So you’ve decided that you’d like to have a baby. Or decided that you’d like another. What now? Do you just have lots of sex and wait for the day the two lines appear on a wee covered stick? Just see what the universe has to offer? Well…as a doula that’s not what I’d recommend. Becoming parents is a BIG thing. It comes with some massive physical changes and can be an emotional rollercoaster. I know women who spend countless hours and thousands of dollars preparing for “just one day in their life” (their wedding) who are very quick to remind me that birth is “just one day”. But birth can have some very far reaching impacts on the health and wellbeing of babies, mothers and family units. It is well worth putting some time and thought into how you will prepare for this momentous journey.
This post was inspired by my good friend and colleague, Jenna, over at Footprints and Rainbows. She wrote an awesome article 11 important things to help make your pregnancy and birth happier and healthier and more empowering (I highly recommend you have a read of this and her other articles!) and I wanted to add my own spin to some of Jenna’s ideas. My partner and I are looking at trying to conceive (ttc) in about 6 months, so this is very relevant to me at the moment.
Jenna’s article can be found here: http://footprintsandrainbows.weebly.com/footprints–rainbows-doula-blog/mon-jun-23-2014
I’m going to condense the first 5 points into two – see a physiotherapist and see a dietician. Exercising and eating well are really important during pregnancy and it’s a great idea to start before pregnancy (okay – it’s a great idea to do it all the freaking time…). However advice on just what is “healthy” can be conflicting. People recommend all sorts of special exercises and supplements and eating plans without knowing a whole lot about your individual circumstances. It’s a great idea to see an “expert” who can take your history and talk through any issues and help you set up a plan that is relevant to you. A dietician can help you increase your protein and iron intake (if necessary), recommend supplements if you appear to be at risk of nutritional deficiencies and help you work in your favourite meals and snacks so you don’t feel deprived. A physiotherapist can be great to make sure your body is aligned and strong, can help you work through any back issues (trust me, pregnancy does nothing to help your back!), can assist with helping to strengthen your pelvic floor and can recommend a personal trainer to work on an exercise program with you. As a bonus most health funds will cover part of your physio and dietician fees. I’m presently seeing a personal trainer once a week to work on strength (and socialise with a good friend!) and plan to see a dietician soon.
I’m going to condense a few of Jenna’s points into point 11 – RESEARCH!!! And then do a little bit of reading, a bit of thinking, a bit of googling, a bit of chatting to others, join a facebook group, and then do more RESEARCH! Let’s look at this in points:
Decide what sort of birth you want – elective caesarean, social induction, intervention free waterbirth. Okay – write out your perfect birth (yes…we are assuming that you want a healthy baby and mumma…write out all the other stuff that makes the birth “perfect”). Now research care providers in your area and see who wants to help provide the birth experience you are after. So many women don’t do this and they end up feeling let down or bullied at 40 weeks when they find out that their care provider doesn’t support their birth plan. So I’ll give you a hint: If you want an elective caesarean then an independent midwife who attends homebirths isn’t going to be your best option. If you want an intervention free waterbirth then a private hospital with an intervention rate of 95% and a ban on waterbirth probably isn’t going to get you the birth you want. Decide what you want, then find someone to provide the service. Sounds simple but so many women do it the other way around and find they are disappointed.
Learn about pregnancy and birth. Specifically learn about the type of birth you want! Learn the Benefits, risks and alternatives to all the commonly used interventions and tests – Glucose tolerance test (GTT), ultrasounds, induction, epidural etc. If you know about how birth works and how these interventions impact on birth then you will be in a better position if your care provider suggests something outside of your plan. You will know what information you need in order to feel that you have made an informed decision. And it is really important to remember that YOU are the decision maker – so it’s great to make sure your decisions are informed!
I love Jenna’s point about looking after yourself. Pamper yourself and relax as much as possible. Enjoy some massages. Get out in the sunshine and fresh air. Go to the beach. Play with your other children. I’ve been working on making more time to play outside with my kids. We also try to have a family “adventure” once a week where we go for a drive in the countryside or to the zoo or the beach. Also make sure you have time with your partner – get a babysitter every now and then and just hang out or do something enjoyable together.
Which leads to my next point – Have LOTS of sex! Yes – even while you’re still on birth control. Practise makes perfect, it’s a great way to relax and reconnect with your partner, good exercise and if your libido has taken a nose dive recently then you will be pleased to know that, generally, the more sex you have the more you want. So have an aim to be doing it at least 3 times a week by the time you are ttc. You won’t regret it!
I would like to add an extra point for anyone who has birthed before. It can be a great idea to reflect over your previous birthing journey. Some women need to heal from previous traumatic experiences. It can be a good idea to do this prior to ttc. Seek help from a psychologist or birth trauma counsellor. It can also be very useful to get your file from your previous birth and go over it with an independent midwife who can help you to process everything that happened and also talk about the impact your previous birth might have on the next. If your first birth was a positive experience it can be a worthwhile activity to reflect on just what made it a positive experience and whether that is something that you can ensure you have next time.
My final point in preparing to start ttc. Get a DOULA!!!! A lot of doulas will do a pre-conception appointment with you to help you work through all of the above points. This can be an awesome way to get your birthing journey off to the best start possible!
It is really important to remember that having a baby is not “just one day”. It’s a huge journey starting from the moment you decide you want to embark on it. It’s really important to prepare for a great birth – don’t leave your baby’s birth to chance.