Preparing for Birth and Postpartum
This morning I was reflecting on how I could help mothers, especially in their postpartum period. And I realized that it really starts when they embark on their journey to becoming a mother.
My experience with my pregnancy and preparing for birth that a lot of my focus was on having a healthy pregnancy and preparing for the "big day", birth. Although I did do some prenatal counselling session, I would say that the majority of the preparation was meetings with my midwife and going to a birth preparation class.
Here is the thing...for humans I think that birth is one of those experiences that most grounds us into nature or a natural state of being. Hospitals and doctors do their best to keep it orderly, on time, contained. We can prepare by learning how to breathe properly, the best positions to be in, the correct timing of contractions and what that means. We can eat healthily, take our vitamins, journal, visualize, and create a birth plan. But the truth is that birth is wild, messy, and unpredictable.
So here is my best advice from my personal experience for a woman (and family) preparing for birth. Don't create a birth plan (although it could still be useful for hospitals), and do make a list of your birth wishes and desires. Then be willing to let it all go. Do prepare yourself for the logistics of birth, and also know that things rarely go as planned. All you and your birth team can do is be prepared the best you can and then you need to go with the flow. The best preparation in my experience is to tend to and strengthen your mental and spiritual practice. What I leaned on most in my son's birth was the things I had learned in yoga, on shamanic journeys, in meditation and in prayer. If you are religious then strengthen your prayer practice and find some quotes from the holy book or from your religious leaders you can lean on. If you are spiritual, strengthen and delve deep into your spiritual practices and draw on inspirational thoughts from those you are inspired by.
And then my advice would be....in the process of becoming a mother the birth is only a day or two out of the experience that could be a lifetime. The days, months and years following the birth is what you really need to prepare for.
Give yourself permission to have as much care, nurturing, and support that you can have in the month to 3 months following birth. Pregnancy and birth can take a lot out of a women, and so can the postpartum period. You NEED time to recover, to replenish, and to enter into this new role with as much grace and gentleness as is possible.
I dream that every mother have a postpartum doula or similar person at their beck and call for the 40 days following birth as is the custom in many traditional cultuures. I dream that the postpartum period, or 4th trimester, be held with as much respect and care as does pregnancy. And not just for the baby but especially for the mother. I dream that all mothers are protected, nurtured, and deeply cared for - because it is their love and care that is nurturing our next generations. A mother that is overflowing with love and nurturing can be a good and loving mother. All of our children deserve that.