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Wednesday, 13 November 2013 19:31

Must Have Baby Items…With a Twist!

I see this style of blog posts pop into my news feed over and over again. Ensure you have a great stroller, a baby carrier, a breast pump, a good cot. There is advice a plenty nearly everywhere you look in cyber-land. You can always find someone ready to tell you the essential must have items to prepare you for the birth of your baby.

Filling up your house with items designed to make life with a new baby easy is one aspect of preparing for parenthood, and truth be told, perhaps one of the more exciting aspects. Sometimes these essential items end up in the back of your cupboard, and some of them, you genuinely won't be able to live without. But there are a few items that I wish I had prior to the birth of my first child that no one talked to me about. A few essentials, which I wish I had been encouraged to consider. I tend to think that the truly essential things that parents need to have before their baby arrives are rarely discussed. Here are some of the things that I believe all parents need. They cost almost nothing, you won’t be confused by the options, and they require little more than self-exploration

1. Trust: As a new parent, the choices you make are put out there for public discussion and opinion like no other time. Trusting yourself, your baby and your instincts can help you navigate this confusing and sometimes upsetting parade and critique of your choices. Developing trust in yourself as the parent of this child will allow you to see the advice being given to you for what it is. It can provide you with a level of immunization against the hurt and sadness that you might sometimes feel having your thoughts and opinions openly questioned. Trust the people around you, and trust that they only have your best interests at heart, but trust that when it comes down to it, you are the one and only expert that exists on the topic of your baby. Trust your baby to help show you the way. Trust your unique connection.

2. Patience: Being a parent requires an innate ability to be able to wait. It starts in those final weeks leading up to the birth of your baby, when the weeks can sometimes feel like a lifetime. It continues through as you wait for your baby to reach milestones, you wait for that elusive full night sleep, or those tiny little baby teeth to finally come through. Wait and be present with your child in these moments. Patience requires you to stay completely in the moment, because its only when we begin to fantasize about what the emergence of the new phase might bring, that we begin to lose patience with what is happening in the here and now. Usually when we become frustrated, restless or annoyed at a situation, it is because we are not truly living the moment as it is presented to us. We are living in a moment that we have created in our own mind, and when we are bought back into the reality of life, we feel restless, sad or upset. Another important skill to develop is patience with our own self. Having a new baby is like developing a new skill. Sometimes we will get it right, and sometimes we will get it wrong. And that is OK. Be patient and gentle with yourself, you deserve it, and so does your baby.

3. Humor: A good laugh can sometimes get you through difficult or challenging situations. Often when we are caught up in the frustration of a certain moment, we forget that what is actually happening is quite funny. Often I tell stories of things that have happened to me during my parenting journey, and the suffix to that story is “now that I look back, it really is funny, but it didn’t seem like it at the time”. I wish I could transport myself back to these moments, and have the ability to see the humor. I recall taking my second child out when he was barely five weeks old, and while we were out, he 'tsumani-pooed' right up to the crook of his neck. I did not have a change of clothes in my bag, and felt at the time like an absolute failure of a mum. Especially when the friend that I was with offered the back-up clothes to her extra set that she had. I really wish I had been able see the humor in that moment, especially when I emerged from the changing room with my beautiful handsome son dressed in purple butterfly leggings and a lovely pink ruffle top. At the time, all I felt was embarrassment, but really it was hilarious. I was however able to see the funny side of parenting when I opened the door to a tradesman with my breastfeeding singlet completely open (I was airing my nipples after feeding my third Son) and no baby to be seen, it really did help make light of what may have been a terribly uncomfortable situation.

4. Be OK With Help: Right throughout your parenting journey, the opportunities to ask for or accept help will present themselves. Sometimes you will take people up on the other, and other times you will turn them down. Remember this: Human beings like helping one another. Accepting help is a great way to help build your village, and guess what, it makes the people offering to help feel good. It is a wonderful feeling walking away from another person knowing that their day is slightly better because of you. Don’t deny people this amazing feeling. Accept help when offered if you need it. You also need to be OK with asking for help. Sometimes you will lose trust, faith or confidence in your abilities. Sometimes you wont be able to see the humor in situations, and you might feel that the world is closing in on you. Asking for help is never a failure, and sometimes the most courageous step that a parent can make. Whether it’s asking for help feeding, settling, with your own thoughts and feelings, discipline, or general family concerns, there are always people out there ready to help when you need it. Pregnancy is a great time to start getting together a list of resources, people who you will call if you need help with any of these issues. A lactation consultant, a health nurse or postnatal midwife/doula will help you with all aspects of having a newborn. A women’s heath professional to help if you are having trouble with your mental health, and trusted friend or relative to help with household chores. If you already know where to go for help, the difficult step of seeking it out becomes just a little bit easier.

5. Flexibility: Understanding the fluid and ever-changing nature of parenting can be one of the greatest skills that you develop when preparing for parenthood. The only constant in life is change. Something that may have worked for you in the past may all of a sudden stop being effective. Something that you strongly believed in before having children, may suddenly stop being so important to you. The key here is to be flexible. If things are not working, try something new. Your entire world will never be the same again the moment your little one takes their first breath. This human being in all its uniqueness will enter the world and present you with joys unparalleled and great challenges of both heart and mind. These little people will change your life, there is nothing more certain than that. Sometimes we can be stuck holding steadfastly to that which we always knew because it is predictable, safe and familiar to us. Being flexible means that we embrace the fact that sometimes we need to let go and perhaps change direction in order to successfully solve the various puzzles of parenting.

6. Reflection Skills: One of the greatest enemies that we encounter in our parenting quest is guilt. Guilt is that awful feeling that we sometimes get when we think that we have somehow committed a wrong, or failed in an obligation. It can be devastating and formidable adversary for any parent. I believe the key to reducing or eliminating guilt is the ability to reflect intelligently with the commitment to do things differently (if necessary). Guilt is an emotion like any other, and unlike some of the other emotions that we may feel, it is a bad motivator. Being able to look back on events without the burden of guilt is a great way to find areas to work and improve on, and commit to doing things differently. Developing the ability to reflect on events that occur within our parenting journey can help us to meet challenges head on, develop solutions to these challenges and all without the tyranny of guilt. Some experts believe that the emotional growth of a parent is key to a child’s development. Using the tools of reflection a parent begins to see their child as a unique being with emotions, needs, thoughts and feelings separate to theirs. Reflection also allows a parent to monitor their own emotional triggers, understand the effect of the way they themselves were parented, and use this information to affect change and grow where necessary. Reflecting is thinking about the events that occurred, the feeling that we, and others felt, why we thought or felt the way that we did and what we can do differently next time or what we have learnt from the experience. Of course there are many different theories and models that you can use while reflecting, you just need to find one that works for you, and helps free yourself from unhelpful thoughts and emotions.

So there is my list. Yes it looks a little different to most other must-have lists, and I will concede, not quite as exciting. Nonetheless, these are the things that I wish I had ensured that I had before the birth of my first child. So go forth and shop for the good stuff, after all that’s one of the great events of pregnancy. But find a quiet moment to tick these things off your list too. I promise these are things that will not be left in the back of your cupboard gathering dust.

While pregnant with my now six year old, I lived in the United States and saw an OB/GYN. Prior to becoming pregnant I had lost a lot of weight and was feeling much better about my body. But during pregnancy, with each trip to the scale, I watched my weight go up and felt my self-worth go down.

While pregnancy weight gain is normal I was gaining way more than the recommended amount. Through the first trimester and into the beginning of the second trimester I suffered from morning sickness—but all-day sickness would have been a better description. How did this cause me to gain so much weight? Rather than not be able to eat or vomiting, I had this hard to describe ongoing and demanding queasiness. I found that eating was the only way to calm my queasiness—so I ate. I felt like I had no control over my eating, I found myself in a very disempowered, defeatist mindset around my weight. I decided that I would just tolerate this excessive weight gain while I was pregnant and I would just ‘deal with it’ after my baby was born. But this tolerance didn’t mean acceptance. I did not love or accept my pregnant body.

Instead of loving and accepting myself, I accepted the fact that I was going to be fat during my pregnancy. I told myself over and over, “I have to eat in order to feel better. The only thing that helps is eating.” And of course I wasn’t sitting around chewing on carrot sticks. I was eating whatever I was craving, which I told myself was okay because I was pregnant. Once I accepted this mindset, it became a habit that I carried throughout the rest of the pregnancy.

During the first part of my pregnancy I felt sick and I was exhausted. When I am sick and tired, I know that I am at risk of succumbing to my old, maladaptive ways of thinking and behaving. In hindsight, I can see that I was always reminding myself that I was sick and tired. And that became my identity. My “I am” was “I am sick and tired”. I didn’t know how powerful that affirmation was at the time. I rationalized that it was okay to put aside my healthy habits of eating well and exercising because what I was feeling was only going to be short term, and I would ‘get back to my old self’ after the first trimester.

So between repeatedly telling myself that I was sick and tired, and that the only thing I could do to feel better was to eat whatever I was craving at the moment; I was caught in a place where I felt like I had no control over my excessive weight gain—regardless of whether that was true.

But that way of thinking was really not in line with what I knew to be true. On some level I knew it was an excuse, but I tried ignoring that inner voice. Yet it was still there, eroding my self-esteem because on top of hating the way I looked, I carried a lot of guilt over the poor choices I was making.

What it boils down to is that I allowed myself to become a victim during my pregnancy. I allowed myself to use pregnancy as an excuse to give my power away. I got into the mindset that my life was on hold until after my baby was born. My thoughts were focused on how bad I was feeling, whether it was the sickness or the exhaustion or both. It became a vicious cycle. My thinking changed because of how my body felt, and as my thinking became more and more negative, my body felt worse and worse.

I am in control of my inner voice. I choose to have an empowering mindset during my pregnancy.

What Icould have done differently was to listen to my self-talk, and make the effort to change it from disempowering statements to empowering, life-affirming statements. What I recommend is that you take time to be mindful of your self-talk. Take notice of any negative thoughts you have throughout the day. You can do this for one or more days. Once you have an idea of what you’re telling yourself, ask yourself where do these thoughts come from. Whose expectations are they? Are they realistic? Are they things you would say to a friend? Are they serving you? Then ask yourself what thoughts can serve you better. Make a list of thoughts that empower you, that negate the disempowering thoughts. When you notice a disempowering thought, replace it with one of the empowering thoughts from your list.

But for any of this to work you have to be willing to change for the better. You have to be willing to let go of the victim mindset. You might not be ready right this minute. But reading this will hopefully crack open the door just enough to start letting in some of the light you need to take the first step. You’re not alone in this, and I believe you have everything it takes to have a joyful pregnancy.  You just need to believe it too!

Where have you been allowing pregnancy to turn you into a victim? What have you put on hold until after the baby is born? Are you willing to take your power back? 

Ever heard of tocophobia? It’s a term used to describe the fear of childbirth. Researchers in Sweden have found that when expectant fathers experience tocophobia, it may have negative effects on the birth experiences of their partners.

The study, titled 'Psychoprophylaxis - Antenatal preparation and actual use during labour', by Malin Bergström found that many of these men were fearful not only of the process of childbirth, but in their roles as parents as well. There have been some signs to indicate that tocophobia contributed to an increase in cesarean sections, pointing to the need for birth professionals to address these fears with expecting parents.

Since the study, the Swedish Medical University has begun providing childbirth preparation classes featuring the use of psychoprophylaxis (relaxation techniques) for all expectant parents with good results.

Childbirth educators encourage both mother and partner to participate in class discussions to try and address these common fears about labor and early parenting. Educational models such as the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, and Birthing from Within place a great deal of emphasis on the partner as a strong yet calm source of strength for the woman in labor by teaching the partner relaxation techniques like massage and affirmations.

In another study on childbirth education classes from Lamaze International* the researchers discovered the rate of attendance for childbirth courses, and particularly courses lasting more than one session, has been decreasing over the past several years. Couples are encouraged to take lengthier courses, independent of the hospital preparation courses to get a more complete training in birth support.

Additionally, hiring a doula can help parents receive one-on-one training in these techniques and a sense of security in asking questions concerning any anxieties in an intimate and supportive setting. Doulas also help the partner to feel comfortable that everything is going well in labor, knowing that the mother will never be left alone and that there is a constant source of guidance and expertise by their side.

For a list of childbirth educators in your area, visit the International Childbirth Educators Association website.

Source:

*Contemporary Dilemmas in American Childbirth Education: Findings From a Comparative Ethnographic Study, Christine H. Morton, PhD and Clarissa Hsu, PhD, Journal of Perinatal Medicine Fall 2007

Published in Just For Dad
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 03:35

Keeping A Pregnancy Journal

Keeping a journal during pregnancy has many benefits for a mother-to-be and her baby. A journal provides a record of this sacred time that can be treasured for life. Journaling gives you a safe place to express your feelings, set your intentions, express gratitude, and connect with your baby.

It’s never too late to get started. Whether newly pregnant or close to your due date, a journal can benefit a pregnant woman and is a practice that I recommend keeping up throughout your lifetime.

Here are my seven tips for keeping a pregnancy journal.

1.   Get a Journal

Choose an attractive notebook or a specially designed pregnancy journal. If you are a visual person you can decorate your journal by drawing or cutting out baby related images. If you’ve had an ultrasound you may want to use the image of the scan on the cover.

2. Decide on a regular time for writing

Decide on a time that works best for you to journal and make it a habit to do your writing at that time every day. If you feel overwhelmed by writing every day, you might choose to write every second day, or once a week. Keep your journal nearby so you can write in it at any time that you feel inspired.

3. Write about your feelings

A journal provides you with a safe place to write about your feelings. You can start your journal by freely expressing what is on your mind. When you take the time to ‘debrief’ about the day’s events, things that you have had in your subconscious mind tend to come to the surface. This is great; it means that your conscious mind can deal with the challenges you are facing. You can make decisions and choices based on what you want, not on what your subconscious mind is in the habit of doing.

4. Record what’s happening in your body

Keeping a record of the changes that your body is going through during pregnancy can help you in many ways. If you have additional pregnancies you can refer to your journal to see what you felt last time around and what you did to alleviate some of your discomforts. It also reminds you that you’ve already survived at least some of the things you’re going through now so you will be reminded of your strength.   

Keeping track of what’s happening in your body can give you perspective. We tend to use the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ when in truth, we are not ‘always’ or ‘never’ feeling a certain way. For example, you may feel like you are ‘always’ tired, but your journal may indicate that you feel a burst of energy every day after breakfast. Now that you know this, you can start to schedule things that require more energy during that time period.

5. Express your intentions

Have you taken the time to think about what you would like your pregnancy to be like, or have you just learned what pregnancy is supposed to be like? Chances are you have had many expectations of what pregnancy is like from watching TV, movies, and talking to other women. Our culture tends to focus on the negative aspects of pregnancy. When we expect pregnancy to be miserable, we are setting ourselves up to experience a miserable pregnancy.

Take some time to focus on how you would like to experience your pregnancy. One way to do this is to write positive affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that you write in the present tense, as if you are already experiencing what you would like to have in your life.  Always focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want. For example, if you’re feeling sick and miserable you could affirm “I choose to have a healthy, happy pregnancy.” You should not affirm “I don’t feel sick and miserable” because your subconscious will weed out the ‘don’t’ and will focus on the ‘sick and miserable’. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe your affirmations at first. With repetition and focus, affirmations can help you attain a positive mindset.  

Some more examples of affirmations are:

“I am confident, strong, joyful, and at peace during my pregnancy”
“I enjoy being pregnant”
“I exercise in ways that are healthy for me and my baby”
“I have the love and support of my family and friends during this pregnancy”

6. Express your gratitude

Expressing gratitude each day will help focus your mind on the good things in your life. To start with, write down three things you are grateful for. You may be surprised at how many things you are able to list once you focus on the positives. You don’t need to find something significant to be grateful for. It could be as simple as “I am grateful that my favourite pair of maternity pants was clean today”. The more ‘little things’ you give thanks for, the more you will notice the good in your life.

7. Connect with your baby

Writing to your baby is a beautiful way to connect before your baby is born. You can share what you’ve written when your child is old enough to appreciate it. Some ideas for writing to your baby include:

  • Write to your baby about the family that s/he will be joining
  • Tell your baby about the type of birth you would like to experience
  • Share your hopes and dreams for the type of relationship you would like to have with your child
  • Express your love for your baby

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to keep a journal, so just get started! Taking the time to journal during pregnancy will get you into a good habit of taking time for yourself, which is something that you will value through your pregnancy and into motherhood. 

Published in Memories

I’ve had excessive anxiety throughout my lifetime so it was no surprise that when I became pregnant for the first time I became very anxious about birthing. I didn’t want to have an epidural and in researching the alternatives I found Hypnobirthing which helped relieve my anxiety around birthing. The course included audio birthing affirmations that I listened to time and again and when it was time to birth my baby I was so calm that the hospital staff thought I had an epidural when I had no pain medications whatsoever.

When I became pregnant with my second child I had recently come through a very difficult time in my life. I had overcome panic attacks and severe anxiety. I was finally feeling great. However, the pregnancy triggered a lot of ‘what if’ questions. I started to get very anxious about the possibility of miscarriage. I had no logical reason to worry about this, but anxiety isn’t usually logical.

I did not want to go back to having severe anxiety and panic attacks and thought affirmations could help. However, the affirmations for birthing didn’t have what I needed. Affirmations for overcoming general fears weren’t what I was after either.  I just wanted audio affirmations for pregnancy. I couldn’t find any that were pregnancy specific so I decided to record my own. I also wrote down a few of my favourite affirmations such as “My baby is healthy and strong” and “My baby is developing according to nature’s perfect plan” and I put these along with a few others on a sticky note next to my toilet so I could see them and reinforce them every time I needed to use the toilet (being pregnant this was rather often!).

The affirmations for pregnancy that I developed were very helpful. Once I got over the anxiety that I would miscarry, I used the affirmations to help with my overall mood and energy. I decided to share my affirmations with other women who may be going through what I was going through. I professionally recorded Affirmations for Pregnancy and released them on my website and on iTunes. I sincerely hope that they are helping other women as they helped me. 

If you’re new to the concept of affirmations, they are simply thoughts that you are affirming to yourself. They can be negative (as the obsessive thoughts of anxiety often are) or they can be positive. People often don’t realise that the thoughts they are affirming in their minds are very negative.  Take some time to listen to your self-talk. If you identify many negative thoughts, take action to make your thinking work for you instead of against you. Some examples of affirmations that are good for pregnancy are:

  • I choose to feel good during my pregnancy
  • My baby and I are healthy and strong
  • Meeting my own needs allows me to meet the needs of my baby
  • I have the right to make choices about the birth of my baby

I have a list of pregnancy affirmations that I share as a free gift when you sign up to the mailing list on my website www.affirmationsforpregnancy.com. You can print it out and put it somewhere you can see it often. You can also can write your own affirmations.

Some tips for writing your own affirmations include:

  • Be specific about what you want to happen or how you want to feel
  • State your affirmation in the present tense, writing about it as if it is already happening.
  • Even if you don’t believe your positive affirmation at first, stick with it. With practice you will begin to benefit from repeating the affirmation.
  • Say your affirmations aloud. If you can say them while looking in a mirror they are even more powerful
     

 

Affirmations are just one tool that can help with anxiety. You can find more help for prenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression at http://www.postpartum.net/Get-Help.aspx

Published in Pregnancy
Friday, 19 July 2013 21:13

A Blessing for Mothers-to-be

 

Oh, you who radiate life

A blessing

 

May your pregnancy unfold with ease

May gentleness surround you

 

Joy for precious days

Days of two hearts beating in one body

 

You radiate wonder

Inspiring poetry, art, worship of ancients

 

Trust your body

This process and your unique pregnancy path

 

Soon to emerge as mother

May kindness guide your hands

 

Oh, you who radiate life

Birth blessings

 

May you move with the wisdom of breath

Of your animal form

Of your gorgeous heart

 

Courage be yours

 

Radiating mother-to-be

I marvel at your light

 

For I remember those days

Holy days of goddess awe

And gratitude beyond measure fills me

 

May it be so for you

And even more

 

 

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