When my oldest daughter was born, everything I knew about myself got turned inside-out and upside-down. You see, I grew up as a competitive swimmer; I swam through college, ran marathons, even did a 7-day bike tour through the Rocky Mountains. When I got pregnant, I kept up with my regular yoga practice and threw in a walk or two here or there. Being athletic my whole life, I sort of developed the mindset of "why walk when I can run?" To me, walking was something older people or non-athletes did. As my pregnancy progressed, I naively planned on bouncing back right after birth because, "I was in shape".
I went into labor with an innocent confidence, and I emerged shaky and unsure of who I was and what I was doing.
Then I gave birth. It was harder than I anything I'd ever done. I give birth like I swim... long and steady. I was a distance swimmer, but no workout or training session could ever come close to what it was like for me to give birth. I went into labor with an innocent confidence, and I emerged shaky and unsure of who I was, and what I was doing. (I've come to understand this is a very common feeling for new moms. In fact, the very act of giving birth must transform you from a maiden to a mother... no small feat. But that's another blog post!) I was sore all over, I couldn't sit down, and every inch of me was swollen from the IV fluids I was given during labor. Suddenly, this body which had seen me through years of swim practice, two marathons, a bike tour, a rigorous yoga practice, and THREE days of labor had had enough. My plan of "bouncing back" was now a distant memory. Whatever idea I had of regaining my old self was gone. I realized that the one thing I'd poo-poo'd for so long, was the one thing I had to do. I needed to move, and the only way I could do that, was to walk.
I remember that first walk at about five days postpartum. We got the baby bundled up in her stroller and headed out. It was a beautiful day and I just wanted to do something that would make me feel like my old self. By the time we slowly made it to the end of the block, I was exhausted and felt like my insides were falling out. It took all I had to make it back home to the waiting couch. The next day, we walked to the end of the block again. I was still tired, but it didn't hurt as much. Slowly, we walked a little further... and a little further. Two blocks. Three. Around the lake. Around the park.
There was something in those daily walks that called to the deepest, most familiar part of me. The part I was afraid I was never going to know again. These walks became my refuge and my meditation.
I began to look forward to my daily walk. Sometimes my husband would join me, but most of the time it was just me and my baby. In those early days, our walk was the biggest outing of our day. By the time she was changed, fed, and changed again, we would head out. Some days it took an hour before we could leave the house. But I kept going. There was something in those daily walks that called to the deepest, most familiar part of me - the part I was afraid I was never going to know again. These walks became my refuge and my meditation.
I began to feel like a mother.
When my husband went back to teaching after his paternity leave was over, I felt lost again. We had taught together for six years, so now that I was home with a newborn, I didn't know what to do. Thankfully, I knew I could get outside and take a walk - every day. It was on these walks that I began to feel more comfortable as a mother. People would see me in the park, and to them I was just a regular mom. They didn't see me the way I saw myself: as a fake, trying to pass myself off as someone I wasn't. They didn't think, "Oh there's that gal who thinks she's a mom, but really doesn't know what she's doing!". Nope, they didn't care. And I gave myself some space to try on my "new mom suit". I got more comfortable when my baby cried and I realized I knew what to do to soothe her. I knew what her rhythms were like, and when she'd be getting hungry. As I began to feel more comfortable as a mother, I began to see my baby as a new little person with a personality. On these postpartum walks I noticed subtle nuances, like what would make her smile. I began to feel like a mother.
Not every day was an easy day to go for a walk. There were plenty of times when I wanted to bag the whole thing. This is where my dear friend Ashley stepped in. I knew Ashley from yoga, and we were neighbors, but not really close friends. She had a baby who was about a year older than my daughter. We realized we had a common need to get outside, and that we also needed each other for motivation. On those hard days, I would call her, or she would call me and say, "I'm heading out." Sometimes, just knowing that there was someone waiting for me at the end of the block, was what I needed to get out the door. Even on those hard days, I always felt better after walking. I never regretted going, or said, "Eh, I should have stayed home today." Not once.
I am a walker and proud of it!
This spring it will be twelve years since those first hard walks with my daughter. I have swum only a handful of laps (and only in the summer when I can do it outside), jogged even less miles, and modified my yoga practice. But one thing that hasn't changed is my appreciation and love for walking. I no longer see it as something that other people do. No. I am a walker and proud of it!
Nothing like a good quote from Harry Potter to get you thinking about birth! But that's exactly what happened last week when I came across this quote. It pretty much sums up how I hope my doula clients and Birthing from Within students feel after working with me to prepare for their birth.
Hagrid says this to Harry Potter and his friends when they were anxious about eminent action from Harry's nemesis, Voldmort. Harry was trying to figure out HOW Voldemort was going to appear, WHEN Voldemort would appear, WHERE Voldemort would appear etc. Hagrid, speaking from experience, tries to get the crew to focus on living their lives, building their own courage, and taking things as they come. He didn't want them to worry in ways that wouldn't produce this type of courage and resilience.
Now, I don't want to compare giving birth to an attack by He-Who Shall-Not-Be-Named... but I think there are some parallels in this example! In our culture, we are taught that the more information you have the more empowered you will be. Because of this myth, many newly pregnant women try to get their hands on as many books, articles, blogs, podcasts, stories, etc. about birth as they can, eagerly searching for a way to prepare, cope, and move through the vast unknown of labor. These "maps" will only provide a small portion of what it is they really want to know, so one of the tasks of pregnancy is to keep on searching beyond the surface... to dig deep into what it is YOU really need to know to give birth.
What if...instead of gathering all the "book knowledge" you can about birth, you turned your attention inward.
Pam England writes in her new book Ancient Map for Modern Birth, "...so instead of focusing on the adage 'Trust your body', trust that you can meet whatever challenges come your way." Beginning to answer these questions is the beginning of preparing for the challenges of labor. It is preparing you to rise up and meet your birth with courage, resilience, flexibility and compassion.
If you'd like to learn how I can help you prepare in a deep meaningful way for the birth of your child, please set up a time to chat with me!
Well, you did it! Can you believe it? Can you believe that there is a little human (or two...or three!) on this planet who gets to call you "Dad"? That you know how to change a diaper with one hand, while reaching for a wet wipe with the other? That you can swaddle a flailing baby in 5 seconds flat? That you can survive on 3 hours of sleep? That you can clam a baby who has been fed, changed and is fussing for absolutely no apparent reason? Can you believe how much love you have for your wife? For your child? How much harder and richer your life has become since the BIG DAY?
You see, from the first time I met you, I knew you had it in you.
I remember how you looked that day as we sat in your living room (or coffee shop). I could feel how badly you wanted to support your beautiful partner during birth, but you just didn't have a clue what that would look like. The more we talked about birth and what to expect, I first saw you get really nervous... you had NO IDEA it would entail all of THAT! But as we went on, I watched as you settled into and even welcomed this new role. You began to picture yourself loving and supporting your partner through contractions. You began to imagine yourself as a father. You thought about what kind of dad you wanted to be... and not be. You began to realize what this journey would require from you, and you met it with confidence and courage. You began to trust yourself.
Then the big day arrived. The look on your face when I walked in was a mixture of excitement, exhaustion, and total relief. I took in the energy of the room, sensing how the new mom was doing, and with one look, you and I connected. We spoke in hushed tones, glances and gestures for the duration of the birth. We ferried water and snacks, took turns replacing the cool cloth, rocked the peanut ball, squeezed her hips, and murmured words of encouragement. You were a rock star that day.
Each birth I attend teaches me something, and you taught me about love. Love is being right there while your child is being born. It is taking a cat nap sitting upright in a hospital chair, so you can have some energy when the baby comes. It is standing next to the bath tub, spraying her back with the shower and not mentioning how cold you are because you, too are getting wet. It is stepping out of the room for a quick snack with out disturbing her, knowing that the smell of your burger will make her vomit. Love is telling her she's doing an amazing job, when deep down you aren't certain that what is happening is a completely normal part of labor. Love is watching her give birth, and not be able to take away the pain, or fix it. It is simply being by her side, holding her hand, and breathing with her.
I often think of your grounding presence in the birth room and I want to say thank you. Thank you for going along with your wife when she said she wanted to hire a doula. ( A doula? What the hell is a doula?!) Thank you for trusting me, and being candid and honest as you prepared for this unknown event. Thank you for letting me be a witness to one of the most important days of your life. Mostly, thank you for just being you. It is because of all of these things, that I know you are a great dad.
I will forever cherish the moment I looked over and saw you fall in love with your child (and your partner, all over again!). I am humbled and in awe because of the power of the Lord, the fullness of His strength and the covering of His grace. Thank you for sharing this moment with me.
Click here to read the Mom Version.
Dear Precious One,
The first time I met you, you had the beautiful glow of a woman, pregnant with child. Perhaps you adored begin pregnant, or maybe it was simply a means to an end, either way, you glowed. As you rubbed your belly, sitting across from me, we chatting about the kind of birth you envisioned, and I noticed a wistful look in your eye. You knew you were embarking on a journey from which you would never return the same. You had hope because of all the women who had traveled this path before you, and yet, there was trepidation and apprehension for what this path would require from you. Words were not possible to describe the place you stood, yet you stood on the threshold of becoming a mother with grace, honesty, and most importantly, courage.
Shortly after our first meeting, we began to walk together on your path, which was my path too, in that moment. You taught me innumerable things along the way, which I will forever be grateful. I learned how you wait with patience for the moment to begin. I learned how you laugh easily at the craziness that is 40+weeks pregnant. I learned how you looked fear in the eye, until it no longer held any power over you. I learned how you diligently prepared your body for birth. I learned how you read every thing you could possibly read, and then let it all go in order allow your birth to unfold as it was meant to. I learned how you opened yourself up to the mystery of birth, even if it was not what you hoped it would be. You, my dear, taught me about moxi and bravery, tenacity and resilience.
The day you crossed the threshold and were initiated into motherhood, I humbly stood in awe at your side. Thank you for allowing me the honor of being one of the first people in your world, to see your child. Your grit that day is something I will never forget. I will never forget the look on your face when you thought you couldn't go on... and then you did. I will never forget the look in your eye as you surprised even yourself with a determination you didn't know you had. I will cherish forever in my heart the moment I saw you fall in love with your baby. I am deeply grateful to bear witness to your transformation and "birth" as a mother.
When I look back on your birth, I am blessed to have witnessed the power of the Lord, the strength of His hand, and the covering of His mercy. Thank you for being so real with me. You are an amazing woman, a beautiful mother, and I am blessed to know you.
Click here to read the Dad Version.
As the epicenter of your family, the hub of the wheel, your vitality is paramount....treat yourself as gently as the ones you love: Feed yourself well, rest well, be well.~ Heng Ou
I'll admit it---I judge books by their covers. I do. With so many books out there and a limited amount of time, I've got go with what works! That's why when I saw the cover of The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The beautiful simplicity of this book and the yummy food on the cover drew me in right away. I knew this book was different from the millions of postpartum books on the market today, and I was not disappointed! The First Forty Days brings attention to the importance of the immediate postpartum period, gives examples of how to make it meaningful to you in today's modern world, and inspires you nourish yourself with delicious recipes.
The first weeks after giving birth are a very delicate time for newly born mothers. Heng Ou, writes about these days with an honesty and gentleness that only one who has passed through this journey can. For centuries, women have seen the benefit of some kind of postpartum ritual which promotes rest and renewal after birth. With her body depleted from growing a little human, a mother can emerge from her postpartum period feeling stronger and renewed, ready to take on the monumental task of caring for her family. Postpartum care and rituals are passed down from generation to generation, offering different ways to nourish and replenish a new mom. When a baby is born, a mother is also born. Just as a newborn is fed, nourished, held and loved, so to a newborn mother needs to be fed, nourished, held and loved. Ou encourages this time of rest and repose not only to benefit the new mother, but her entire family as well.
Customs that insist on rest, recovery and surrendering responsibility for a few weeks at the get-go force a woman to stop all her doing and simply receive. The takeaway is profound; it can open our eyes to asking for and receiving so that we can give fully as mothers without giving every thing away. ~Heng Ou
Written from first-hand experience, this books takes a look at postpartum healing rituals from around the world, uses the authors personal experience with her Chinese relatives, and acknowledges the difficulty in taking the time for postpartum rest in our modern, fast-paced, bounce-back world. Ou recognizes that in our culture today, we don't always have our mothers, sisters, aunties, or grandmothers nearby to dote on us after birth, and many new mothers are more isolated than ever. However, with some prenatal planning, you can still create an environment which fosters rest, recovery, and nourishment. She is clear in stating that as the reader, you are to take what works for you in this book. She acknowledges that we are all in different places in life with different resources, so she speaks with a very non-judgemental tone while encouraging you to take the time you need to heal and replenish. The First Forty Days is divided into sections to make this ritual in our modern world more accessible to new mothers with chapters entitled: The Gathering ( preparing for your postpartum retreat), The Passage (passing from maiden to mother through birth), and The First Forty Days (a sample outline of what the first days could look like). Each chapter is honest and encouraging with beautiful photos to inspire you to make this time work for you.
These forty days are needed for mom, dad, and baby to align their mental, emotional and spiritual forces and lay their foundation for and with each other. What happens is tremendous. You are building the self-esteem and trust of this new being, giving time for the soul to really "land" on earth and feel safe. If you truly provide that time, the child becomes unshakeable!
The second half of the book is filled with nourishing, delicious recipes. Heng Ou, provides a very detailed outline for shopping and gathering all these ingredients prenatally. She even suggests sharing them with family and friends to enlist their help in preparing this nourishing food. Drawing on her Chinese background, Heng explains how different foods and recipes will nourish and support a newborn mother. From simple first foods like Ginger Fried Rice and Mother's Bowls to more heartier meals like Sausage Stew; from Lactation Aids like Nettle and Fennel Tea to sweet snacks like chocolate mousse, there is something that even the most beginner chef can make. Some of the ingredients Heng suggests are a bit unconventional,though, like pig trotters or kidneys. However, she makes them seem delicious and absolutely accessible to even the most sensitive palates. In fact, with the photos and beautiful descriptions of each dish, you will be inspired to try something new.
After spending countless hours thinking about and preparing for childbirth, it is not only important, but absolutely essential to give some thought to how to prepare for the immediate postpartum period. The First Forty Days captures the essence of ancient postpartum rituals and makes it relevant to today's new mother. It is an inspiring and thoughtful book, filled with beautiful photos and honest tips to make your postpartum period a restful and renewing time. You won't be disappointed either.
As a birth doula I get excited about transition. I know it's crazy to get a thrill to see vomit, blood, shaking, cursing, and general loss of one's s#$%, but to me, it means the baby will make an appearance soon. It means a mother is being born. It is the accumulation of a lot of hard work. However, not everyone shares my love of all things transition... especially a laboring mom. When I talk to my clients prenatally, this is the time of labor which they are most worried about. They worry about how intense it will be, and often wonder if they will be able to cope with it. It isn't always pretty. It isn't always calm. It isn't always relaxed. Coping through transition means you do whatever it takes to get through it. Whatever. It. Takes.
Right now, we are in a season of transition, literally moving from summer into fall. In my family, we are all transitioning back into the regular routine of school. My husband is teacher, so he is back at work. My kids are homeschooled, so we are all trying to find our groove with school work. As I'm writing this, my kids are fighting the crud, so our transition has been anything but smooth. In fact, I'll be honest with you, there have been moments (days) when I've felt what my clients feel like in labor--- Iike I'm loosing my S$%#!! Every year I tell myself it's coming, this transitional season. And every year I loose my s#$%. This year is no different. I'm trying to do what I tell my clients: just take one contraction at a time. Stay in the moment. Just breathe. I'm trying to remind myself that it will be over soon and we'll hit our stride. Perhaps you are finding yourself in this place of transition, too. If so, you are not alone. I feel ya! We can loose our s#$% together and still be ok. Everyone will be ok. And we'll be stronger because of it... I hope!
So whether you are preparing for labor or just going through this season of change,
Here are four ways to move through transition-- either in labor or life.
Labor is a process of movement. Don't worry about how you move, just move however feels right to you. Walk. Sway. Squat. Pace. Circle your hips. Bounce. Rock. Roll. Kneel. It if makes you move, do it. I encourage all my clients to move in whatever way they want throughout labor, but especially during transition.
In life's transitional seasons, movement is key for coping. Get outside and take a walk. Ride your bike. Go for a swim. Take a hike. Do yoga. Run. The more movement you can fit into your day, the easier it will be to cope with the uncertainty of change.
Drink water. Sit in water. Stand in water. Go to the water. Water can be a healer and a soother. It can refresh your weary muscles. It can take the edge off intense contractions. I recommend taking a bath in just about every labor I've attended as a doula. Being submerged in a tub makes you feel lighter, it provides a sense of grounding, and can help relax tense muscles = baby coming!
I'm trying to remember to drink a lot of water during these days of change. I'm keeping my water bottle with me and taking a chug whenever I think of it. I find that staying hydrated helps to feel more energetic and clear headed. Which helps me roll with the punches a little bit better.
Transition can be a time when all of your previously successful coping strategies don't work. It is very common for a mom to look to something greater than herself to get her through. There is power in prayer, and connecting with a force or spirit greater than ourselves. Many women find great peace and solace in prayer. Some moms have even said they aren't usually a praying person, but in labor they sure needed it. Knowing that God is in control (or whomever you pray to), asking for strength, and walking by faith can be a great comfort.
Prayer is a big part of my life, so it is only natural that this is one of my first coping mechanisms when life gets crazy. You may not find prayer to be something that works for you, and that's ok. But,what does work for you? What do you do to connect with something/someone bigger than yourself? Meditation? Music? Nature? Intellect? Don't minimize the power of this connection... it can be miraculous.
Finally, in labor there comes a moment when you just have to say F-it. You stop trying to cope. You stop trying to stay in control or make it look like something you think it should. You let go. This moment is at once scary and freeing. Laboring mothers don't usually go to this place willingly. Often it is the result of exhaustion and the readiness to meet your child. Know that by letting go, you can actually feel better and reduce the stress of labor.
In life, there also comes a moment when you just have to let go and say F-it. Let the chips fall where they may and try to ride the waves. Go with the flow. See what happens. Ride it out. And whatever other cliched phrase you can think of. In these moments, just like a doula, I try to find a little bit of excitement and remember that the labor will be over and the baby will be born soon.
What are your tips or ideas for coping with transition? What worked for you in labor? What works for you in life?
Moms get all the attention. I get it... they are the ones going through a physical transformation during pregnancy. They are the ones who have to birth a human out of their bodies. They are the ones with the influx of hormones and emotions. Every woman should be treated like royalty for the task she is undertaking. But what about you... what about all you dads out there, lovingly supporting your partner through this rite of passage? You are about to be birthed as a father, and even though your experience doesn't have the outward physical manifestation that a woman's does, your journey is no less important. In fact, the transformation into a father will be the single most important job you undertake. I interviewed several new fathers and asked them if they could give you, a Soon-To-Be-Dad, some advice, what would it be. Here's what they had to say...
Take a Childbirth Class
Just about every single dad I interviewed spoke of the importance of a childbirth class. It may not be high on your priority list of ways to spend a weekend or several evenings a month, but once these dads realized all that childbirth requires, they were all very glad to invest their time. There are a couple of options when it comes to childbirth classes: the basic hospital class or an independent class like Birthing From Within, Bradley, Hypnobabies, Lamaze, etc. It is important to take a class that will not only cover the intellectual part of birth (the stuff you can read in a book) but one that will prepare you for the emotional/spiritual side of birth. Find a class that will not only teach your partner how to cope with the uncertainty and intensity of labor, but will also give you the tools to cope as well.
Take a Tour of Your Birth Place
Before a hunt, the hunter often will scope out the territory beforehand. He wants to get a feel for the land, find his hiding places, see where the water-holes are, notice his escape routes etc. This way, he lessens the chance of being surprised when he is actually on the hunt. He knows what to expect, so he can allow his instincts to take over. Your place of birth can be seen in the same way. Visit and take a tour. Know where to park after-hours, where to check in, where to get food and water. Picture yourself in the room. What do you need to bring with you? What can you leave at home? This activates your inner hunter and helps you feel more at ease, making room to be fully present in supporting your partner.
Take Care of Yourself
All the dads I talked to made a point to say something along these lines. They felt it was super important to take care of themselves. They were all in agreement that if they weren't feeling at their best, they wouldn't be able to support their partners during labor. So give yourself permission to take a break. Get a cup of coffee. Take a cat nap (You'll be amazed at what a 15-20 min nap can do!) Eat! Eat! Eat! Pack your own favorite snacks. Walk around the hospital. Go outside for 10 minutes. You will return feeling energized and ready to continue on with your loving support!
Keep Calm and Hire a Doula
Keep Calm is one the most frequent pieces of advice offered for new dads. During labor things can get intense, move quickly, and be overwhelming. Dads who are able to cope through these intense situations feel more connected to the birthing process, to their partner, and to their child. Several dads mentioned that hiring a doula for them was especially helpful. One dad originally thought they were doing it for his wife, but it turned out that having a doula there was just as helpful to him. He was able to stay calm and connected because there was someone there to encourage him, tell him when things were okay and normal, and share the journey with. Having a doula freed him up to focus solely on his wife.
Keep a Sense of Humor
Finally, you must keep a sense of humor. Especially when it comes to the first few weeks postpartum. There is some crazy shit that happens with a newborn and most of it is downright hilarious. (At least once the moment has passed and you realize you all survived). Being able to laugh at your mistakes, keep things in perspective, and realize that you are learning can go a long way in making the transition to parenthood smoother. I mean, if you can't laugh at your three-week old, sweet, beautiful daughter projectile pooping across the room at 2am...it's going to be a long 18 years!
Birth can be unpredictable, surprising and mysterious. There is not much that you actually have control over when it comes to the way your labor will unfold. There are plenty of elements of birth that you "just have to wait and see". However, there is two areas that you do have some control over: Your Birthplace and Care Provider. let's take a look at what your options are in the Denver metro area when it comes to deciding with whom and where to give birth. It is very important to take your time, do your research and choose a birthplace and care provider that aligns with your vision for birth.
Part One: Your Care Provider
So... what ARE your options for care providers in the Denver Metro area?
Here in Denver, you've got three choices when it comes to giving birth: a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), a Registered Midwife, (also known as a homebirth midwife), or an OB/GYN. Which one is right for you?
Certified Nurse Midwife,
CNM's are midwives who attend births in a hospital, birth center, or home. A CNM has a nursing degree and has completed a graduate nurse-midwifery program. CNM's are trained in the normal, physiological aspects of pregnancy, labor, and birth. In a hospital setting, CNMs have access to interventions, such as drugs for pain relief. They support VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and work in collaboration with Obstetricians if a pregnancy becomes "high risk". A CNM is trained in and follows the midwifery model of care. A CNM might be right for you if you: are low-risk, desire a vaginal birth, may or may not want medicated pain relief, desire a holistic approach to maternity and postpartum care. Find out more at the American College of Nurse Midwives- Colorado Affiliate.
A Registered Midwife is trained exclusively in midwifery through academics and apprenticeship, by direct-entry. These "Direct Entry" midwives, are the only midwives licensed to attend births at home in the state of Colorado. Registered Midwives focus on nutritional counseling, comprehensive prenatal care, emotional needs, and education through out your prenatal period. They work with "low-risk" mothers, and are trained in the normal, physiological aspects of pregnancy, labor and birth. They consult with or refer to doctors when medically necessary. A Registered Midwife is also trained in and follows the midwifery model of care. A Registerd Midwife might be right for you if you: are low-risk, desire an un-medicated birth, find comfort and safety in your own home, or desire a holistic approach to maternity and postpartum care. Find out more about Registered Midwives at The Colorado Midwives Association.
An OB is a physician who has completed medical school and specialized in obstetrics and gynocology. Choosing an OB means you will give birth in a hospital setting. Obstetricians are typically trained by the medical model of care, focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and treating the complications that can occur during pregnancy, labor, and birth. OB's utilize strategies such as testing along with medical or surgical interventions to prevent undesirable outcomes. An Obstetrician might be right for you if you: are high-risk, desire an epidural or other medicated pain relief, or would feel more at ease or safer in a hospital.
Other things to consider when choosing your care provider.
1. Are you able to choose, or is there some reason why you might be locked into a certain provider?
2. Where would you feel most secure when giving birth?
3. How do you imagine you'll cope with the pain and intensity of birth?
4. Will you have a doula at your birth?
5. Do you want an epidural?
6. Are you healthy and low-risk?
7.Have you experienced any complications during your pregnancy?
Finding a care provider who is just right for you can take some time. In fact, you might feel good about one person at the beginning, but the more you learn about yourself and your desires for birth, that may change. It is more than okay to find a care provider who truly meets your needs, even if it means switching in the 3rd trimester! Remember, this is YOUR baby, YOUR birth, and YOUR body.
If you would like to talk more about what is right for you, please set up a free 20-min phone consultation with me. I would be happy to help you sort through all of this!
Having a newborn in the home can take up most of your time, energy and attention. It is no surprise that new parents often feel the strain of sleepless nights and the added stress on their relationship. Too often the things you loved to do together as a couple take a backseat to diaper changes, feeding schedules and naps. Unfortunately, couples often complain that they don't have the time, let alone the energy, to have a regular date night. Becoming a parent requires sacrifice, yes, however, it does not have to come at the expense of your relationship with your partner. In fact, taking time to do the things which bring you bliss, both personally and as a couple, will model to your children how to live a full, balanced life.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.... Blah, Blah, Blah. You've heard it all before. You KNOW you need to make time for yourself. You KNOW you need to make time for your partner. You KNOW you need take time as a couple. You KNOW it's good for everyone. And yet... it can be so damn hard!! If this sounds familiar to you, you need The Bliss List!
Bliss n. perfect happiness; great joy
So simply put, The Bliss List is a list of things which have brought you bliss in the past. You and your partner are going to agree to encourage and support each other in accomplishing the things on this list during the first year of parenthood. Finding bliss, especially in the first year of your baby's life, will make you a better parent, partner, and person. There are two parts to The Bliss List:
PART ONE: Do this part separately
Separately, write down three things which bring each of you bliss. You know...the things which make you YOU. Your thing. What brings you great joy and refreshment? It can be big or little, but just remember that you'll have to accomplish each of these things during your first year of parenthood. (A ski trip to the Alps may be out of the question.) Make it doable, but not mundane. Reasonable, but special.
PART TWO: Do this part together
Now, work together and write down three things which bring you bliss as a couple. Think back to when you first started dating. What did you love to do? Maybe there is a special place you haven't been to in a while, or a concert you've been dying to see. Write these three things down. Remember, these are things which bring you bliss as a couple and you've got one year to do them.
Now, put your Bliss List someplace where you'll see it and be reminded of it often. Pledge to each other that you will support one another in checking off your personal list, and that you'll work together to accomplish your couple list. Let the bliss-ing begin!
If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you... I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be... wherever you are-- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time...
As a doula, this is by far the most common question I am asked by my clients. It's right up there with questions like: How can I cope with the pain? and What are some ways my partner can support me?
When should we go to the hospital (or birth center)?
First, you hear all the stories and advice.
Your best friend who went in to the hospital, found out she was only 2cm dilated, and got sent home.
Or your husband's cousin who got to the hospital, labor stalled, and it took forever (and Pitocin) to get it going again.
Or your co-worker who arrived just as the baby was crowning and ended up delivering in the parking lot. You have most likely received well-meaning advice to "stay home as long as possible" or "get to the hospital where you can finally just let go". It seems everyone has a different opinion about when YOU should go based on their own personal experience.
You may have given this some though already. (Or not, that's ok, too!) You think you probably don't want to go too early and run the risk of getting sent home or having your labor stall. And I'm sure you also don't want to to stay home so long that you worry about delivering the baby in the bathtub! You want to know where the sweet spot is... and how you will know when it is time.
But here's the thing: birth is mysterious. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
It is completely understandable, for first time parents to ask this question. You read books, talk to friends and family, take childbirth classes in order to make sense of a major life event which you have no context for. You may be piecing together bits and pieces of others' stories in order to make it more clear to you. In a world where information can be found at our fingertips with just a click or a swipe, we are being trained to look outside of ourselves for answers to some very important questions. We look for ways to control a very uncontrollable event.
Did I mention that birth is mysterious?
So, what's a new parent to do? Here are three things to consider when deciding when to head to your birth place.
Check in with your Doctor or Midwife
More than likely your care provider has their own policy of when they recommend you come in. Often they use the 5-1-1 rule: Contractions are FIVE minutes apart, lasting for ONE minute, and they've been that way for ONE hour. This can be a good rule of thumb, but it doesn't fit every mother, every birth, or every circumstance. It can be especially confusing for first-time moms who do not have a frame of reference for what normally progressing labor feels like. This is a good question to ask your birth attendant during a prenatal appointment. Then, when your labor begins, it is a good idea to let your them know so they have a heads- up and they can advise you from there.
Check in with your partner
It has been my experience that most partners are eager to get to the birth place. They are supportive of laboring at home, but there is often a threshold that, when crossed, they feel more comfortable at the hospital/birth center. This is VERY understandable. If you are a new dad, familiarize yourself with what a laboring woman may look and sound like as she gets into active labor. Take a childbirth class to learn ways you can help her cope with the sensations and intensity of labor. Take care of yourself by doing what you need to do prenatally to be comfortable with your loved one moving into active labor.
Finally, and most importantly:
Check in with yourself
The thing is, this is YOUR story. Leaving the comfort of your own home and making your way to your chosen place of birth is part of the woven tapestry of your birth. It must play out in it's own time. Gathering information from your care provider and chatting with your partner about their comfort level before labor begins can help to guide you. This is where you check in with your gut; with your instinct. Make sure you are not checking in from a place of fear, but from a place of curiosity and a loving, warrior spirit. Listen deeply. Connect with your baby. You will know.
As with any decision to be made during childbirth, you do your very best. You might get there too early; and you might get there in the nick of time; heck, you might not even make it. But you do your best. In the words of Virginia Bobro, co-author of the new Birthing from Within book, Ancient Map for Modern Birth: "Get information. Tune into your intuition. Make your best guess. Act. Keep moving forward".
In the comments let us know: How did you know when it was time to go?