Tag Archives: pregnancy

Doulas should be covered by health insurance.

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Yet another research study has come out showing that having a doula improves women’s birth experiences and reduces their risk of complications during birth. This is the first study, though, to show that health insurance companies are likely to save money overall by covering doula care. The original study was published by Birth, and you can access it here.

NPR has an excellent write-up on the study and some of its implications here.

We had doula support for each of my births, and I will always strongly recommend a birth doula (and a postpartum doula, if at all possible), for all parents, especially first-timers. Our daughter’s birth doula barely made her birth because it happened so quickly, but she was still a hugely important presence in the pre-birth planning, and talking with her about some of my anxieties and getting her feedback made my daughter’s birth easier both mentally and physically. I’m confident that the doula who supported us during my son’s birth was instrumental in helping us avoid an unnecessary Cesarean, and she provided empathetic and careful counseling when I had trouble breastfeeding him after we were discharged from the hospital.

Doulas are worth it, insurance should cover their services, end of story.

Prenatal intensive mothering can be a problem.

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Over at Sociological Images, Sangyoub Park has a very interesting and slightly scary post on tae-gyo, a form of prenatal intensive mothering practice in South Korea, which has mothers believing that their childrens’ entire lives hinge on what they do, learn, and even see during their pregnancy. Because mothers don’t have enough people judging their every move already.

Koreans believe that a mother’s state of mind and ongoing education during pregnancy determines a baby’s prospects. Their educational and occupational future, even their personality, is dependent on what their mothers do while they’re pregnant. A reporter, below, quotes a South Korean figure who claims that “nine months of prenatal education is more valuable than nine years of post-natal learning.”

This example of a Korean mothering practice is an interesting one, but of course we in the US have similarly bizarre expectations of what expectant mothers should and should not do. As a vegetarian, I was chastised routinely during my first pregnancy for not being able to eat 80-100 grams of protein a day, even thought people in the US eat more protein than almost the entire rest of the world, even when we’re not pregnant. My diet is generally healthy and my protein intake is more than enough by the standards of most of the world, but for many months I drove myself mad trying to eat more protein, because what if my baby became somehow ill because of my diet?

This is ridiculous, because a healthy person with a healthy diet who is consuming enough calories is doing all she needs to do, and babies are independent people who rely on their mothers to grow, but are not under the control of their mothers, physically or mentally. I was made to feel guilty over how my baby was growing at the expense of my own happiness and well-being. I can’t believe that stressing pregnant people out over how much they are reading, or how much peanut butter they can consume, can be healthy for a fetus either, and in fact, pregnant friends have commonly mentioned how often well-meaning acquaintances tell them to stay calm for the sake of the baby. Because pregnant people aren’t allowed to feel anything but calm and joyous and blessed, all the time.

All of this is just another way for society to police pregnant bodies. Mothers, women, need to be allowed to be handle their pregnancies in whatever ways make sense to them without being constantly reminded of all of the 1 in 100,000 ways we might do it “wrong.”

Read Tae-gyo: Prenatal intensive mothering in South Korea at Sociological Images

Book review: The Mother of All Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas

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I have a backlog of shorter book reviews, so I’ll be posting those in the next few weeks.

douglas-mother-allI found The Mother of All Pregnancy Books at the Good Will down the road when my partner and I were first talking about trying to conceive. It was $1 and the title is cute, so I bought it. It’s a perfectly fine pregnancy book, including sections on planning and conception, pregnancy itself, and postpartum issues. It is unique among the pregnancy books I’ve read in that it is not organized by month, but rather focuses much more on questions you’re likely to have throughout pregnancy. There’s a good, extensive section on common complaints, and I found the chapter on prenatal testing options to be particularly helpful.

It’s a good resource book to use while pregnant, but it lost points for me because it doesn’t really stand out among the crowd of other pregnancy books out there. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I didn’t feel that it provided me with any information or new perspectives that I hadn’t already gotten from elsewhere. I do like it better than the What to Expect series only because it doesn’t dwell on all possible worst-case scenarios. Most expecting parents are anxious enough without the addition of the unnecessary stress that comes from reading about all the things that go wrong 1 out of every 100,000 pregnancies.

Got a book you’d like me to review? Leave a comment with your suggestions or email me.

On bonding

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One of the many surprises I’ve encountered upon having my second child has been how different my experience of bonding with her has been, compared to my experience with my son. I feel like I know my daughter so well after only three short months, despite the reality that she is growing and developing at lightning speed, a little different every day. I put this down more to my general comfort as a mom and my better knowledge about how to take care of a baby this time ’round than to anything particularly unique about my daughter, as lovely as she is. Becoming a first-time parent was such a shock that it took me a long time to relax enough to really get to know my son.

Becoming a new parent is one of the fastest, most dramatic transitions most of us go through in our lives. One minute, you are alone, and the very next, there is an entirely new, helpless person who needs you to be on top of it and have it together. It’s a cliché, but it’s  a true one, and modern life in America being what it is, a lot of us are going through this alone but for our partners. We don’t have our mothers or sisters or the friends we grew up with around to help. We just have to do it, and figure it all out as we go.

Before my son was born, I had held a grand total of one newborn before in my adult life. I had a decent amount of real world experience with toddlers and preschoolers, and being an academic, I’d done my research on how to care for a baby, but it was all theoretical. The moment the midwife and my partner first plopped my son on my chest after he was born was exhilarating, but also terrifying. What if I broke him? What if he didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like him?

All of this makes being a new mom super scary, and for me, fear got in the way of feeling close to my baby. I was committed to doing well by him, and I kept him fed and clean and close to me because I knew I was supposed to, but I was scared of him. We had trouble nursing for his first month, and I had a lot of anxiety about his growth and health, compounded by the crazy hormonal swings of the postpartum period. I was convinced I was going to fall down the stairs while holding him. I couldn’t sleep because what if the room was too cold, or too hot? What if he stopped breathing?

I overanalyzed everything after he was born. We did lots of skin-to-skin contact because there’s good research that skin-to-skin promotes bonding, better weight gain, and general better health for babies, but outside of these designated times, I had a genuine fear of cuddling or kissing him too often. I’m an introvert myself and I wanted to respect his baby autonomy, which to me meant giving him some space. All of this  got in the way of getting to know my baby comfortably, and of bonding with him on our own terms. There was such a learning curve: I had a new role as a mother, a new body, new schedules and routines.

I genuinely think I was (and am) a good mom despite all this. I think this fear is a really common experience among new parents, and maybe one that needs to be talked about more out in the open. I am so happy to say that becoming a second-time parent has been a lot less terrifying than it was the first time. I have confidence in myself and in my babies. know that my daughter is going to like me, and I’m going to like her. This bonding experience has been infinitely more joyful than the last, now that I’ve been able to relax into my role and just be here with my kids.

Link: ” What You Should Really Bring Someone Who Just Had a Baby” at The Kitchn

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I just want to add a “Hell yeah!” to this post from The Kitchn: What You Should Really Bring Someone Who Just Had a Baby

Casseroles are great, but things I can eat with one hand, for breakfast and middle-of-the-night snack are even better! Read this article and remember it the next time a friend has a baby!

Link: “Mom Body” by Rebecca Roher

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So many of us don’t think very much about how pregnancy and birth work until we’re going through it ourselves. And pregnancy is so weird! You can describe it as a beautiful, miraculous process all you want, and it is, but it’s also a process full of discomfort. From the physical pain of your internal organs getting shoved around to the psychological discomfort of suddenly living in a body that looks different every day, pregnancy is bizarre and challenging work.

Huffington post has done a profile on a comic by cartoonist Rebecca Roher, created when one of her close friends was pregnant and birthed her first child. The cartoon highlights a lot of the strangeness of being pregnant, most of which you don’t usually encounter in popular culture. This is stuff I wish more people knew about. If you’re curious about what pregnant people are going through or the real experience of being pregnant, birthing, and suddenly being a parent (at least for some of us), I highly recommend you read it!
The entire cartoon is at GUTS here: Mom Body by Rebecca Roher

And the article on Huffington Post that I saw is here: ‘Mom Body’ Comic Nails The Emotional Exhaustion (And Eventual Joy) Of Pregnancy by Caroline Bologna

Working together

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I became pregnant with my first child the summer before my last semester of grad school, the summer I was supposed to be writing my Masters thesis. It wasn’t a hard pregnancy as pregnancies go, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I was working part-time at a bed and breakfast and had to be on the bus to work by 5:30 in the morning. I was nauseous, I was exhausted, I was behind on everything, and it ended up taking me an extra semester to push my thesis through. I graduated four weeks to the day after my son was born, and standing up there with my baby and my degree was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.