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.

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Preparing for pregnancy the second time around

alexis schraderBefore my first pregnancy, I spent months exercising, eating right, going to acupuncture and taking vitamins. I felt really on top of things.

Then I got pregnant and was blindsided by terrible morning sickness. Then I had a miscarriage. Then I got pregnant again. Basically I threw up every day for a year. It was seriously not fun.

Now, I’m getting to ready to add a second child to our family, and my goals have changed. Last time, my only concern was a healthy pregnancy. Now, I also need to be a good parent to an active toddler while I’m pregnant.

While I’m worried about no longer being able to nap under my desk, I also feel like this time I have a better idea of what pregnancy is like. Here’s what I’m doing differently now that I know what to expect:


Before my first pregnancy, I had a regular yoga practice. Now, most of my exercise comes from chasing a toddler around.

While I’m trying to prioritize working out, a daily 90-minute yoga session is not in the cards. Instead, I’m focusing on specific muscle groups.

I’m using pilates to work my core and pelvic floor, which really take a beating during pregnancy.

I’m also working my shoulder muscles. I had a lot of shoulder pain with my first baby from constantly picking her up and holding her, so much so that I ended up in physical therapy. By working my shoulders with resistance bands, I’m strengthening my muscles to prevent overtaxing them later.


I’m still breastfeeding my 2 year old, so I’m trying to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods.

Before my daughter was born, I never drank coffee. Now, I need a cup in the mornings to get going. Before my first pregnancy I would have obsessed over this. Now I’m letting it go, since the amount of caffeine is well within the range considered safe and I’ll be better able to parent my daughter with the extra energy.

The importance of prenatal vitamins is common knowledge, and I started taking them long before I got pregnant. But once I was pregnant, I threw up every time I took one. This time, I researched vitamins that minimize nausea.

I also researched supplements, like milk thistle, that may minimize morning sickness.


During my first pregnancy, I tried to minimize stress, which at the time was pretty easy. Now, my life has changed a lot — as a mom, I’m basically on-call all the time.

So I’m using my limited free time to multitask, doing things that will both relax me and hopefully prepare my body for an easier pregnancy. This includes chiropractic care, rolfing sessions and pilates classes to open my hips, correct my posture to help with back pain and get in better shape so I have more energy and endurance for my family.

I’m also spending more time stepping back and observing my daughter. It is such a joy to watch her play more independently as she gets older. And now she’ll be used to me lying on the couch while she plays!

Preparing for another pregnancy is definitely more complicated, because I have more than one child to consider. But knowing what pregnancy and the postpartum period are like have helped me target my efforts towards specific goals. Hopefully this will make the transition to a family of four easier for all of us.

How was your second pregnancy different from your first? Did you do anything different to prepare?

Dear Health Visitor, I Must Confess I Lied …

Posted by Louise, a mother living the United Kingdom. She blogs at “Health Visitors” in the UK health system are community nurses who provide routine developmental checks, care and support to newborns and their parents, including advice on feeding, sleeping and all aspects of newborn care.

Dear Health Visitor,

I must confess, I lied. I didn’t set out to be untruthful, but I felt like I had no other option at the time. I should obviously take full responsibility for my untruth; after all, I had the audacity to be a first-time mum with the sheer cheek to want the very best for my baby girl. You see, I didn’t actually leave my angel to cry. I didn’t really look past her gaze at nighttime to avoid eye contact. I didn’t even offer her a sip of water instead of my breast. She didn’t, in truth, actually sleep for those 8 hours that I told you about.

In fact, she has never slept for 8 hours in a row…not when you take into account all of the snuggling, smiles, little kisses and breastfeeds that naturally occur throughout our night. Yes, Health Visitor, I did say “our night”; my little girl and I sleep side-by-side, drifting in and out of our own special sleep dance, perfectly in tune, feeling warm, safe and happy. I guess that’s something else that I wasn’t exactly truthful about at the time. You can find more info about desert mobile medical.

You see, Health Visitor, I led you to believe that your advice, excuse me, your instructions, were right for us. I led you to believe that your dated and unsafe methods actually “worked”… if “success” is determined by the behavior of a child instead of the feelings. If only I had been honest from the start, perhaps the footprints that you came to leave in the next unsuspecting mother’s life would have been softer. Perhaps, just perhaps, you might have questioned your own methods and goals, seeking evidence-based, research-led data that would broaden and accelerate your understanding of the subject matter you preach daily. Or perhaps not.

903529_65792420For you and your team, my innocent baby was simply a tick in a box, but I didn’t actually ask for “help” if you remember.

It was your colleague who rang me at 10 weeks postpartum, when my iron levels were still so low after I had nearly died of a postpartum hemorrhage that I could easily have been admitted to hospital. “Are you getting out much? I haven’t seen you at the drop-in weight clinic, and 10 weeks is by far enough time to be back to normal.”

It was your colleague who told me at a breastfeeding “support” group at 4 months that any more than one night feed was nothing more than “pure manipulation” on my baby’s part. Funnily enough, there was no mention of growth spurts, sleep regressions, or baby brain maturity rendering my daughter physiologically incapable of “manipulation.”

It was your colleague who told me repeatedly, again at the breastfeeding support group, that my baby fed too frequently and to offer her water instead of the breast. Funnily enough, there was no check for tongue-tie, which was totally missed until 18 months. Or allergy, which was missed until a major type 1 reaction occurred on the introduction of solids. It seems that the ‘Health’ in ‘Health Visitor’ is there for no more than decoration.

It was your colleague who told me at my daughter’s 9-month check that children who aren’t put in their cots at 7 p.m. and left there without contact for the proceeding 12 hours will turn into “teenagers who sleep with their parents.”

But it was you, dear Health Visitor, who quietly watched, gently checked-in and slowly nodded. It was you who chip, chip, chipped away at my motherly instincts and confidence. If only I hadn’t answered truthfully in the postnatal depression test; if only my results hadn’t flagged me as borderline so that I was placed on monthly drop-ins for an “innocent chat.”

I was honest here, Health Visitor. I was telling the truth when I said I was happy, that I had never felt more content and fulfilled than when my darling daughter gazed lovingly into my eyes at the breast. I was being honest when I said that the only reason I scored highly on the “anxiety” section was because I couldn’t shake the memory of crashing during childbirth–the memory of my wonderful husband holding our baby with nothing but terror in his eyes while a team of doctors worked on me, as all the while the world grew fuzzy-white and I fought to stay awake. You see, Health Visitor, my “problem” wasn’t with being a mother, it was with the memory of almost NOT being a mother…of almost missing out on every single second of pure joy that my child brings me. It was with a slow, unapologetic nod and change of subject that you met this truth.

You are the expert after all. You know sleep deprivation when you see it. In fairness, you were quite right; I was tired, but the difference between you and I is that I don’t see tiredness as a bad thing. Being tired was a crucial part of my new mum experience. It allowed me to switch off the world outside and focus on the only thing that mattered: my baby.

It was you, Health Visitor, who instructed me on every single drop-in visit to leave my daughter to cry in her cot, alone, “for as long as it takes, even if she is sick.” It was you who instructed me on every single visit, to “keep it up for as many days or weeks as is necessary, and if you need to change the sheets to remove the vomit, don’t look her in the eye.” It was you who told me that “every mum has a breaking point.” You were determined to reach mine, weren’t you, dear Health Visitor?

I simply must confess to you that I lied. I did not follow your orders. I did not leave my daughter alone in her cot to cry and puke and learn helplessness. Instead, I cuddled, cradled, snuggled and breastfed my baby girl so that she can learn what it is to be human. Because isn’t that what we are missing in all of this? Isn’t it eye contact, innate communication, respect, kindness and love that define us as human? It is with nothing but pure love that I treat my daughter.

I see your instructions as nothing more than neglect, and it is because of this that I am sorry. I am sorry that I led you to believe that I had taken your advice; in explanation, I simply wanted your visits to stop. I am truly sorry to all of the other mums who had to endure your mantra. I am so very sorry to all of the other babies that had to endure the consequences of your orders. I hope that now, with hindsight and with my admission, you will understand that your role is not just a day job. You are on the front line, so to speak. You have the access to truly make a difference in the lives of hundreds of families. Let’s turn away from learned helplessness and perhaps in so doing you will learn helpfulness … we can but hope.


Mama Bean

Silent Heartbreak

I had a miscarriage when I was 24. It was one of the most devastating events of my adult life.

For three months, I was sick. For three months, I planned out the entire future of this little being nestled safely in my womb. I even had a name: Rose Marie Elizabeth. Then, at a routine doctor’s appointment, it happened. She couldn’t find the heartbeat.

I was told not to worry, “It’s not uncommon, but just to be sure, let’s schedule you for an ultrasound.”

“But.” I hate that word. It’s always a caveat to other things. It’s hardly ever a good sign. I love you, but … I brought this for you, but … Check’s in the mail, but … Things are fine, but … ”

Off I went for my ultrasound. I was laying on the exam table with a blanket wrapped around my middle, wearing a too-big, generic hospital gown in a quiet room, tucked away from the main flow of the clinic.

I should have known.

The technician was very kind, very gentle, and sensitive to the news he was about to reveal. I had no idea how to read the images on the screen. I could see a sack, but it looked empty. His face told me what I wasn’t brave enough to ask. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “these things happen. There’s nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault.”

I don’t remember changing my clothes or walking out of the clinic, but I remember sobbing in the car as though my soul had been shredded from my body.

They told me that it could take up to two weeks for my body to have the miscarriage. I was in agony. My mind was tortured by the thoughts of what I was carrying around inside me. Of the life I had so lovingly planned just a few moments before. Now it was nothing but shambles around my feet. Everything felt broken: my mind, my body, my life, my baby, my dreams.

Two weeks later, I felt the first pain. It came slowly at first, very far apart, and just like regular labor, it gradually increased in speed and strength and length. I drove myself home from work but shouldn’t have. I don’t remember anything but thinking I was going to die.

It was just like giving birth except there would be no baby at the end of all the work.

I couldn’t do it. I was literally a shaking lump of tears on the bathroom floor. Somehow, I managed to get the phone to call 911. The woman on the other end was soothing, and I felt safer.

I ended up in the hospital Emergency Room that night. Unfortunately, the nurse was cruel and unsympathetic to what was happening to me and the obstetrician was busy with happier things upstairs to pay much attention to me. Two residents took pity on me, giving me a warm blanket and a shot to numb the pain. They offered simple but powerful kindness by touching my knee and stroking my hair as I cried. Twelve hours later, it was over. The obstetrician examined me, and I was sent home.

I had no idea how to heal. Is time my only option, because sitting in that murk and disillusionment would have killed me.

I decided to go to the book store to find a book about miscarriage. I was standing in the grief section trying to find something that would work for what I was feeling. Nothing. I went to the death section. Nothing. I went to the self-help section. Nothing. There was nothing for me. I’ve never felt so completely alone. Dejected, I sat on the little stool meant to help people reach for the higher shelves and just cried. I cried for my baby and for me and for my hopes and dreams that seemed so very far away. And I cried, because I was angry that happiness had been ripped away from me.

As I was leaving the bookstore, I passed by the baby section—where all the “new mom” books are, the cute baby faces in cute baby clothes, where all the happy families hang out. At first, I was going to keep walking because the thought of looking at what I had just lost threatened to unravel my last thread of strength. But something inside me told me to be brave, to just look up, to look at the titles, that it’ll be OK.1405283_85836809 purple flower

I picked up a book about natural pregnancy. It was called Immaculate Deception. I don’t know why I picked it up. Maybe it was the word “deception” since that’s how I felt. Or maybe it was “immaculate” because the word held a promise that better times where ahead. Whatever the reason, it was the book that would lead me to my two beautiful home water births. It was the inspiration for finding my power as a woman. It planted the seeds of expectation: that we all deserve a respectful birth which empowers us and celebrates our strength, within in a culture that respects our choices.

At the time, my miscarriage was one of the most painful events I ever went through. It took me months to physically recover and years before I recovered emotionally. But I believe everything happens for a reason, even our darkest moments, and if we can be brave enough to just look up, we’ll be fortunate enough to discover what that reason is and be better for knowing.

*Originally published in the New Baby 2012 edition of Attached Family. Click here to access past issues of Attached Family. If you are not already an API member, you can join now for free by using the link provided on the Attached Family page.


7 resolutions for baby #2

So, about that whole balance thing. I’m bad at it. Really bad. And as we mothers tend to do when expecting baby number two, I’m going through my mental list of things I want to do differently now that I have some experience under my belt. My list seems to revolve around achieving balance. Which, I haven’t yet learned to do with my firstborn. Here are some things I plan to try to get better at this.

1. I will put the baby down. Sometimes. Once upon a time, I thought bouncy seats and swings were for mean mommies. But you know what? We need both of our hands and a full range of motion from time to time. To feed ourselves, to tend to the needs of our other children, to wipe up that dust bunny that brings our hormonal selves to tears because we’ve been staring at it for a week with a sleeping baby in our arms. Even the fanciest slings and carriers come with limitations. Tending to other things, including, you know, basic hygiene, is part of the program. And the baby will be no less content and secure. If she is, I trust that my instincts will pick up on it. Which brings me to…

2. I will trust my instincts. I had a hard time with this one early on. Could you blame me? What did I know? First, I’d never been a mother, so it was all new territory for me. Second, my mother had passed away years before my first was born, so I didn’t have that person I felt I could call to give me the right answer every time. I relied on books, where each one contradicts the next, and instinct. In retrospect, I’ve realized that instinct usually trumped what I found in print.

This time around, I’ll acknowledge that my mothering instincts are there and in working order. We are equipped with them for a reason.

3. I won’t be so paranoid about nursing in public. More often than I’d like to admit, I left a cartful of groceries in the middle of the aisle to run out to the car, or ducked into a bedroom, or surveyed a building upon arrival to find a hidden place to nurse, or lugged around an extra 15 lbs of bottles, pumped milk and ice, or made my crying, hungry child wait for a bottle to warm. And for what? For the comfort of the few squeamish who, in my humble opinion, need to lighten up? Wow, I prioritized rude strangers’ comfort over my child’s and my own. Not cool. I can’t whine that breastfeeding isn’t the norm if I’m not willing to be a part of the change I’d like to see.

4. I will try to remember that I’m a person, too. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about passing off parent duty to the husband or a caregiver to go to that yoga class I wanted to try, or to take a hot shower, or go to an actual store to find post-partum clothes that fit (vs. buying online). True, the baby might cry. And if I’m not there, Dad or the person in charge will do their best to soothe her.

Confession: I still feel guilty if I take a shower while my toddler is awake. My husband would think this is stupid.

5. I will live in the moment. As soon as my little guy was born, I started my mental panic countdown to the day I would have to go back to my full-time job. How much time must I have wasted feeling sad about someday being apart from him when I could have been enjoying my time with him?

Although I will be able to stay home with my kids this time around, being present is just as important. Sometimes it’s hard to do the day-to-day thing mindfully in our multi-tasking, over-scheduling culture. I need to remind myself to slow down and enjoy every moment as much as one can on just a few hours of sleep here and there.

6. I won’t feel guilty when I don’t get it all done. Heck, I don’t get it all done now. I would love to be superhuman, but see #4. I’m just a plain ol’ person. Even if it doesn’t get done, it’ll all be okay. It always turns out okay.

7. I’ll ask for help. Well, I say that now, but when the time comes I probably won’t. Those who know me know that if I’ve asked for something, it’s pretty much a life-or-death emergency and they should rush to my side. Hey, I listed it, which means I’m going to try. (I hope I don’t alarm anyone.)

Maybe I should revisit this list once the baby is born…

Is there anything you would do differently?


I used to chuckle just a little bit when people said that they were “trying” to have a baby. I mean, didn’t anyone ever teach them about sex? You do it. You get pregnant. Not always right away, but it does happen unless there is a problem. If there is a problem, then you might need a little help.

Well, that is what I thought.

I came by that thought fairly honestly. My mother never had any trouble getting pregnant; I was a honeymoon baby and so was my son.

I thought that getting pregnant with the second one would be just as “easy.” We didn’t even consider “trying”, we just went about our normal lives and…. nothing. I know that there are those of you who have experienced this; some with your first, some with your second or more. But, I really couldn’t imagine how we could be pregnant immediately with our son but now it has been, well, a while, and nothing!
Continue reading “Trying”

Numero Dos: Sharing The Love.

As the date of our big move from the U.S. to Canada approaches and we shuffle from one generous friend’s abode to another, this pregnancy, the little growing one all snug in my tummy, often seems to take a back seat (not in the back of our Volkswagen Golf, but in the back of a very long bus)–which makes me a little sad. Aside from the slowly, and finally, dissipating constant nausea and fatigue, my little tummy buddy hasn’t gotten much air time in any sense of the word over these last 13 weeks.

I can remember the last time I shared my body. It was a little over two years ago. From the day that joyous pink line appeared across the plastic pee stick, little Noah Finn was all that I could think about despite the fact that I was working everyday. I woke up and thought pregnancy, I peed (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I taught and thought pregnancy, I ate (a lot) and thought pregnancy, I slept (very little) and dreamed pregnancy. My growing abdomen was always on my mind.

This time is definitely different. Running after a bouncing, bounding, boisterous toddler while volleying between temporary living situations has certainly captivated the time that I don’t spend eating and sleeping. The fact of the matter is that constant urges to snack and slumber aside, I often forget that I’m pregnant.

What does all of this mean? Is it normal? I am betting so. But it certainly does recall those initial pangs of subtle trepidation I first experienced when pregnancy test number two revealed yet again that solid pink line: sharing the love. How does a mama who has experienced everything about mommying–pregnancy, birth, mothering–with one child not feel guilt about sharing such sacredness with another? It feels almost like cheating on the first.

Melodramatic? Perhaps. But, these are real anxieties, that while slowly fading as the months tick away, remain present nonetheless.

So, how does a mommy share the love–that smothering, doting, gooey love that’s gushed all over the first with the second and subsequent bundles of joy? Will my little Noah feel shortchanged and left out the decision making process–after all, he had no vote here!? Will he harbor feelings of abandonment and isolation, regress and insist on learning the alphabet Z thru A?

Think I’m being melodramatic, again? Perhaps. But these are tangible fears that I sometimes think about. That is, when I remember I’m pregnant anyway.

Following the Principles: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Part 6 of a series of 8:

As we enter the last few (days? weeks?) of our pregnancy with LF#5, I have to admit that one of my biggest, most gigantic fears about having two nurslings under the age of two is “how will I EVER find a sitter for two completely attached, nursing babies AND my high-needs 6 year old???” Not that we have a need to spend a ton of time away from our kids, but having the option for some time together every few months seems like a marriage saving idea!

In  the past, with the wide age spacing of the older children, it was really never a big deal. Everyone was always happy to have the older, experienced “helper” tag along to provide invaluable care-giving advice: “Oh, that cry means she wants her blankie! or “By this time, Mom always puts her in the sling!” And even when Bug came along with her higher-needs personality, we had my parents nearby to help out when she was very tiny. After we moved further away, she had her own personal favorite nanny to provide loving care when she was a toddler. When T-Bird arrived and I had to return to work much sooner than I would have liked, we got creative and rearranged our work schedule to ensure that either Sir Hubby or I could always take care of her (and yes, that’s our picture on page 189 of Attached at the Heart!)

TBird and MommaBelly
Saying Goodbye to T-Bird before our class

Since moving away from my parents, our beloved nanny, and my flexible job, I have been a full-time homeschooler, stay-at-home-parent, and very tired pregnant lady! But being at home has also allowed me to forge many wonderful friendships in our new hometown. I adore that we share so many of the same parenting values with our new circle of friends. But, like me, they also have very full lives and busy families. We can get together and have playgroups, and homeschool groups, and ladies nights…but leaving T-Bird with someone other than Sir Hubby or Big Sister Ella has not been territory that I have delved into yet.
Continue reading “Following the Principles: Provide Consistent and Loving Care”