by Elise Bowerman
Being in the perinatal field of yoga since 2009, a birth mother of two and witnessing friends and family processing childbirths along with their new role as a parent, I am compelled to share why education for pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are essential in maintaining a well-rounded family.
While conception, pregnancy, childbirth and parenting are all natural processes of being human; they actually take a bit of work to understand why and how they happen and what to do! They take a bit of dedication to stay aware and accepting of the processes while you’re in them, as well.
Some women need assistance in conception.
Some women need help during pregnancy.
Most (if not all) women need support in childbirth (from a birth professional, like a doula.)
Every parent needs to understand their childhood will likely be triggered having children of their own, and how to effectively parent from a place of self-love.
We live in a society of escapism. And it’s socially acceptable. Over spending money, eating, drinking, abusing pharmaceuticals, watching shows, blaming others, and placing other activities (even work) in front of things that need to be addressed, like an uncomfortable conversation or even avoiding playing with your children by putting them in activities or not engaging with them when home.
I get it. I’m in the throws of parenthood right now. Plus my family lives in a highly competitive community. Going, doing, proving and keeping up is par for the course.
This energy only ignites the flight-or-fight response of the central nervous system. When this system (the sympathetic nervous system is overworked, called dysautonomia, it leads to illness and disease.) Adults and often children are running on fumes. I can’t tell you how many times I hear parents say, “Oh we’re so busy,” or “we were so busy this summer it flew by!” Yes, summer in Michigan flies by as it’s barely three months of pool weather for us. Don’t we all know that by now?!
Parents are responsible for over committing to activities. One job as a parent is to teach our children how to manage their energy and time. They can only learn that by watching us set healthy boundaries with activities and relationships. We lead by example.
It is paramount to read parenting books. I was born in 1981. There wasn’t a lot of resources for parents to figure out how to truly parent with compassion back then. They just did a little better than their parents, and their parents did a little better than their parents.
Today we have access to psychologists, neuroscientists and child development professionals’ research at our fingertips. The data is in: less is more. By being physically, emotionally and mentally present with your children (no matter the age) they will learn how to be comfortable and confident within themselves. It’s not about what you do, it’s how you do it.
Finding recent research with anecdotes of parents who’ve been through it - provides men and women tools with encouragement so that they don’t feel alone, or that their children can stop running the show if that’s been the case.
Going back to pregnancy.
I understand where women come from when they don’t want to inform themselves about pregnancy or birth. There’s a general fear of the “what if’s” and scary stories. However, this mindset keeps the disconnect from what is happening to herself.
As previously mentioned, it is socially acceptable to be disconnected. It helps us numb out, then we get to blame others for what we didn’t know… even though it was a choice to stay uninformed.
The flight-or-fight response is there to protect us. We need it to stay alive sometimes. Pregnancy can trigger deep rooted emotional and/or physical traumas. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about any such traumas so that an action plan can be put into place to keep you aware and empowered during pregnancy and childbirth (which can feel out of control at times.)
Childbirth is a transformative time for every woman who experiences it. Birthing is as real as real gets. Each birth looks and feels different. In the research and through my own experiences I have found how a woman feels during birth is the most important part of the process (outside of keeping mom and baby healthy - that’s a given. We all desire that.)
She will replay the birth consciously or subconsciously… sometimes for years and years until she gets the validation she deserves. If she feels disempowered over the birth and/or has had any mood disorders (diagnosed or not) she is then a candidate to possibly go through Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression and Anxiety or other perinatal mood disorders.
Mothers are the backbone of the family. When mom isn’t well; no one is well. Being able to self-care and have a support system encouraging this is vital for mom to stay mentally and physically healthy.
About 800,000 - 1 million women will have a mood/anxiety disorder postpartum.
This is the #1 complication of childbirth. There is no universal screening for women’s mental health in pregnancy or postpartum.
Three out of four women will experience symptoms of “baby blues” postpartum.
Of the women mentioned above, 15% will have Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (which is the most common perinatal mood disorder.)
Of the 15%, one or two out of every 1,000 women will have postpartum psychosis.
There is no universal screening for women’s mental health during pregnancy or postpartum. It is typically up to her loved ones and herself to acknowledge something is “off.” It takes courage and strength to begin the conversation when something is “off.”
Sometimes we have to invest in our health and in our support system. I’ve never heard of any woman - or man - say the birth or postpartum doula wasn’t worth it. Our family and friends may not be able to provide the kind of support the woman needs to feel whole and confident.
Reach out to other parents to see what they did or didn’t do or use. Take it all with a grain of salt as each family operates differently. Pick and choose what might be best for yours.
Being a book person (and I wasn’t a book person until I got pregnant) I have a couple recommendations of books which lead by trusting the pregnancy and birthing processes, information about the fetus/baby developments and what to expect when visiting the healthcare provider. Included are some parenting books for newborns to young children. Books are wonderful tools over the internet because you won’t get an overload of information, you can make notes, highlight and the mind may even remember more by simply touching the page.
Birth Matters or Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Pregnancy and Childbirth Guide by Genevieve Howland
The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz
Feng Shui Mommy by Bailey Gaddis
The Baby Book by William Sears, MD and Martha Sear, RN
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD
The Conscious Parent and Out of Control: Why Disciplining Your Child Doesn’t Work and What Will! by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Would you run a marathon without learning about what it takes to do it? Would you show up the day of expecting to cross the finish line with no training? Birthing and parenthood are marathons. Practice. Pace it out.
I have to share these athletic/running quotes, because they apply to life - especially during times of challenge like pregnancy and birth. Once again, it’s socially acceptable to say these quotes about sports, but a woman challenging herself in pregnancy and birth to feel powerful, empowered, special, strong, capable and confident?! What is she - a martyr?!
“I am willing to put myself through anything, temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process.“
- Diana Nyad (motivational speaker, long-distance swimmer)
“It’s very hard to understand the beginning of the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.”
- George A. Sheehan (physician, athlete)
“You must expect great things from yourself before you can do them.”
- Michael Jordan
Now is the time to take these quotes of action and use them to get you through a unique, transformative journey not all women are able to experience. Birth your baby(ies) from a place of love, connection, power and acceptance. These energies will soak into the new generations walking this planet.