By Ana Paula Markel, Founder of Bini Birth
It can be confusing to discern through the many advices (solicited or not) you receive when expecting a baby.
In my years as an educator and doula, I have seen people thrive and struggle and I have come to the conclusion that becoming a parent involves deep exploration of your own self and incredible transformation. The individuality of parents-to-be expands to make space for their own definition of family and a fresh identity. Change is good, and change is hard.
Here are tips to help you thrive:
1) Tune in
Honor your body and its ability to nourish and grow a human being. You are providing a safe physical, mental and spiritual space for this baby to grow; Through all these changes it is important to slow down, center yourself and connect with your own wisdom and energy within. During pregnancy everybody wants to give you advice, some are solicited but most are not. Most of the time the answers to what is best for you and your baby is already in you. As humans and mammals, our intuitive knowledge, also known as mother’s intuition, guides us. Use your breath to tune out external noise and tune in with yourself and your baby.
2) Embrace Honest Parenting from Early on
Parenting starts during pregnancy because babies in utero are able to communicate. You can play music and dance with your baby, massage your belly as you talk to your little one or meditate intentionally. Relationships are built on trust and good communication and not all moments of pregnancy are filled with joy and certainty. Parents to be often worry about passing on negative energy to their babies. Your baby does not expect a parent that is in a good mood at all times, but they do benefit from a parent who is honest. Identify, name and release negative emotions. Share with your baby how you feel and let them know your love for them is independent of your mood.
3) Perk up and LOOK UP
The way you carry yourself affects how you see the world and how the world sees you. Blood volume doubles in pregnancy and internal organs shift to make room for a growing uterus which by the end of pregnancy can grow up to 30 times from its original size. That comes with some aches and pains, and often pregnant people wobble around. Prenatal yoga, swimming, pilates and exercise in general that involves a balance between stretching and strengthening will help to create space in your spine, build muscles and help to improve your posture, which will certainly help with some of discomfort and improve your confidence.
4) Look into your Options
If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. Most uncertainty in pregnancy comes from not having your questions answered appropriately and not feeling heard. What is the most important aspect of your pregnancy and birth besides safety of mother/birthing person and baby? How do you envision your birth? Where do you see your birth to be the most fulfilling? The best place for a person to give birth is where they feel safest. Visit hospitals and learn about their policies. Interview different providers, ask friends and read reviews. Research says being heard and being part of the decision-making process in your care impacts birth satisfaction rates more than the kind of birth you have.
5) Know your Sources
There is a lot of whacky doodle information out there. Look for research and evidence in reliable sources such as World Health Organization, The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Association of Certified Nurse Midwives, LAMAZE and DONA International.
6) Find your People
A sense of community in times of change is very important. Our ancestors knew how to gather and not only learn from but also support each other. Attending childbirth and parenting classes will not only give you all the information you need but also provide a sense of community. Virtual communities help as well, but you benefit most from in person exchange.
7) You do You
The best childbirth and parenting method is YOURS. Some people feel safer with technology in prenatal Care, labor/birth and parenting. Others choose a more holistic approach. It’s hard to ignore the great advances in modern medicine and at the same time, it seems that when it comes to childbirth, there is a tendency to over emphasize medications and technology without much balance that considers the fact that most of the time childbirth is a process your body already knows how to do. If someone chooses medical pain relief for labor they should never be judged or criticized, and on the same note, if someone wants to explore unmedicated childbirth, they should be given the opportunity to do so with support and a safe environment.
It is important to understand your options, alternatives and circumstances. Don’t be shy to ask questions. It is important to have a trusting relationship with your provider and make decisions with them that are safe, individual for your preferences and without comparing to other people’s experiences.
8) Team work is Dream work
Besides your provider and partner (if you have one) choose who are your support people. Your go-to folks, the ones you admire and actually want to hear from. Then decide to what capacity each of these individuals can help. Most people want to help but they may not know how. Do not be afraid to ask for specifics. And if you don’t have a strong group of people around you, hire them. Consider birth and postpartum doulas, food delivery services that will bring home-cooked meals, cleaning professionals, etc. If you can’t afford some of these services, consider adding that to your baby shower registry.
9) Let the Good Times Roll
In the midst of so many decisions, one may forget to have fun and enjoy this special time in life. Take a break from your to-do list and enjoy a day at the beach, a silly movie, a concert, a date, a massage, or a longer shower. Your children want happy parents not perfect parents, and taking time to do things that make you happy is also part of being a good parent because ultimately your kids will follow much more of what they see you do then what you say to them, so model self-care and joyful parenting.