The list of do’s and don’t for pregnancy can be exhausting. And, more than that, it can create sense of anxiety as you find yourself forgetting what you “should be doing.” Many things on these lists are essential for healthy pregnancies, but we are going to simplify it today, and focus on three basics.
Three Things to Never Do During Pregnancy
1. Listen to Negative Birth Stories
Cord found its start in the powerful activity of sharing birth stories. Something almost magical happens when a woman finds a safe place to share her story; when she is met with grace, love and understanding, instead of judgement. After completing Birthing From Within’s Birth Story Listening class, I am more aware than ever of the importance of even traumatic stories finding a space to share.
But that space is not with pregnant women.
If you are growing a life inside you, protect your mind, your spirit and your cortisol levels by gentling asking those who would share their traumatic stories with you to stop.
Because Western culture does not have a healthy system for women to process their traumatic birth stories, many women may feel their story goes silenced, and, therefore, jump at the chance to tell it when the opportunity arises. And the only opportunity that arises, too often, is when she glances at your pregnant belly.
But this does not mean you have to listen.
Their story is not your story. Your story will be as unique as the child your carry. You invest in your baby, yourself and your labor by insulating yourself from these stories.
2. Avoid Thinking About Birth Until it is Too Late
Just because you are refusing to listen to negative stories does not mean you are to avoid thinking about labor. There seem to be two polarized camps when it comes to labor prep: research nerds who come armed with doula and birth story in hand, and those who find the thought of labor terrifying, so they just avoid thinking about it.
Avoidance may be an effective way to reduce fear in other areas of your life, but not in preparation for labor and birth. Refusing to prepare for labor will likely only leave you feeling more anxious and out of control once labor actually begins. You may be faced with big decisions: induction vs. spontaneous labor, labor augmentation (e.g. pitocin) vs. natural labor progression. When a doctor or nurse brings you this decision, feeling ill-equipped to make an educated choice can leave you feeling regret later on. Often these decisions arise in the heat of the moment. Without information and preparation, it is difficult to silence the chaos to remember the research and follow your instincts.
The only way to conquer fear is to look it straight in the face; avoidance only gives it more power.
When I help women who have experienced a cesarean birth prepare for their VBACs, they are often surprised when I insist on us creating a birth plan for a possible repeat cesarean. It is as though piece of them assumes that if we don’t talk about it, it is less likely to happen. However, in the event that a cesarean becomes necessary, when we prepare, families find their birth experiences to be powerfully satisfying, even though they were not their “ideal birth plan.”
Whether it’s finding a doula or recruiting a close friend who is a birth nerd, surrounding yourself with people and resources that approach birth with intentionality and evidence-based research will help enable you to have a more peaceful, empowered birth experience.
The time to start thinking about it is now.
3. Compare Baby Bumps
It’s amazing how that cute little baby bump you’re rocking can bring out the crazy in people. Opinions, touching, caressing…ah! I was floored by all the “experts” walking around. “You’re carrying high.” “You’re carrying low.” “You’re going to have a boy.” “Wow, definitely a girl.” “Oh, you’ll never make it to your due date.” “Holy crap, you’re tiny.”
On and on it goes - So. Many. Freaking. Opinions. As well meaning as they may be, and even though we know they are fluff, they can still affect us.
When we start comparing bumps and bodies, we rarely find ourselves in a more peaceful, powerful place. If we think we look bigger, we assume our baby will be huge - “will he even fit through my pelvis?” If our tummies seem smaller than a friend’s, we wonder if our baby is growing alright.
Just like your birth, your body is as unique as the baby it is growing. Each woman will carry each baby differently - some higher, some lower; some wider, some thinner.
When it comes to the growth of your belly and your baby, follow your instinct and the actual experts: your doctor or midwife.
And gently ask the rest to be silent.
Or try caressing their stomachs right back - this always worked for me.
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