Monday, September 5, 2016

Top 10 Ways I'm Preparing for Birth and Baby

Most women do some type of preparation for their birth and baby during pregnancy. Usually it consists of things like: taking prenatal vitamins and avoiding harmful substances, going to doctor's appointments, lots of ultrasounds and prenatal testing, baby showers - especially for a first baby, maybe taking a class on birth and baby care, and so on.

 Pregnant woman getting an ultrasound. Something we chose not to do this pregnancy.

My pregnancy journeys are a little different and I focus a lot more on the physical and emotional preparation for birth than most Americans. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are also a very spiritual time for me. I feel much more connected to God and nature and I view the journey of pregnancy through postpartum as a challenging spiritual journey through which I experience dynamic changes and growth. There is just something really indescribable about creating and growing a human life, and then giving birth and breastfeeding - and these are things women's bodies do all by themselves.

Here are some of the things I'm currently doing to prepare for my upcoming birth and baby!

1) Nutrition: this is the single most important thing you can do for your baby during pregnancy. It's super important to have excellent nutrition preconception through breastfeeding but especially during pregnancy. You can actually prevent many complications of pregnancy by eating well and baby's growth and development depends directly on what you eat.

I loosely follow the Brewer's Diet, the basics of which are: eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, adequate fats and fluids, and at least 80 grams of protein daily. Eating real foods is also key. So minimizing processed, prepackaged, fast foods, additives, preservatives, sugar, etc. I also try to eat organic as much as possible. I shop mostly at Aldi and they have a great selection of organic foods for the lowest prices around!

Of course I'm not perfect and I doubt any woman eats perfectly during pregnancy. I have eaten unhealthy foods on occasion but I do try my best to eat well most of the time. There will always be time to really indulge when I'm not pregnant.

2) Vitamins and Supplements: this pregnancy I have been using Garden of Life Raw Prenatals, some extra vitamin D (decreases pain in birth and transfers to baby via breastmilk, so I won't have to use a separate supplement for baby), Floradix (liquid iron) (this stuff is seriously amazing if you have low iron), and Garden of Life Raw Probiotics (to balance my vaginal flora and minimize any GBS I may have).

3) Pregnancy Tea: I make my own blend which consists of red raspberry leaf and stinging nettle. Red raspberry leaf is very nutritious (high in many vitamins and minerals) and helps to tone the uterus during pregnancy. Nettle is also highly nutritious and one reason I chose that herb is because it's high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for the blood to clot which benefits both me and baby after birth. Newborns naturally have low levels of vitamin K. I drink two cups a day since starting third trimester.

3) Prenatal Appointments: I have my babies at home with a traditional homebirth midwife. I follow the typical prenatal appointment schedule of once a month until 28 weeks, then once every two weeks until 36 weeks, then once a week until birth. I'll be writing another blog post on this soon because my prenatal care is very different from the typical care an OB provides!

4) Processing Audrey's Birth: Mid-pregnancy I was surprised to find myself with some unresolved emotional issues surrounding Audrey's birth. I have been journaling, meditating, and talking to my midwife and friend to process that birth so I can focus on this baby and birth.

5) Exercise: I was really good about walking and doing yoga in my first pregnancy but now it's a little bit harder to find the time while chasing after Audrey! I do try to fit this in at least 4 days a week. Natural birth can be physically demanding and it's important to increase my strength and stamina. And of course exercise is essential for good health in general!

6) Spinning Babies: Now that I'm in third trimester (actually about halfway through third tri!) I've been focusing more on daily spinning babies exercises. I do the daily activities, which not only consist of some specific exercises but also how I position my body all throughout the day! I try not to lean back while sitting or resting because that can encourage baby to be in a posterior position (sunny-side up) which sometimes makes labor longer and harder. I experienced a long, difficult birth with Audrey who was posterior, and am very motivated to do what I can to encourage this baby to be in a more optimal position! I do the Daily Essentials DVD every night while Ryan puts Audrey to bed followed by a a forward leaning inversion. Ryan also does rebozo sifting for me a few times a week which not only encourages baby to get in an optimal position but feels amazing!

 Not as hard as it looks :)

7) Relaxation: This is the key to having a natural birth. Tensing up against contractions makes them much more painful. You can try this experiment yourself to see what I mean: hold your arm out and tense your upper muscle while someone squeezes it very hard. Then have them squeeze while you relax your arm completely. Huge difference!

Of course it's easy to relax when nothing much is going on or while falling asleep but it can be much harder to do during labor if you haven't practiced. This pregnancy I have been using Hypnobabies as a tool for relaxation, although I don't completely buy into the entire philosophy. The tracks are great for relaxation though!

8) Preparing Audrey: Not only are we getting her ready to be a big sister but we are also hoping she will be with us during the actual birth! I'll be writing another blog post about this soon.

9) Getting Baby Items Ready: Not much to do here. I've learned that babies, and newborns in particular, need very little in the way of material items. I spend most of the first weeks in bed or on the couch with my babies which is essential not only for bonding and breastfeeding but also my own recovery from giving birth. So I have a few things left to do, like wash the baby's clothes and cloth diapers and put them away, but not much in this category.

10) Babymoon Preparation: In the early weeks it's essential for me to spend my time recovering from birth and establishing a good milk supply. I actually plan on not leaving my house for about a month after birth and instead having a "stay-cation" of sorts, also referred to as a babymoon. I will be focused on getting our nursing relationship off to a good start, taking care of baby, and recovering from birth. Sleeping and resting as much as possible and eating well are key. So basically I get to hang out in bed or on the couch with baby while other people take care of Audrey, the house, and me!

Ryan will be home the first two weeks and then my mom will be coming for another two weeks. I'm really looking forward to this time and have a couple books set aside (the newest Harry Potter and Tracy Chevalier novel) and a TV show to watch (Dr Quinn Medicine Woman. Don't judge - Sully is hot! Hello, extra oxytocin!). We will have some visitors but they will be very limited and will be asked to bring a meal, run an errand, or do a chore in exchange for visiting and holding the baby.

One day old Audrey and I enjoying our babymoon: skin to skin in bed!

I will also be making a bunch of freezer meals while pregnant which will mostly be eaten after my mom leaves. We just got a deep freezer for this purpose and I'm excited to fill it with healthy meals!

Sound like a lot? Sometimes it feels like a lot! But I really feel like these things are important and it's only for a short period of time. And then our baby will be 'earthside' and I will be super busy with raising two children while Ryan completes the final year of his master's program!

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