Pssssst. If you're close to someone who is pregnant or has a baby, this is for you.
New parents are in a sensitive state: sleep deprivation, the emotional
rollercoaster of birth and the pressure of trying to maintain their households (or jobs) takes its toll. Most cultures do not expect people to resume their former lives after the birth. They have traditions for supporting the growing family.
Mothers are strained the most--babies require round the clock care when new mamas are recovering from birth. Breastfeeding takes up a lot of time and energy in the first few weeks. Because our culture does not recognize the need for extra help in a baby's first weeks, many moms feel inadequate.
Here's how you can help.
*BE GENTLE! HOW you offer help is as important as WHAT you offer. Be sure to listen to what they want. Be respectful of their space and time--as much as they want to share their baby with you, they also need to rest.
*FOOD: New parents need to eat, but have little to no time to shop, cook or prepare food. There are many ways options: home-cooked casseroles, frozen foods, take-out. The point is to get them food and not expect to be entertained in the process. Drop it on their porch or have it delivered.
*HOUSEHOLD HELP: This is can be a little more complicated, depending on how well you know the new parents. If they aren't using a service, they'll definitely appreciate help with laundry, running dishwasher, vaccuuming, and generally straightening up.
*ERRANDS: Running to the store, dry cleaner, can become very challenging with a newborn. Ask if they need anything from the drug or grocery store.
*OLDER CHILDREN/PETS: If this is not their first baby, the older children will really need extra attention. Playdates and park outtings can be a real life saver. Additionally, if they have pets, offer to help with their needs, too.
By giving REAL help, you take the pressure off of parents who may feel overwhelmed and not know how to ask you to bring them lunch or take their two year old to the playground. It's too vague to say, "Let me know if you need anything." Step up with specific suggestions.
I'll be sharing more specific techniques on how to assemble or be a part of a Welcome Baby Team at Natural Beginnings on Feb. 28, 2013 at 8pm. If you're expecting your first (or third) or if you know someone who is, please come! This presentation is for the whole Welcome Baby Team--Grandparents, relatives, neighbors are encouraged to attend. Donations will benefit the Having Healthy Babies Foundation. For more information: www.naturalbeginningsNJ.com
A very close friend is expecting her first baby....Here is my advice.
Dear Sweet Friend,
I know you will make the best choices for you and your baby--she/he picked you for a reason! The right birth for you is whatever works.
STEP 1: Be EDUCATED!
Be an informed consumer. Do your research before the 3rd trimester. Know the risks to unnecessary ultrasounds, induction, early cord clamping,etc. At minimum, watch The Business of Being Born
Read: Gentle Birth Choices by Barbra Harper OR
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
I can give you a few more resources, but these are ESSENTIAL!
STEP 2: Take care of YOURSELF!
The best thing you can give your baby is a happy, healthy mama. Make time to do things that truly make you feel good. Get a foot massage. Do yoga. Walk outside. Watch movies that make you laugh. (If you must watch baby/birth things on TV, please try to view some empowering natural birth videos, too! Subconscious cultural programming about fear/pain is a lot to overcome.)
Consider seeing a chiropractor. This can help the baby's position, your balance/coordination, etc. If you're totally freaked out by it, skip it.
STEP 3: CHOOSE your provider.
Ideally, you've selected an OB/GYN or Midwife who doesn't do routine episiotomies, inductions, and has a low c-section rate....It's never too late to switch to a provider who supports your choices and knows how to help you achieve the birth you want.
STEP 4: Assemble your support team.
Help your partner prepare. He should hopefully watch/read the minimum resources AND read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. (That would be book #3 on the must-read list. There are some great counter pressure techniques in there!)
Consider a Birth/Labor Doula. A good doula can help you navigate hospital procedures and use comfort measures and positions to ease labor, and be a consistent calming presence for you both. At minimum, make sure all present at your birth make you feel calm, secure and believe in your judgement.
STEP 5: Prepare to surrender.
Once you've done your homework, let your baby do the rest. Babies know when they are ready and will initiate labor. Relax, relax, relax. Your body knows what to do. (just as your mother's, grandmother's, and great-grandmother's did!)
Labor at home as long as you can. (you'll labor more efficiently and have less disruptions there!)
I will love and support your choices--be it an epidural, induction, etc. I don't presume to know what will be the best birth for you and your baby. My wish for you is a birth that makes you feel empowered as a woman and a mother. If you make informed choices in your care, feel like your voice was heard, your desires honored in the birth, you'll treasure the journey....And begin the 4th Trimester in a position of strength.
Hugs & excitement for you!!!
If YOU have any advice, resources, or things you think I missed, please comment below!
Postpartum Doula, Breastfeeding Counselor, Mother of Three.