Why Pregnancy & Birth is Amazing Prep for Parenthood

When I was pregnant and I complained that I was getting up 10 times a night for the bathroom my mum would laugh and say 'oh, your baby is just getting you ready for when he's here'. She meant it as a joke but there's real truth in that statement, and there are other ways that the lessons of parenthood begin in pregnancy....

Your Body is not Your Own 

This is the most obvious point, you're literally sharing your body with your baby, after all - but there are other physical aspects and they don't end with pregnancy. If you're breastfeeding then your body continues to sustain your baby, and even if you're not breastfeeding you will be at this tiny human's beck and call for a significant period of time. Little children love to climb on their mum, wriggle onto their lap, need cuddles and touches for reassurance or just need to be around you, in your space. You can also expect not to have any privacy or personal space for around the next 10-14 years (depending on the child!). Sounds awesome, right? Actually, it can be. As much as these constant demands can be draining, there is something really cool and rewarding in knowing that your touch and presence means so much to the development of this little life.

Everything Grows

Or at least it can feel that way - your tummy, your breasts, even your ankles, feet and hands can get bigger. But it's not just your body. Your emotional capacity also grows though pregnancy and parenthood. You can feel increasingly vulnerable as you move towards birth, it's all uncharted territory, after all. But after you give birth it's common to become aware of a more profound level of emotional awareness/connection. Some feel it immediately when they meet their little one and for others it takes time to come, just like so much with parenting, there's a wide range of 'normal'.

Becoming More Adaptable.....

Your pregnancy might not go as planned, test results might be unexpected and suddenly everything that you'd imagined is out the window. You learn to get adaptable pretty quickly! Also, you might confront medical scenarios/conditions you hadn't planned on, or even heard of - so you also have to get used to learning stuff pretty quickly, arming yourself with good quality information and asking some very direct questions of your primary carers. These situations can be challenging and even make you feel pretty vulnerable - these feelings continue into parenthood when your little one has a temperature in the middle of the night, or an unexplained tummy ache, or wants to do nothing but feed today (despite your own lunch plans with your friends). You learn to adapt to your new situation and switch gears pretty quickly. 

"This Too Shall Pass" - however rough or smooth things are right now, just know that it'll change. Worried you're not yet feeling your baby's movements? Most likely soon they'll be keeping you up at night. Lots of nausea in the first trimester? With any luck, it'll all disappear in a few weeks. Baby not latching well? Persist and give both of you time (if you want to), you'll get there with some encouragement and maybe some adjustments. Everything changes.

And More Patient

Because it's frustrating when you make plans and suddenly the birth you'd hoped for is no longer possible, or you'd planned to go out that day but you haven't slept for the last 3 nights and now you can't go anywhere because you're too tired. Or you're constantly interrupted while you're trying to hold a conversation (or even a train of thought...). Patience is the name of the pregnancy/parenting game. Take a breath, see what's still possible and know that whatever the situation, it'll likely change again soon ;) 

What Control You Have in Your Life 

In a former career I was an accountant. Hard to think that my brain was ever so structured - but it was. And for this reason I found having my first baby very challenging. I was lucky in that I had a very straightforward pregnancy and birth so the unpredictable nature of this time of life didn't hit me fully until my first baby arrived. The random nature of life with a newborn was a big shift for me and it was uncomfortable! I soon came to realise that whatever control I thought I had in my life was an illusion and I had to learn to live 'in flow' rather try to control my tide. At first this left me feeling vulnerable and unsure (this at a time when I was unsure of many things!) and I had to make peace with these new feelings - quite an adjustment....

Best Way to Manage

So how do you become more adaptable and patient? How can you live and function at this new level of emotional connection? How can you find 'flow' when you're used to being able to control so much of your life? I recommend a practice of mindfulness (even regular meditation if you can manage it) and a focus on staying present in your day to day life. If you're not already doing it, then it's a great practice to start in pregnancy, you'll feel more connected, calm and clear and that's a great way to enter birth and parenthood. If you don't have an established practice then it can feel a bit daunting to start but little and often is the best way to start anything. Popular apps include Headspace and Smiling Mind but even just focusing on your breath for a few minutes a day will make a surprisingly big difference. 

But ultimately, the best way to manage is whatever works best for you. And that is the biggest lesson of all - navigating the information and circumstances that you have and finding your own path through it.