Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Preparing for Birth, Part 5

Include your husband

Keep him in the loop. If he’s not able or willing to attend appointments with you, make sure you tell him what the doctor said. Discuss options with him. You’ll do a lot better if you have his presence and support, and he’ll be much better able to help and support you if he knows what’s going on. Remember, he never has and never will be pregnant or give birth, so all he has to go on is what you tell him! One thing that was especially helpful to Billy was understanding the stages of labor. You know, “OK, this must be transition!”

Know what you want and stick to your guns

While I try to be an easy, undemanding patient, there are some things I’m not going to budge on, barring actual danger to me or the baby. (I’m not stupid—I do want my baby to be safe.) These non-negotiables will vary from person to person, so just know ahead of time what they are so you’re prepared to stick up for yourself. Again, remember that the doctor works for you.

Keep the goal in mind

Remember that pregnancy and birth aren’t ends in themselves…They are the means of bringing forth a tiny new life, an eternal soul made in the image of God. Even if all doesn’t go according to your plans and dreams, the end result is a precious baby. You are partnering with God in a holy experience!


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Preparing for Birth, Part 4

Keep a good attitude

To be honest, I hate being pregnant. It’s not fun, it’s uncomfortable, I feel fat and unattractive, and I’ve had some pretty low times during pregnancy as well. But when I’m pregnant, I can choose not to focus on the bad, and instead remember that this isn’t about me and my feelings, it isn’t about being pregnant in and of itself, it’s about the creation of a priceless new life.

Don’t listen to horror stories

Ignore people who want to tell you how terrible their births were. Don’t troll the internet reading bad birth stories. Don’t watch Baby Story. (Sorry if you love it. I just can’t imagine that it would be helpful…But that’s me.) Birth is a natural, wonderful experience which can go well most of the time. Listening to scary stories will only open the door for fear. If you must, kindly but firmly say, “I’d rather not hear horror stories,” and change the subject.

Pray for birth and baby

Strangely enough, I realized midway through my pregnancy with Sarah that although I was spending a lot of time worrying, I had spent very little time praying over my baby, my pregnancy, and my birth. I had to remedy that quickly. It sounds silly that I didn’t think to do that, I know. But somehow I did…I believe prayer is essential for the optimal experience.


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Preparing for Birth, Part 3


Write a birth plan

Think about your specific desires for your birth and put them on paper. Give one to your doctor for your file, and send one to the hospital well before your estimated due date. That way it is clear, in black and white, what your wishes are. It lets the hospital staff know that you have thought through your birth and that you are informed.

Here and here are good places to learn more about making your birth plan.


Practice relaxation

The more you can relax, the less painful your birth will be. My goal was to give birth naturally, without pain meds, but even if you plan to have an epidural, learning to relax will help you manage labor as it becomes more intense. In the months leading up to my birth I practiced relaxing when I lay in bed at night…from head to toe…every muscle…limp as a rag doll…breathed deeply, imitating sleep. For more complete instructions on how to do this, see one of the excellent books available on the Bradley method of childbirth, or take a Bradley class. Here’s a great article online about relaxing during childbirth. I’m not strong willed enough that sheer determination could make me get through birth without pain meds. However, relaxing has helped me learn to manage the pain. I can honestly say that with Sarah’s birth (my 3rd) I never reached what I’d consider my pain threshold. Yes, it hurt, but I didn’t get the point where I thought, there’s no way I can take any more.

Read, read, read–be informed

Some great books to prepare for birth and after are:

Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley (somewhat outdated…I’ve heard that more current Bradley method books are better…the original book still has tons of useful information though)

The Complete Well Pregnancy Book by Mike and Nancy Samuels

Parent Project by Dr. William Sears (and pretty much anything else in print or online by Dr. Sears…my only caution is that I think he’s a bit of a softy on toddler discipline…But his info on baby care is fabulous.)

Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley (Even if you aren’t interested in spacing children through ecological breastfeeding, this book is a great help in understanding how your body works during lactation.)

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International


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Preparing for Birth, Part 2

Find a doctor you’re comfortable with

Do not, I repeat, do not settle for someone you aren’t comfortable with unless you absolutely must. Just because you started going to one does not mean you can’t find a different doctor. Of course, if you switch too late in pregnancy it’s harder to find someone who will take you on, but probably not impossible.

When I got pregnant for the first time, I thought I wanted a woman doctor. I tried one and she was awful. So I switched to a grandfatherly, experienced, laid-back gentleman who had delivered a zillion babies. He was the best. When I moved to Shreveport, that’s what I looked for again. I asked around until I heard of someone that sounded like a good fit. As it turned out, he was.

My OB’s whom I’ve been certain have a personal relationship with Christ have been the best experiences. I feel more comfortable with someone who believes in the power of prayer, will hopefully be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and exhibits the grace of Christ in his life.

My sister and other friends have used midwives for low risk pregnancies. Honestly, the testimonies of moms who have gone this route lead me to believe that their prenatal care has been far superior to mine. However, there are no midwives in our area that I know of, even if my husband would go for it–which is unlikely! 🙂

Find a doctor your husband is comfortable with

Even if your husband doesn’t go with you to every appointment, I believe it’s a good idea for him to at least meet the doctor near the beginning of the pregnancy. Your husband will more than likely be with you during the birth and he’s the one who will probably make decisions if you should become incapacitated (an unlikely scenario, but worth considering). If your husband acts as your support and coach, he will be interacting with the medical staff a great deal. Things run much more smoothly if he has a good relationship with your OB–and especially if he respects him (or her). It will be stressful for you if your husband and the doctor have a personality clash or if they have a tense relationship for some other reason. That said, as your advocate, your husband may at some time have to be more confrontational–but if he and the doctor mutually respect each other, conflicts work out much better.

Remember, the doctor works for you

I have great respect for medical professionals who are well-trained to help people and save lives, and I’ve interacted with a number of wonderful doctors. Nevertheless, I’m a bit leery of the medical profession because I’ve seen a lot of playing God among doctors. A nurse told me recently that she was told point blank in nursing school that a great deal of the time doctors are just guessing at diagnosis. So be informed, do your own research, and remember that the doctor is working for you in this natural process of birth. Again, I’m grateful for doctors who save so many lives, but in low risk situations, understand your options and stand your ground. In short, don’t be bullied by a doctor or medical staff.

A personal example: Unless my baby is in distress, I won’t be induced. Do I get pressure? Of course. But having done the research, I believe that for me—barring a medical emergency—baby should come when he or she is good and ready. Having my third birth at just 2 hours of active labor and the fourth at around 3 hours solidifies my view even more. I believe it’s easier when nature takes its course, and I’m willing to take a stand for this. Your non-negotiables might be different–this certainly isn’t a statement against those who feel it’s necessary to induce–But I’m just saying that when you have a personal issue about which you feel strongly, don’t feel pressured to do something against your better judgment.

Use a birth environment you’re comfortable with

If you’re having a hospital birth, find a doctor who delivers in a hospital with a good reputation. My doctor for babies 2 and 3 mainly delivered at a huge, usually overcrowded hospital that frankly has a reputation for inadequate care. (Blunt version: We heard horror stories.) However, he personally has a stellar record and was willing and able to deliver at the small Catholic hospital down the street. That’s what we chose, and the care has been personal and excellent.

Of course there are other options too: birth centers and home. While there aren’t any options locally that I know of, I have friends and family members who have had babies at home and at qualified birth centers in other places with great results. Seek the guidance of God and determine with your husband where you should deliver. My mom friend Jenny (who has birthed 8 babies at home) reminded me, “Jesus is in the hospital too.” My hospital births have been great, but I attribute it mainly to choosing good ones and being informed and proactive. And I believe that God has led us to the places where he wanted me to give birth.


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Preparing for Birth, Part 1

When I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I got a phone call from an old friend. Actually Jenny was more friends with my mom than me at that time. The oldest of her 7 (now 8 ) children are just a bit younger than me. Jenny calls herself a “baby groupie.” She loves to talk about birth and babies. The express purpose of her call was to rejoice with me and encourage me about how to have a successful pregnancy and birth. I learned so much in that one hour conversation! I’ve come to understand since then that most doctors don’t tell you much about the birth process or how to get ready for it. Many women go into labor fairly unprepared.

Since I just had a baby and so many people I know are pregnant right now, I thought I’d jot down a few things that have been helpful for me in preparing for birth, things women like Jenny have told me and things I’ve learned from reading and having 4 babies of my own. Look for the other 4 parts to this series over the next week or two!

Don’t be afraid

The Bible tells us not to fear 366 times, I’m told, one for each day of the year and and extra one for leap year! As expectant mothers, I think it’s common to worry over our little one inside. Will the baby be OK? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t manage the pain? What if I’m a bad mother? Trust God. He wants us to be at peace. He is Lord over birth just as over every other part of life.

Meditate

I was especially overwhelmed with the temptation to fear during my third pregnancy. As an antidote, I meditated on Psalm 139 for weeks before her birth. Ahhh…Sweet peace…

Eat well

Did you know that it’s believed that a child’s palate is influenced by what you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding? Aside from that, healthy foods result in a healthier baby and a mama who’s in better shape after birth. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I was pregnant with Elizabeth, and I have to say that I was overwhelmed by all they said you had to eat. They even included instructions for how to stuff yourself with all the required servings if you were full. Now I’m no doctor or nutritionist, but my personal opinion is that it’s more about what you eat than how much. If you have an excellent diet, I don’t understand why you should max out your calorie intake just to squeeze that extra dairy serving in. Personally, I focused more on general healthy eating and didn’t worry so much about counting servings.

(Um, I should be honest for a second here and admit that if the part about in utero diet affecting preferences is true, then Grace, my fourth, will probably be addicted to peanut M&M’s.)

Exercise

Birth is the hardest work you’ll ever do. You’ll perform better if you’re fit. One book likens it to training for a marathon.

When I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I hadn’t exercised in awhile, so I started with just 5 minutes. The next week, 10. By the end of the second trimester I was exercising about 45 minutes day and I was in the best shape of my life (except my abs, for some reason…*G*). I had a very successful, though long, first birth, and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a week. (Yeah, blows me away too. That never happened again!)

Subsequent pregnancies I simply haven’t had the time or ability to exercise that intensely. It really worried me at first, but someone encouraged me that the strength would be there when I needed it. It was. I do think that if you can work out vigorously (using common sense and the green light from your doc of course), that’s great. But if a brisk walk is all you can do, that’s great too. The bottom line: just get moving.