didn't even know each other. Ignore the media, and believe in the goodness of your fellow parents.