Preparing for childbirth: The delicate dance between pushing out and letting go

Observing a friend struggling with, and complaining about, the last days of her pregnancy –constantly posting on Facebook about how she finally wanted her baby to make an appearance in the “real world,” listing details about all the activities she undertook in order to make this happen ASAP — made me reflect on the delicate dance that childbirth is. 

I get it. I’ve been there.

Ready to Push?

Feeling big — no, huge! Not being able to see my toes anymore, let alone tie my shoelaces. Feeling very swollen in the summer heat and out of breath after walking up the stairs to our apartment on the 4th floor. Rolling around on the mat in my prenatal yoga class feeling like a huge whale. Nights spent sleepless with heartburn, an active baby in the belly, and a bladder that never wanted to go to sleep.  

And then, there is all the excitement about finally getting to meet this tiny human being that you have lovingly and patiently grown in your belly for all these long months. The excitement about becoming a parent — for the first, second, third… time. There are all the people around you, asking when the baby is due — which does not really help or make waiting any easier — and so many other good reasons to finally push the baby out of your belly and into the world. 

But First…  

But there is another side to the story, which tends to be forgotten or at least does not enjoy a lot of spotlight.

A more delicate, more sensitive — even darker — side that might not be as limelight-worthy or Facebook post-worthy…a side, which in my opinion, is just as important as the “push side.”

It is the side that mindfully focuses on letting go.

On gentleness, on feeling, on making space for the baby to come into this world…and making space for what is to come and follow.

On becoming aware of and consciously reflecting what is transpiring inside of us: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

Facing Our Feelings

This includes facing our anxieties and deepest fears and doubts about birth and about parenthood, about our ability to “do a good job” at delivering and then protecting, nurturing, and growing this delicate, wonderful new being that we already love more than we could have ever imagined. It may also include acknowledging and confronting our fear of failure, our fear of pain, our fear of loss, and our fear of fear. 

Furthermore, it includes facing the reality that things are (again!) about to change tremendously. That not only our everyday life is about to get the next big overhaul, but also our whole universe: The way we relate to the world, and the way we relate to ourselves is going to drastically change.

It includes coping with our bodies changing — yet again — from the pregnant state to a postpartum state, which will look and feel very different from what we are accustomed to and from what we might actually enjoy or expect seeing and feeling. We might feel empty, tired, depleted, sore, and possibly a far cry from attractive and sexy for quite a while.  

I vividly remember mourning my “empty“ belly for several days following my daughter’s birth. It felt empty and somewhat sad to not feel my baby inside my belly anymore. While I was certainly very happy to finally be able to hold her and cuddle up with her in my arms, I missed this innate and exclusive feeling of connection to her.  

Bringing Together the ‘Pushing Out’ and the ‘Letting Go’

I believe that, in order to consciously and mindfully prepare for birthing our child, it is important to take the time to look at and ideally merge both sides of the equation: the “pushing out” and the “letting go.”  

The tiredness of being pregnant and the energetic eagerness to have baby out of my belly have certainly helped me tremendously in getting over my fear of giving birth and all the pain that would be — and certainly was — involved. However, being mindful, open, and receptive to the side of letting go, creating space, and facing anxiety, doubt and fear — even mourning during this transition — has certainly proven to be very helpful as well. I believe it might be one supportive part in the puzzle of alleviating or possibly even preventing feelings of the “baby blues.” 

So, I’m calling on all expecting moms: Take a deep breath and give yourself a mindful moment — and ideally many more — and some space to merge both ends of the continuum. By doing this, you will be giving your body, mind, and spirit a chance to holistically and soulfully prepare for what is to come instead of forcing it into birthing-action mode.

Photo source

Extra Pair of Eyes

Play MatesI cannot underscore the importance of a supportive spouse, partner, or mother’s helper when you’re a work-from-home parent of a mobile baby or preverbal toddler.

Just this week, my seven-month-old son has learned to climb the few steps between the family room, where my office is located, and the kitchen. I had hoped the steps would serve as a barrier between the two rooms for a little while longer, since the gap is too wide for a baby gate. After all, he wasn’t even rolling over consistently only a month ago. In just the last four weeks, he not only learned how to roll over but also how to scoot, sit up, and pull himself to a standing position. I’m envisioning him leaping off the couch in a couple months. I hope I’m not right.

As such, I’m finding it a little difficult to do certain types of projects without a second person keeping track of the baby – projects that require deep thought for more than the couple minutes it takes for my baby to cross the room and scale the steps before I need to get up to fetch him. Understandably, his five- and four-year-old sisters do not want this responsibility – and they shouldn’t have to, anyway – although I am grateful when they play in the family room, as the baby stays put when his sisters are near.

So, these projects have been relegated to mostly overnight hours, when baby is asleep, or when my husband is home. Certainly, my husband can’t be on danger watch every moment he’s home, as he needs to do things like mow the yard and work on the cars, so I try to work it out with him a couple days in advance so he can adjust his to-do list for the week. But as a parent, he does share the responsibility.

It doesn’t mean your spouse or partner isn’t being reasonable if he or she doesn’t want to watch the kids while you work every night. It’s one of those things you have to work out. For some families, it works out better to hire a mother’s helper than to rely on a spouse or partner, just because they’re so tired after a long day’s work themselves. But that might make you feel resentful. Both of you need to voice your expectations and concerns regarding your work-home situation, and find a solution that works for both of you.

When my girls were young, being only a year apart, I hired a mother’s helper during the day, as working with two babies at home is a bigger deal than with one baby. Or maybe, I think it’s easier now because I’ve finally got the hang of it? Either way, I found a mother’s helper to be critical when I was working on tough projects. I requested a mother’s helper – usually my mom, although I have a grandmotherly neighbor and a teen from church who also like the job – as needed, and basically she served the purpose of an extra pair of eyes. I still cuddled with my kids, fed them, and changed their diapers, but when I needed an extra minute to finish my thought, my mother’s helper would fill in the gap. She would also prepare meals, throw in the laundry, pick up the toys, and do other odds-and-ends so that when I took a break from the project, I could spend it giving undivided attention to my kids rather than on some chore. While she was here, my babies were always in the same room with me.

I know some work-from-home parents who do use a nanny or babysitter or put their children in daycare while they work, and that’s OK. I also know of some single parents who are able to work from home without hiring help. That’s amazing! But, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a parent if you do need an extra pair of eyes, or hands. A mother’s helper, or at least help from your parenting partner, may be just what you need to balance work with home while keeping your attachment bond as a priority.

Busy as Can Bee

I do most of the correspondence for my work over the phone or e-mail or in ways that don’t require a peek inside my home. It’s not just the baskets of clean laundry stacked in my living room the past week or the pile of dirty dishes on my countertop or my chronically unmade bed that makes me unsure about using Skype and other webcam services. It’s the whole juggling act of working and parenting.

The other day, I was attending a webinar – thankfully not one with video-conferencing capabilities – on honey bee colony losses for an article commissioned by a local magazine. It’s a good thing most webinars are recorded, and if they’re not, their information can usually be double-checked on a website somewhere or at least by giving the speaker on the webinar a quick phone call.

So, I’m trying to write down various quotes and all the pertinent information on these beekeeping management surveys. A lot of research, something that requires quite a bit of attention. And I notice that the baby needs a diaper change.

The webinar is playing on my laptop, on my bed. The bed’s not made, so there’s only the thin fitted sheet between baby’s bum and my pillow-top mattress. I check out the situation and figure it won’t take me long to change his diaper, but in the middle of the said change, something comes on the webinar that catches my attention and I drop what I’m doing to hurriedly catch up my notes.

Somewhere in all this, my five-year-old and four-year-old burst into my room arguing about how each wanted to draw on this same piece of paper (we have a whole box of paper!), and one of the cats jumps up onto the laptop’s keyboard, muting the webinar. And I’m squinting my eyes at the laptop screen trying to concentrate all my energy into copying down the words that the man on the computer is saying without taking the time to process what that means in the scope of the story. No time for thinking – at that moment, I was a photocopier memorizing the words coming through my ears and the images coming through my eyes and using my fingers to put them on paper. I don’t have a true photographic memory, but I’m pretty darn close, which is very helpful in overwhelming moments.

I don’t know how many minutes pass, but somehow I do manage to get everything I need down on paper, including intact quotes, and I’m able to mediate my daughters’ quarrel without hurrying through it. I hear a noise, one that usually indicates a diaper change is needed and I think, Thank goodness I got a diaper on him. Except I don’t.  And now I need to do a load of laundry, by far my least favorite activity in the realm of housework.

This is an everyday occurrence. Maybe not the same events, but certainly the amount of distractions. Work, kids, kids, cat, other cat, mail, phone call, work, kids, mail is here, I’m hungry, work, kids, kids, need a nap, kids, work, kids, need a break…get a break, whew!…and repeat. Working from home while being a stay-at-home parent is a lifestyle choice, that’s for sure. This may sound like chaos, but it’s the only way I know to work and work well. I need that little bit of chaos to give my brain the motivation to hyper-organize to be able to be as productive as I am. For me, the fuller my life is, the happier I am. Although I do wish there was a way for me to avoid having to do laundry…

This post is part of the Delicate Balance series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

Can You Please Retrieve My Bagel From Under the Bed?

rita and kids

I don’t normally eat anything found under my bed. The vacuum cleaner can only reach so far. I also have two house cats, and that’s where they go to get a little R-and-R from my three kids. Plus I do have a kitchen stocked full with food found in usual places like the fridge or pantry. But since going gluten-free this winter for medical reasons, it’s not often I get a chance to eat a beautifully soft bagel mounded with cream cheese spread. And I really wanted that bagel.

Losing the bagel – sunny side down, mind you – to the depths reminded me of a great disappointment a few months earlier. I had just left the doors of Burger King with my three children, a baby in a car seat and two girls, ages four and five, and in the crux of my arm balanced a refill of Dr. Pepper that I was really looking forward to drinking. It was a little breezy, and the older children were tired, and the parking lot seemed to be especially busy. When I got to the car, I put the drink cup on the hood and began the process of getting the car seat into its base and the older children into their booster seats. Triumphant with how smoothly things seemed to be going, I reached for the drink cup – when suddenly, a gust of wind shot it off the car and my longed-after Dr. Pepper dumped all over the ground. I was so disheartened that I didn’t even think of going through the drive-thru to get another one.

So, yes, I wanted that bagel. I didn’t want a repeat Dr. Pepper episode.

How did that bagel get under the bed, cream cheese side down, stuck in the dust bunnies and cat hair? Well, I was doing one of my infamous multitasking attempts. I was breastfeeding my baby while sitting on my bed, using the breast pump on the other breast (due to chronic yeast), talking on the phone with a client, sketching out an idea for a project with a pen and notepad, and eating this bagel – at the same time. The baby is at that age where anything within reach is in danger and he batted at the bagel. It dropped to the floor and rolled under the bed. I couldn’t express my dismay more than grimacing a little, because I was still on the phone. And I couldn’t attempt to get the bagel before the 30-second rule, because I was still tethered to the breast pump.

My husband didn’t even blink when I asked him to please retrieve my bagel from under the bed, like I do this kind of stuff all the time…

This post is part of the “Delicate Balance” series, which chronicles the juggling act of work-at-home attachment parent Rita Brhel.

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