How to Listen to a Birth Story

Women have been talking about their births for thousands of years. And yet somehow, as the tide of childbirth has shifted dramatically in the past 70 years, we’ve forgotten the importance of being on the listening end of a birth story.  The next time you hear a mother start to discuss the details of her birth, consider taking these recommendations to heart:

Take Responsibility For Your OWN Emotions! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Women should be free to share their birth stories without fear of “offending” another mom. For example, if a woman is sharing how she labored without any pain medication, please do not jump to the conclusion that she’s calling you a wimp for choosing an epidural! Whatever your birth experiences were, they are yours and yours alone. Maybe you’re still carrying disappointment or sadness about your births, for any number of reasons, and those emotions often resurface when hearing another woman’s story. But instead of projecting your emotions onto another mother (which we sometimes unknowingly do), own whatever emotions you’re experiencing and resolve to set aside time to work through those feelings. By doing so, you will be better able to objectively love and support other mothers.

Do Not “One-Up” Her Story With Yours! Do we really think it’s helpful  to say, “Oh 20 hours of labor, that’s nothing!! Listen to my whopper-of-a-birth-story…” Certainly it is in our nature as mothers to talk about our births.  Even elderly women will gladly share all the details of their births when asked. We want our stories to be heard and they should be heard! But choose with caution the opportunities to share your story. Instead, if you’re listening to another woman’s story, listen intently and remind yourself that this is her time.

Respond with Empathy. Many women are burdened with painful emotions they are carrying from their birth experiences. Often we feel uncomfortable when a person is sharing about their grief or sadness. In our discomfort, we end up saying things such as, “Well at least your baby is healthy” or “the best thing is just to move on.” But to a hurting woman, these well-intended words are like pouring salt into her wounds.  Instead, validate her emotions. Phrases like, “That must’ve been so scary for you” or “it’s understandable why you are disappointed” are reassuring and can aid in her healing. And if you really do not know what to say, you can always respond with, “I’m so sorry you experienced this.” Remember: you might be the very first person to respond to her pain with empathy and kindness.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”

~Brenda Ueland

by Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker

How to Prepare Your Marriage Relationship for Birth

If you’re expecting your first child, you and your partner have probably been on the receiving end of at least one of these phrases:

“You can’t really prepare for what your life will be like once that baby’s born.”

“Enjoy the time you have NOW while you still can!”

And one of the worst, “Your life as you know it will be over!”

Ugh. Seriously, who are people kidding when they utter such words! Isn’t a basic assumption that, indeed, having a baby is life-changing?? Yes, life will change once your first baby is born. It will be wonderful. It will be challenging. You and your partner’s relationship will change, but change is not necessarily a negative thing. I encourage expectant parents to invest time in their relationship now to be better equipped for the upcoming transition.

This may sound over-simplified, but I cannot stress enough the benefit that communication has on your relationship as you’re preparing to enter this new stage of your life together. Talk and talk often! But don’t limit your “baby talk” to [Read more…]

How to turn your breech baby head-down

“Hmmm…this feels like a head. Wait! Isn’t my baby’s head supposed to be ‘down there??’ I think my baby’s breech!”

If you find yourself in this situation, first of all, don’t stress! The majority of babies turn head-down by the third trimester; of those that haven’t, the majority of them will head for the exit sign by the time labor commences. Keep your chin up and believe that your baby will turn head-down.

That being said, often times a pregnant mama with a breech baby is told by her practitioner that her only options are waiting and then later attempting an external cephalic version (ECV). There are a myriad of techniques and methods that can gently encourage your little one to turn head-down before resorting to more invasive procedures.

[Read more…]

How To Prevent Post-Partum Depression

After struggling through the depths of post-partum depression following the birth of my son 7 years ago, I was curious when I heard that there might actually be a way to prevent a repeat of that scenario. I was a little skeptical at first. Was it really possible to prevent post-partum depression (PPD)? Isn’t that just “one of those things” that some women go through following childbirth?

Prior to conceiving again, I was right smack in the middle of the certification process to become a childbirth educator…which meant I was doing lots and lots of reading! It seemed only natural to do further research in the prevention of PPD along with all my other studying. So what was this new-fangled way to prevent PPD? Well, it wasn’t really anything “new” at all, but rather an age-old concept that has been practiced for thousands of years, cross-culturally. It’s called placentaphagy.

“Placenta-what?!” It’s a big word but the concept of placentaphagy is quite simple: a female consumes her placenta following the birth of her child. Ok, don’t bail on me just yet! Hear me out on this one because it is such an important practice that most Americans know little about. I know the grossness factor may have about bowled you over at first, but stay with me.

The placenta is often referred to as The Tree of Life. [Read more…]

How To Hire a Doula For Your Birth

So you’re convinced of all the amazing benefits that a doula can bring to your birth experience, but now what? Starting the process of hiring a doula may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be!
The Earlier, The Better– If at all possible, start your search for a doula early in your pregnancy. Most doulas limit the number of clients they accept per month and the popular ones get booked quickly.

  • Get a List of Names– There are both national and local doula organizations that have listings of their members. On the national level, DONA (Doulas of North America) and Doula Match are great places to start.  Your city or region most likely has a local doula organization, too. For example, Doulas of Greater St. Louis is the organization in my area. [Read more…]

How to Prepare Expectant Fathers For Birth – Part 3

In the first 2 parts of this series (found here and here), I discussed communication and choosing a childbirth class. In this third and final installment, I’ll be focusing on the pinnacle of all the preparation: the birth! Like I mentioned previously, the presence of men during labor and birth is relatively new, considering that for thousands of years a birthing woman was surrounded only by women. It’s for this reason that I highly recommend that expectant couples hire a doula.

A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous labor support. Typically, she has no affiliation with a physician or hospital which allows her to solely focus on the needs of her laboring client. While you may be familiar with the ways a woman will benefit from the presence of a doula, it’s important to know that a doula is beneficial for expectant fathers as well.  Here are some of the ways that doulas can be helpful to both you and your partner: [Read more…]

How to Prepare Expectant Fathers For Birth – Part 2

So in part 1 of this series, I talked about the importance of first breaking down the communication barriers between men and women. This month, my focus will be on educating and equipping dads for labor and birth.

It’s commonplace for first-time expectant parents in the US to register for some sort of childbirth preparation classes. A mom-to-be might have to twist her partner’s arm to get him to even touch a pregnancy book. But mention a “how-to” childbirth class and often times he’ll more willingly participate. With busy lifestyles, it’s understandable why some men (and women, too) would be more inclined to take an accelerated childbirth prep class (6 weeks worth of information condensed into one, 8-hour session). While these “express” classes may accommodate our hectic schedules, they are doing little to adequately prepare both women and men for birth. So here are some options to consider when researching classes that will meet the needs of expectant fathers: [Read more…]

How to Prepare Expectant Fathers for Birth: Part 1

We all know the old adage that “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.” But if you’re expecting a baby, you may feel like you and your partner are not just on different planets, but in different galaxies! While you’ve become preoccupied with all things baby, his mind may be in a completely different place. In the effort to help prepare men to make the transition into fatherhood, we must first work to break down barriers.

Remember that he is NOT Superman! Let’s face it ladies, there are many of us who secretly want a knight in shining armor to carry us over the threshold, but real life is not a fairy tale. The pressure to be strong and unwavering emotionally is very real for many men. And while it was a positive change when fathers began to be present at birth in the 1970’s, this change also added more pressure to men in our society. Many expectant fathers feel extremely ill-equipped to enter the realm of childbirth, a space that was solely occupied by women up until recently. The expectant mother often doesn’t realize that maybe she, too, is subtly putting pressure on her partner to be the perfect husband/father/childbirth coach. [Read more…]

How to Establish Early Skin-to-Skin Contact with Your Newborn

When we think of a mother and her newborn in the first hours after birth, most of us picture an image of a tired mom snuggling what I call her “baby burrito!” I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to: a brand new baby tightly swaddled in a hospital receiving blanket donning a pink or blue hat. While they sure are cute as button when all swaddled up, what a newly-born baby needs most is to be naked up against their mama.

Babies are designed to be in close contact with their mothers. Their neurological wiring is so unique and skin-to-skin contact, immediately after birth and in the early weeks of life, promotes the release of very specific hormones in both mom and baby that is essential for healthy development. Newborns that are in frequent skin-to-skin contact with their mothers are: calmer and more alert, better regulate their body temperature, better organize their sleep/wake cycles and breastfeed better. These are just a few of the astounding benefits! Even more benefits of skin-to-skin contact are discussed here. [Read more…]

How To Add More Protein to Your Diet During Pregnancy

Did you know that during pregnancy, an expectant mother needs to consume at least 80-120 grams of protein daily? Outside of pregnancy, a healthy woman needs 30-60 grams of protein daily. During pregnancy, however, the demands on her body are much different.

This extra protein is vital to build her baby’s tissues and organs during each trimester, support the growth of her placenta and uterus, and sustain her liver and kidneys, which are working overtime to meet the growing needs of her pregnancy. [Read more…]