What I’d tell a pregnant friend

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Recently got news about the pregnancy of two friends. I’m thrilled for them, and also wondering when – if at all – I’ll be invited to talk all things pregnancy, birth and post-birth with them. Compared to my earlier evangelism, I recognize more clearly now that my way isn’t always right, that I have gaps of ignorance, that the way I would do it doesn’t work for everyone. On the other hand, I have some strong knowledge/beliefs (which are they? hard to say!) based on my reading and personal experience about some things that are generally useful, generally helpful to know, often a bit outside of the mainstream and worth being exposed to to ensure an optimal experience. For those who are curious: here’s my no-longer-obsessive, general all-purpose advice for pregnant friends.

Note: I am not an expert, this is not medical advice, please back up my ideas with your own reading and make choices that are right for you. These are ideas that were helpful to me – or that, in retrospect, I wish I’d applied earlier :).

What not to read: What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

What to read: books that affirm that birth is a natural process and provide the knowledge and inspiration to be an active participant in one’s birth. I LOVE anything by Ina May Gaskin. Her older books (e.g., Spiritual Midwifery) also include so many stories of birth, mainly positive, all real, that helped me keep grounded and calm and excited about my approaching birth.

Also: mothering.com for perspectives on natural approaches to pregnancy, birth and life post-birth.

What to Watch: The Business of Being Born. In under 2 hours you’ll be educated about the business of birth in America. You’ll learn how it is medicalized, the cascade of interventions that leads too often to C-sections and assorted complications.

What to worry about: don’t. Stress is probably the worst thing for you and the baby. However, if you’re stressed, don’t worry about that either – you and baby will probably survive.

What to eat: healthy food and some not-healthy food if you want it. Just, overall, do the best you can, organic where possible, enough protein, definitely Vitamin D (healthy supplementation reduces premature labour), folic acid, Omega 3s, avoid sugar & coffee. I would say definitely no alcohol or cigarettes. I know there are other recommendations, and learn about them for sure

What to do: moderate exercise. Sleep lots. Eat lots. Declutter your home as thoroughly as possible. Automate as many of the activities in your life as possible, and centralize all administrative information (you do not want to be scrambling through piles of paper for urgent bank information while trying to breastfeed exhausted). Prepare or have friends prepare lots of freezer meals or a meal train or dried foods or anything that you can eat quickly and easily. Pick some names, and have a baby book on hand (it took us almost a month to settle on a name though we had lists ahead of time. The book helped). Arrange for LOTS OF HELP around the house post-birth. You will want someone to do the most basic of things because you may not be up for it. Thank God for my mother!!

Also: go to at least one La Leche League meeting and ask about their best tips for birth and initiating breastfeeding success. If you’re not planning to breastfeed, learn more about it and consider it. If your first LLL meeting isn’t a success, try another. I wish I’d been in touch with them earlier.

What not to do: shop for lots of baby things. Plan your get-back-to-shape routine. Arrange lots of outings and get-togethers in the first weeks after birth.

What to buy: not much. I wish we had had: a stroller (the most basic of strollers); a newborn baby carrier (e.g., Ergo with a baby insert; a Moby wrap or something similar) which would have made life SO MUCH BETTER from the start; some long sleeved (or short-sleeved if you’re warm blooded & live in a warm climate) stretchy V-neck tops for easy breastfeeding access. Also some newborn diapers. Their bums are TINY! Lots of receiving blankets, a few clothes, seasonal outer garments and you’re about done. Check out Minimalist Mom on my links list for her book on minimalism & babies for a more complete rundown.

How to prepare for birth: Make a birth plan. Recognize it might not go exactly as you want, but prepare it, on your own and with your partner, with your care provider, and make sure there’s good understanding there about what you want. You can strive for ideal, but in the thick of things it’s harder to remember what you want and why.

Work through The Pink Kit (from New Zealand) and learn about amazing techniques to map your pelvis and relax during birth. Seriously was incredibly helpful for me!

Sleep. Eat. Breathe. Relax. Create a calm environment in your home. Talk with your baby about the amazing journey you’re about to go through together. Take a bit of time to finish off a few things that you really feel you need to before giving birth. Think about this transition, and accept that you will never be fully ready. Enjoy.

I know there’s more, but I have a baby who’s been playing so nicely with her dad and I think she’s ready for some mom time. I’ll post more videos & resources as I think of them.

Finally, as an aside, the saddest comment of the day, from an about-to-be new dad, regarding preparing for the baby: “The room’s almost ready.” Instant heart drop. I fully acknowledge my bias towards keeping babies close to their parents – particularly the mother – to ease their transition into this world. I hope that the reality of new parenthood means that that room remains as a beautifully decorated storage area rather than a bedroom for a long, long time.

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