I’m pregnant!? Now…I have a million questions!

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Upon discovering she’s expecting, a woman may have a variety of emotions: excitement, panic, joy, confusion, fear, anticipation, grief, relief, or a combination of these and more.  Along with a host of emotions, pregnancy also brings with it a slew of questions.

Questions about her body and what she can do with it…

-Will I have morning sickness?  Can it be prevented?

-Do I have to stop eating all of my favorite foods now?  Do I have to start eating anything special?

-What supplements and vitamins am I supposed to be taking?

-Can I stay on my workout plan?  Is exercise safe?

-Is it normal that my breasts hurt?  Is it normal that I ALREADY have to pee all the time?

-Why am I so hungry?  …or…  Why does food sound so gross to me?

-Is there something wrong with me if I don’t feel happy all the time?

 

Questions about her baby…

-How big is he or she now?

-How do I best take care of him or her?

-How will I know if s/he’s healthy?

 

Questions about her relationships…

-Will I be a good mom?

-Will I have the support I need from my partner?

-Why do I feel the need to be “mothered” so much right now?

-Is life as I know it over?

-Who can I talk to about my concerns?

 

Questions about sex…

-Is it safe to have sex?  Will it hurt the baby?

-Why do I want to have sex all the time? …or…  Why do I have no libido whatsoever?

-Will my partner still be attracted to me as my body changes?

-How will I feel about my body as it changes?

 

Questions about her prenatal care and birth…

-Is my current OB/GYN the best choice for my prenatal care?

-How do I pick a care provider?  Where do I even start?

-What’s a midwife?  Why would I choose one?  How do I find one?

-Do I want to give birth in a hospital or at home?

-Do I need all the tests I’ve read about?

-Will I be able to handle childbirth?

-What the heck is a doula?

 

Where does a pregnant woman turn for answers and reassurance about all of these questions?  Even if she has already chosen a prenatal care provider, her first visit may not be scheduled for several weeks.  Visits with a care provider may seem too rushed or she may feel too nervous to ask all of her questions.  Some questions may feel too “weird” or “gross” to know who it’s safe to ask.  Childbirth preparation classes are usually geared towards expectant parents past about 20 weeks gestation.  There are so many books on the shelves, it’s hard to know which one is a good choice.  That copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that was passed along to her only makes her feel more nervous and unsure.  The questions just keep adding up…

I remember well how it felt when I was first pregnant with my first son.  I had very few friends in a new town, and even fewer of them had children (and even fewer of them had had the sorts of births I wanted for myself).  I didn’t know where to begin finding the right care provider.  I had read about midwives but, how the heck was I supposed to find one?  They weren’t in the phone book!  Did I just pick an OB and hospital closest to my home?  I had so many expectations and hopes and dreams and wondered if they were normal or realistic.  It was a lonely time in many ways.

As a doula, I am often not contacted by clients until they are over halfway through their pregnancies.  By that point, they may have missed out on crucial information that could have helped them feel healthier, more confident, and more prepared for a satisfying birth; I often feel like we are scrambling to fill in the gaps.  I have seen a real need for a way to get important information to pregnant women sooner so that they can really ENJOY PREGNANCY!

Out of my experience and the many questions I heard from pregnant women was born the blueprint for a class.  Healthy Pregnancy is designed to help women feel informed, empowered, and confident.  I truly believe that a healthy, confident pregnancy sets the stage for a healthy, confident birth (which can set the stage for a healthy, confident start to parenting).  I want to give that gift to as many expectant mothers as I can!  Like all of my classes, this one is interactive, fun, and tailored to the needs of the individual students.  It’s a great way to learn more, ask questions, set your mind at ease, and maybe make some friends!  Not bad for a few Saturday afternoon hours.  (Plus, goodie bags and healthy and delicious snacks will be provided… what more do you need to know?)

To learn more or to register, check out my website Enjoy the ride!

 

Birth Matters!

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In the summer of 2006, I was lucky enough to be chosen for a role in Louisville’s Birth Care Network’s local production of Birth the Play. The play is comprised of 7 women’s birth stories with 7 actors playing all the characters within each story: family members, partners, doctors, nurses, etc. Part of the powerful narrative of one woman’s cesarean birth story is her consternation at how often she is told, “…but you had a healthy baby!” when she tries to express her grief at how her child was born.
At the time I was taking part in this show, I was very pregnant with my second son. My first birth had hit me face-first with surprise, dismay, fear, disappointment, and many other emotions that I didn’t quite know how to heal. Whenever we would rehearse the scene with those lines about “…but you had a healthy baby!” I would wonder if that was something people actually said to women who talked about their births honestly. It seemed like such a silly and dismissive and ignorant thing to say.

The more I have worked in the birth world as a doula, childbirth educator, and breastfeeding peer support person, the more I have heard that trite line trotted out to mothers and it never ceases to amaze me that it can be anything besides a line in a play. I have many theories about why people like to use that line so much: they’re genuinely trying to find the silver lining and make the mother feel better, they are in denial about their own birth experience and the feelings they don’t want to face about it, they just aren’t thinking about what’s coming out of their mouths…etc.
But let’s look at what’s really being said behind those words…

If a woman has a birth experience that is unexpected, scary, or traumatic in some way (and that’s really only up to her perspective, not anyone else’s), she may feel any or all of the following:
Sad
Angry
Confused
Betrayed
Like a failure
Abandoned
Lonely
Frightened
Traumatized
Depressed
Bitter

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Her feelings about her birth may affect her ability to bond with and enjoy her baby or to enjoy life in general. Her feelings may make it hard for her to connect to other people who just don’t seem to understand. She may feel jealous of other mothers whose births she perceives as having been “easy” or “perfect”. She may not want to talk about her feelings for fear of being judged. She may feel alienated by all of this.
If she does find the courage to say something about how she is truly feeling and is met with “…but you have a healthy baby!” what she is really hearing is this:
“Your baby is the only part of this story that matters. You do not matter. Your body does not matter. Your feelings do not matter. Birth does not matter.”
And I am here to tell you that none of that is true. Of course every mother wants more than anything in the world for her baby to be safe and healthy. But that hope is not mutually exclusive of everything else having to do with her birth story. In fact, all parts are connected: mother, mother’s feelings, mother’s body, mother’s experience, baby’s health. Every piece of the puzzle affects all the others.  And to tell a woman that her feelings and experience are invalid is just the sort of thing that sets us up for our current rates of postpartum depression in the United States, for an epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following birth  (Postpartum Traumatic Stress Disorder?), and for a culture of disconnect and “dis-ease” (as in, the opposite of health).
So, what do we do about this?

For mothers:
Find the support you need. There are people out there who are willing to listen to your birth story and the feelings you have about it with no judgment. There is support for you. Contact a local birth network, your doula (or, if you did not have a doula, find one in your area who can point you in the direction of local support), your local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter, a therapist, or a friend who is a good listener. Look for a postpartum wellness group on facebook. Join a positive new moms group or playgroup. Don’t stop reaching out until you have gotten what you need to process and heal. It is possible.

For others:
Watch this video .  And please, never tell a woman that the only thing that matters about her birth is her baby. Listen quietly. Hug. Bring meals. Let her cry. Let her feel her feelings. Help her find support if you feel it is more than you can do to help her by yourself.
Some of my favorite resources:
http://postpartum.net/
http://www.parentingscience.com/childbirth-trauma.html

And, one very concrete way you can work on processing your story and move towards healing is to take part in an upcoming “Unpacking Your Birth Baggage” workshop with me. In this workshop, we will work in a small group to look at the feelings we have from our birth experiences (or about an upcoming birth…read more about the workshop here) and figure out how to own our stories in a confident, freeing way rather than being held back by them. The process is powerful and so is the chance to be in a safe place with supportive women. The workshop package includes ongoing support via a private facebook group and other chances to contact after our face to face time has passed. I believe so strongly in this process and want to share it with as many women as I can.  In order to give women the specific type of experiences they need in this process, I will be offering two separate workshops: one for expectant mothers who are holding doubts, fears, and confusion about their ability to give birth; and another for mothers who have had traumatic or unexpected birth outcomes and need a safe place to process them and move on into parenting with freedom and joy.  The next workshop is set for March 11 and 18 and is intended for Mother’s who’ve given birth before.  To learn more details or to register, visit my website.

Know this: You matter. Your feelings matter. Your experience matters. Your birth matters. BIRTH MATTERS.

Sending you a hug,
Jenny Claire

Photo credit: Jana Glass, Looking Glass Photography