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#6: What To Do When You’re Expecting

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SUMMARY

In the second part of this two-part episode for women in their 20s and 30s, Suri shares her advice on useful things to know about pregnancy and the birthing process, so women can feel confident and know exactly what to do when they’re expecting.

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SHOW NOTES

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TRANSCRIPT – edited for clarity

INTRO: Hi everyone. Welcome back to Doing Things On Purpose, a podcast that empowers women to take charge of their time, health, relationships, and money by doing things on purpose. I’m your host Suri, and I’m so thrilled that you could join me again today.

SURI:   This is part two of my episode for would be moms in their 20s and 30s. Part one was Episode #5 about What To Do When You Fall In Love including the decision to start a  family. And in Part 2 today, I give my advice for women who’ve already decided to build a family or those who are already expecting. 

I hope this will be useful to you. And as always, take what speaks to you and leave the rest. Let’s dive right in. 

First of all congratulations on your pregnancy or your decision to finally try for a baby, and I hope everything is going well! What an exciting time. When you’re pregnant, people will fawn over you, you’ll get that pregnancy glow, your hair will look so luscious. Besides the nausea and body aches, pregnancy can be such a beautiful time, if you let it.

Remember that your body was made for this. I just mean that in an animalistic sense, our bodies were built to create life and to carry a pregnancy to term. Trust that. And if complications develop, I invite you to also take that in stride. All you have to do is to stay calm, take everything step-by-step, confidently handling whatever that needs to be done as you go along. Okay?

I want to put a disclaimer here to say that I’m not a midwife, a nurse, or  healthcare professional. I’m just offering you my personal thoughts and learnings, as a mom of two girls, and a consummate  information gatherer. Remember that professional advice from your doctor or midwife always takes precedence over what I’m about to share, but also  I want to empower women to remember that you do have a lot of influence over your own pregnancy and birthing experience. 

PART 1: The first tip that I would like to share with you is about managing expectations.

No, a baby will not help to keep your relationship together, and it should never be used for that. And I think what might help many women is to also come into motherhood with open eyes and some healthy expectations in terms of timings.

I’d say that to have a child, and to really spend time enjoying it, do expect to invest:

  • At least 8 years of your life, disproportionately spending time and energy into feeding, clothing, nurturing, guiding and most importantly – getting to know this little individual that you’ve created. 
  • Then expect to spend another 8 years learning to let go.

So for the first 8 years, our world tends to revolve around our children and their needs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Children are not just empty vessels to be filled. They have their own personalities, their own weaknesses and their own strengths, just like us. They will both challenge you and delight you. They can help you grow and learn to be more present, more patient, more resilient. They teach you to create healthy boundaries, but also to give infinite second chances, because that’s what unconditional love looks like.

And just as you’re willing to give infinite love and compassion to your little ones, remember to shower a little bit of that love and compassion to your relationship with your spouse as well, which will shift and grow too. I think for most children, if the parents are doing well together, the children will feel secure and do well too. 

And remember that your spouse will be the one who you’ll spend the rest of your life with, once your kids have grown up and flown the coop – starting their own families and living out their own lives.

I think especially the first 1 to 4 years become a pivotal moment between you and your spouse, as you experience the shifting roles that you both will find yourselves almost falling into. 

You’ll learn what triggers each other, but you’ll also discover what each other’s strengths are. My advice is to just notice how each of you can and can’t show up in your new roles, and be okay with imperfect solutions that allow you to still care for and support the family unit as a whole. Because again, everything is transient. Everything is temporary.

Often, you might suddenly discover that you’ve partnered with your exact opposite in many ways. Maybe it’s nature’s law of attraction. On one hand it’s perfect because you complement one another. But as a society, we often forget to celebrate and appreciate our differences, but rather we focus on how those dissimilarities are causing friction in our relationships.

You might notice arguments that keep repeating on the same topic over and over again. That’s life trying to teach you something. I wanna say that it’s normal. It’s only to be expected. You’re both learning and I believe it’s very possible for two different people to make enough space in order to enjoy a good life together. Otherwise life would probably be pretty boring.

Just keep working on expanding your circle of compassion for one another.

And then after you and your family have passed the 8 year initial phase, expect to spend yet another 8 years learning to let go. 

To discover alongside your child, the person that they’re blossoming into, as they test themselves, stretch beyond the boundaries of mommy and daddy, and slowly grow into the young adults that they were meant to be. 

You’ll be less the guide, but more the safe harbor. You might dispense advice and offer encouragement about love, money, relationships and career; while at the same time discover that despite all of your life-lessons, they might not value what you value or to follow in your footsteps. They might choose to make their own mistakes.

I just remind myself that it’s never personal. Remember that they might idolize you and think the world of you, but in the end, they might still choose to take a different path. 

The sooner parents can embrace this, the easier our relationship with our kids can be and the sooner our children can feel safe to accept and love themselves as they are – trusting that they are always in the process of becoming, and remembering to enjoy the ride as they embark on this crazy journey through life. 

When happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin was asked, “What’s the best way to be happy?” she now has an answer which is “What’s the best way to cook an egg?”

So the answer is it depends. It depends on the person and how they like their eggs. You don’t have to be in charge of that.

PART 2: How to take care of yourself and your pregnancy. 

So if you and your partner have decided that yeah, a decade or two of learning to care for and be infinitely patient with a child and with each other is something you’re open to exploring – here are four basic things that I’d love expecting moms to keep in mind: 

1. Get checked: Visit your healthcare provider for prenatal check-ups and follow their advice. Take your prenatal vitamins. It’s so important to take care of both you and your baby’s health. For instance, did you know that babies take calcium from their mothers’ bones if there is an insufficient amount in the bloodstream? I know, how scary is that?  

2. Get informed: This is a big one. In episode #5 I highly recommend expectant mothers to subscribe to the free Babycenter newsletter at babycenter.com to automatically receive information about your changing body, your growing baby and also information on your child’s development up to the age of 8. I’ll include the link again on this podcast’s summary or transcript. 

I find that honestly, your Gynecologist or healthcare professional might not automatically talk about other things like nutrition or breastfeeding when you go for your check ups. So you’ll have to get informed yourself. Learn about staying hydrated and eating well. Drink sips of water throughout the day and make sure to eat enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your meals. 

Sharing my own personal story: I come from a family with diabetic risk and had to learn this the hard way. In my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes or pregnancy diabetes, although I’d actually had quite a low body mass index all my life.

I had never really watched what I ate, but when you get diagnosed with pregnancy diabetes, they set you up with a nutritionist and I was suddenly forced to monitor my blood sugar levels four times a day with a glucometer, and keep a diary of all of my meals. 

That forced me to start eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and to give up relying so much on quick meals like pizza and spaghetti with pesto. I remember my finger being so sore from all the pricking, it was so annoying.

But the good news is that you absolutely do have the power to change things around. Even though the risk of me contracting gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy should’ve increased, I ended up having a normal pregnancy. Because that habit of eating a more balanced diet stuck.

Today, I’m not as strict with my diet, but I still plan our weekly meals based around home cooked meals and vegetarian dishes every other day or so.

Besides nutrition, you can also get informed about the different types of birthing options available to you, and let your healthcare provider know your preferences. My best recommended resource about getting an in-depth guide to all things pregnancy is Hypnobabies which I’ll talk about at the end of this podcast so stay tuned. 

Remember that being informed allows you to be less fearful of the unknown experience of giving birth.

There are so many horror stories floating around. I totally understand why 32% of women in the US and even here in Switzerland are opting to get a C-section instead of giving natural birth a chance.

3. Exercise regularly: Pregnancy weight and hormone changes takes a toll on your joints and strengthening them is so important to keep your body feeling strong. Since I love yoga, I’ll include the pregnancy yoga videos that I used during my pregnancy. I especially found the one with Nicole Croft from BuddhaBellies* so relaxing. 

For post pregnancy, I focused first on healing. Expect to experience menstrual like bleeding 4-6 weeks after giving birth as your uterus continues to heal. Your midwife might recommend you use thick and soft pads to cushion your raw down under. 

If you experience vaginal tearing and need the stitches to heal faster, a good tip I took from my lovely midwife is to use red light therapy at home. It’s this little machine that’s actually quite multi purpose. You can also use it later on, for muscle aches, and even to promote healing and increase circulation if you suffer from skin issues on your face. I’ll include the link to what I use in the show notes or transcript of this podcast.

4. Be confident: Trust how you want your pregnancy and the birthing experience to look like. 

  • Do you want to give birth naturally or with a planned C-Section?
  • Do you want to give birth in a hospital or at a birthing home? 
  • Do you want to have a water birth?

Everyone will have their own well-intended advice and experiences to offer, but don’t let that completely influence you to make a decision that you’re not comfortable with. It’s your body, your pregnancy, and your birthing. 

Be kind to yourself. If you can’t decide when you’re at a check up, say that. Choose to take time to ponder it at home and inform your service provider at a later date. 

Being confident in yourself at this stage helps you practice to become the confident mother and compassionate partner that you and everyone around you can trust and rely on. There are no mistakes when you try your best and are true to yourself.

So I know what you’re thinking… These are all nice words to say, but you probably want to know how you can get balanced information, and how you can feel confident. 

The Babycenter newsletter that I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast indeed offers bite-sized information that is practical and helpful to know, for both pregnant women and moms alike. However, I think to feel really confident and grounded in yourself, it might be useful to check out pregnancy courses in your area and see what you like.

Recommended: Hypnobabies

An alternative is what I used, which was Hypnobabies. I bought their self-study program in 2011, but they also offer in-person classes and now, even online courses.

It doesn’t come cheap at around 200 dollars depending on which version you choose. But I have to say that includes ‘everything’ that you need to know, and everything you didn’t know you needed to know. It’s that comprehensive. 

Hypnobabies informs women on topics like:

  • Nutrition
  • Fetal positioning 
  • Sleep positions that are good for you and the baby
  • Exercises you can do to prevent vaginal tearing
  • What to expect at vaginal exams and how dilation is measured during labor
  • A birthing plan statement that you can fill out and share with your health care practitioner or bring on your birthing day
  • Stages of labor
  • Information about correct latching and breastfeeding positions
  • And if pain is a big concern of yours, the crown jewel are hypno-anesthesia audio tracks that can help you eliminate stress and look forward to giving birth naturally and confidently.

It does require you to commit time to reading the material and doing the exercises, so start early. But you can pick and choose the topics that most concern and interest you, which was what I did.

From my experience, the second time around, I was much more confident in myself and relied less on the hypnobirthing techniques itself. Because firstly, I hadn’t spent enough time to re-solidify the practice in my mind as I was taking care of my toddler as well at the time. And secondly, I wanted to rely less on my partner’s participation in cuing me to my ‘safe place’ during the self-hypnosis process.

I found that all I actually needed was myself. Me in my body. But the course helped me:

  • keep my attention on slowing down my breathing. Deep and slow ins and outs. When my breaths were slow and steady, I found I could actually influence the heart rate of my baby and help avoid fetal stress and the need for an epidural.
  • I also focused on saying ‘aaah’ during contractions because an open throat means an open birthing canal down there.
  • And lastly, I focused on relaxing all of my muscles. To just surrender instead fight against the waves of contractions that came over me. Trust that it’s just your body working as it should to slowly soften and dilate the cervix, and push the baby out.

It’s a truly amazing experience to learn what our bodies are capable of. I really hope that what I’ve shared can help women feel less afraid of this experience. Complications can happen of course, but I know you can take it all in stride, as it comes.

Recommended: Water Birth

Both my kids’ births were water births and I highly recommend it. Some things to know: 

1. Temperature: Please don’t expect the water to be super warm, because it’s likely only going to be around 100F or 38C to avoid over heating. 

2. Birth support rope: If you can find a place with a birth support rope hanging on top of the tub, even better. A birth support rope is a long cloth that’s secured to the ceiling which you can hang on to for support, while you’re pushing the baby out. It helps you keep a vertical position and allows gravity to do most of the work of sliding your baby out. 

It might sound very feral giving birth this way, but I promise you, you wil feel like a strong amazonian woman by the end of it. Don’t buy into the horror-story movie scenes that portray torturous births, with the woman lying on her back in bed, with legs splayed wide, and lots of clenching and teeth gritting. It should actually be the opposite. Think relax and open… open… open… 

Alternatively if you end up getting out of the water, you could choose to squat instead.

3. Pooping: What you should know about giving birth is that you might poop a little when you’re pushing the baby out because of all of the pressure. Your midwife has seen it many times and it’s completely normal and not a big deal. 

In my second birth, I was offered an enema to clear out my bowel early on in labor and I didn’t know anything about it and just said okay. But current studies have found enemas to be neither necessary nor helpful for the health of your baby. So it’s up to you. 

So you can tell that I have very fond memories of giving birth. I do wish you a beautiful pregnancy, and birth as well and I hope this podcast has been helpful. 

All the resources will be included on my website at the podcast section, specifically at suristahel.com/6 for this episode. Remember, that whatever choice you decide to make, it is the right one for you. 

I believe in you, I know you can do this. I wish you a wonderful pregnancy and a beautiful birth.

As an extra, I’ll put together a list of baby items that I think are life savers and others which were complete money wasters for me. So look out for that on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to my newsletter at suristahel.com/newsletter.

OUTRO: So that’s it for me this week. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll catch you next time.

2 thoughts on “#6: What To Do When You’re Expecting”

  1. Mohd Safian Bin Ismail

    Hi Uya. Ayah disini in KL. Wow what a good write-up and useful to know n to practice. I am proud of your thoughts n contribution to the mass audience!

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