I had my babies a long time ago, but I still remember the feelings of anxiety. Was I doing it right? Was I making the best choices for my baby, myself, our family? There was so much noise being thrown at me from well meaning family, friends, doctors and experts, sometimes it was hard to hear my own heart.
I knew that my guts and intuition were spot on when it came to my baby's needs.
I wish I had known that it was appropriate to expect the people around me to respect and support my choices. As a new parent, it's healthy to set boundaries when the people around us are not being supportive. It's not okay when other people undermine our confidence in our choices. Having healthy boundaries is a huge part of emotional health in the fourth trimester. Well-meaning relatives and friends like to give advice and to help solve problems that aren't always actual problems, just normal adjustments postpartum. This can keep new parents from finding their own rhythms.
I knew that it was impossible to spoil my baby, whether through too much snuggling, baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding and attachment parenting. I wish I had known that other people's choices were equally valid for their families, that those choices do not define a "good" or a "bad" parent. These divides undermine every new parent. It makes little sense to create separation where we could be building supportive community. The truth is, we don't know the details of another person's life or why they make the choices that they do. We're all doing the best we can, for the most part, making the best choices we can.
We all deserve respect for our parenting choices, even when we disagree.
I wish I had known more about what to expect during my second birth in the hospital. My first birth was a home birth. I had a great birth team, I was prepared, and I knew exactly what to expect. My second birth was in a hospital. I didn't do any preparation for what hospital birth would entail. I didn't really realize it would be that different from my home birth! I wish that I'd had more access to education and information, that someone had explained what a hospital and its procedures would be like. As it was, the hospital birth I had was also positive, but it was very different from what I expected. I felt like I was learning to swim, in the middle of labor, and hospital procedure was a shock.
I've long since worked through the emotions and feelings about my own birth experiences. But those experiences inform what I try to bring to my clients during their pregnancies, labors and births. It's a huge part of my "why." Why I listen, why I validate, why I encourage birthing people and parents to trust their intuition, to ask questions of their providers, to set boundaries, and to use their voices when they disagree. It's why I bring an attitude of non-judgment to the table, so that all of my clients feel supported in their choices, no matter what those choices are. And why I strive to stay informed, so I can offer the most current, evidence based information to my clients so that they are never left adrift or bewildered in the face of a decision or a hospital procedure.
What we know about birth is that it does not always go as planned. It can be full of surprises.
Having a doula doesn't guarantee outcomes but it can help you deal with surprises or when your plans change. A doula offers validation, support, empowerment and information. These things all go a long way towards helping you get the outcome you want and can help you feel good about your birth outcome even if it wasn't what you'd planned for. And that's a good thing to know before you have a baby.