There are so many things that women need to juggle on a regular basis but I feel like when you're pregnant, the issues just multiply like rabbits. You have information coming at you from every possible perspective, including the unwanted viewpoint of perfect strangers and anyone else whose opinion you're not interested in but who feels compelled to share it anyway: coworkers, cousins, perhaps even your mother-in-law. It can be hard to parse through what's important and what's noise. So, below are five questions that truly are relevant and timely:
If I were to go into labor right now, am I ready?
Do you have a carseat installed? Are work related projects tied up? Is care for your existing child squared away? Do you have a labor bag packed? Do you know where baby will sleep when you get home? These questions matter regardless of where you are in your pregnancy but obviously take on a greater sense of urgency the closer you are to your due date. Babies come late but some babies do come early. You being ready right now if you were to go into labor means less worry and work for you, if it does happen.
How will I best feel supported when I'm in labor?
All attention and care needs to be on you during labor, not your partner. So, if you're worrying about how your partner might deal with your contractions or the blood or the lack of sleep that he will get, then you likely need additional support during childbirth. You also might consider getting additional support during labor if your partner is a medical doctor or nurse (these folks often have a harder time separating their training from what you might want or need in the moment i.e. not to be induced, even if your OB suggests it). It's all about you, your wants and needs during your labor. You cannot be spending time taking care of your partner, even though you normally do this. I cannot recommend enough a birth doula as your exclusive labor support. Birth doulas exist entirely for you and your needs during childbirth. Oh, yeah, they also increase satisfaction with childbirth experience and lower the chance of a csection. Pure gold.
If your doctor tells you that you need a medical intervention, do you have the information you need to respond in a way that honors your preferences for your childbirth experience?
In other words: have you taken a childbirth ed class yet? Understanding that birth is a natural, normal experience (in spite of how medicalized it has become), that women can go into labor on their own and how medical interventions can affect your labor are all part of any good childbirth education class. The two Lamaze based childbirth ed classes (traditional and survivor specific) that I teach are open to women at pretty much any week of pregnancy because I think this information in the class is valuable immediately. Say for example, after learning about how one intervention often leads to a cascade of interventions in labor in your childbirth ed class, you realize that your OB has a very high csection rate and you don't want a csection: you're likely not going to feel as nervous changing providers at week 18 for example than you would at week 28. Prep early rather than later.
Whose job will it be to care for me when the baby comes home?
Just in case you need to hear it: your job is to care for the baby. Nothing else. If you're breastfeeding that means that you exclusively are keeping that baby alive. If I sound serious, it's because I am. Feeding a newborn is no joke; it's a round the clock job that you can't even imagine would take as long as it does until you're actually doing it. For those who are formula feeding, you may not be whipping out a breast a million times a day but you are working just as hard to sterilize bottles, measure formula, heat bottles and get baby fed. Yes, your partner can do these things too but you know as well as I do, just like we both know who does the majority of the household chores in your house, that you will likely be doing the bulk of this work. In other words, you need someone to take care of you. I didn't understand this when I had my daughter. Trust me on this, please identify someone now to be your caregiver when you get home. That can mean a postpartum doula or relative but make sure someone is there exclusively for you.
What household responsibilities can I turn over to someone else BEFORE I go into labor?
Along the same lines, you don't want to be dictating how to give the dog her meds to your neighbor in between contractions. Okay, that's a little extreme but you get what I mean. There may be a learning curve involved for whoever is stepping up or taking over. Honestly, just assume that there will be a learning curve. Again, you will rest easier and will worry less if you can hand off household care and maintenance to someone else.
New moms, have I missed something? What essential question would you suggest a pregnant woman ask herself? Leave me a comment below.