In many traditional cultures, the village or tribe supports women in pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for babies. This allows children and young women to witness these life stages and all of the work and joy that comes with them. If you’re like me, however, you were raised as part of a nuclear family and never witnessed labor or delivery. I was clueless as I started down the path of becoming a mother. Between books, podcasts, the internet, family, and friends, there is a TON of advice and information for future mamas to sift through. How do you know where to start? Whose advice should you follow?
I started by asking for advice from friends who were new parents. What were their favorite books and resources? What did they wish they knew when they were pregnant or in labor? Here’s how I’d answer that question if I were asked today:
More and more research is showing that the well-being of parents before conception impacts the health of the baby. Taking stock of your (and your partner’s) physical, mental, and social well-being before pregnancy and parenthood can really pay off. The resources below can be helpful both before and during pregnancy!
Both Real Food for Pregnancy and The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care offer information that will allow you to properly nourish yourself leading up to and during pregnancy. Though it is hard to prove, I do think that my diet contributed to easy conception, a comfortable pregnancy, labor and delivery without complication, and a strong healthy baby. This one-pager gives you a quick idea of what a “real food” “nourishing” diet looks like for a pregnant woman. I didn’t end up following this list to a T (I found it to be too much food…I ate to fullness, following my own body’s cues), but I did make sure to have liver and sardines (with bones and skin) once a week; soaked or sprouted my grains, beans, and nuts; and ate grass-fed butter, pastured meat, raw milk, bone broth, eggs, fermented foods, and organic produce pretty much every day.
Labor is an intense physical effort, and caring for a baby takes a lot of strength as well. Though it is common in our culture for pregnant women to become more and more sedentary, I would highly recommend using your nine months to train for your impending “marathon” in an informed and healthy way. For me, my walk through the forest up Mt. Philo in addition to long swims in Lake Champlain helped me maintain good physical as well as mental health.
Spinning Babies is a great resource for preparing your body for an easier birth. Check out the “In Pregnancy” tab on their website’s menu for some great movements to incorporate into your daily and weekly rhythm. Birthfit is another amazing resource that can inform efforts to prepare for a smooth labor and transition to motherhood. Their model emphasizes the importance of fitness, nutrition, chiropractic, and mindset for pregnant women and new mothers. This blog post gives you a sneak peak into the science-based “real talk” that can be found on the Birthfit blog and podcast. If you don’t want to spend hours sifting through blog posts or listening to podcasts, the post on the “Top 5 Movements to Do During Pregnancy” gives you some good movements to incorporate into your day.
The Experience of Pregnancy:
There is a huge list of things that pregnant women shouldn’t do, shouldn’t eat, and shouldn’t drink. Some of them made sense to me, and many of them didn’t. The book Expecting Better helped me sift through the advice and use scientific findings to decide what things I would avoid while pregnant. The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth was also helpful as I navigated the adventure of pregnancy. It provided information about the physical changes my body was undergoing in addition to facts that helped inform decisions during my prenatal check-ups. The Evidence Based Birth website also helped answer many of the questions I had while pregnant.
Gearing up for Birth:
As I entered my third trimester, I wanted to learn more about labor and childbirth. I found it incredibly helpful to hear birth stories from a diversity of women. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and many of the Birthfit podcasts helped me build a positive grounded mindset as my due date approached. I focused on preparing for and visualizing a smooth unmedicated home-birth. I also felt that it was important to be ready to accept whatever path my labor took, even if it didn’t go according to plan. Listening to other women’s stories helped me understand the range of possibilities and learn from their experiences. Taking a birth class was also a great way for me and my partner to feel prepared.
As my due date approached, I had to make more and more decisions at my prenatal appointments. It was important that my midwife and I were on the same page as we prepared for labor and delivery. The Evidence Based Birth website helped inform many of these decisions. The website does a great job of presenting the facts in an unbiased evidence-based way.
I found these resources helpful as I navigated the unfamiliar territory of pregnancy. I also, however, had to accept that I would never learn everything I might need to know. The only predictable thing about pregnancy, labor, and childbirth is that they rarely go according to plan! In addition to learning facts, it was equally important to nourish my mental health and mindset. Feeling informed, my community of family and friends, and my balanced positive mindset would allow me to successfully navigate whatever path I found myself on.