Baby Announcement Etiquette in the Social Media Age

During many of my childbirth preparation classes, one of the things we discuss is how and when to announce the birth.  This was obviously not a huge concern before the advent of social media, but given how effortless it is now to share our thoughts, feelings, experiences, excitement and whatever we’d like without a second thought and with vast numbers of people simultaneously, we have begun discussing this as part of our postpartum preparation.

I begin by asking my students if they have put any thought into how they plan to announce the child’s birth.  Some of them say they will call the people closest to them, others say they haven’t really thought about it, and there is almost always one person who says, “If anyone announces it on Facebook before we do, I’m going to be really upset!”  So, we talk about ways that we can bring this concern to our friends and family ahead of time in an effort to circumvent the problem.  Enter:  the Social Media Etiquette discussion.

I have suggested that expectant families create a graphic to post during their pregnancy so that friends and family understand the importance of announcing the birth in the manner that they choose.  If you don’t see anything posted to this effect, play it safe!  It’s always best to assume that the couple prefers to be the source of the announcement if you aren’t sure.

You may also be asked at the baby shower to refrain from posting anything about the birth until it is officially announced.  If you spend a lot of time on social media or are a “Facebook Stalker,” You may find that the parents are all of a sudden very quiet on social media and think you have figured it out; but whatever you do, DON’T post “Congrats!” on their wall because other people can see that.  (Pro Tip:  This feature can be turned off in Settings.)  Some couples might be okay with an email, message or text, but if they haven’t had the baby yet, and especially if the pregnancy has gone beyond the estimated due date, you run the risk of stressing them out.  There are few things more annoying in late pregnancy than hearing, “Have you had the baby yet?”  Stress is not good for mom and baby, so just . . . be . . . patient.

The babymoon (the period of time after the baby is born and for several weeks afterwards) is a time when mothers and babies are adjusting to life as a dyad; it is both sublime and intensely difficult.  Some of the kindest things you can do to show your support is to bring them a prepared meal (don’t stay too long!), offer to do some cleaning or run errands and … save the big news for them to share.

FINALLY — A Natural Birth Award

You know how when you start telling people that you are planning to give birth without pain medication, there are those special individuals who make it a point to say, “You don’t get an award for pushing your baby out without pain medication.  Why bother?”  Now, you can say, “Au contraire, mon frére!  There IS an award!  and I AM GOING TO GET ONE.”

You probably have learned that people can sometimes STINK at being supportive of your birth intentions (and there are likely a million possible reasons for this.)  You are probably more aware than others of the risks of receiving pain medications routinely during labor, and that’s why you are trying to avoid it.  But, it gets exhausting trying to justify wanting a natural birth and frankly, you don’t really owe them an explanation.  That’s why I’ve made this award; for YOU — the mom who just wants to shut down the naysayers.  You do your thing, mama!

Congrats to YOU!


________________________

 

Jenn D’Jamoos, CCCE is a mother of four and a certified childbirth educator based in southeast Michigan.  She offers private and group birth preparation classes for parents who want a positive birth experience.  

Birth Preparation Methods and Why I don’t have a “method”.

Now that I am a Certified Childbirth Educator, I can look back on my childbirth preparation experiences with a more critical eye.  Let me first say, I don’t believe that there is one method that serves everyone, but rather, certain methods resonate with certain people.  You like vanilla, I like chocolate . . . you get the idea.  But how do you know what is a good fit for you?  Let me explain.

For my first baby, I took classes through the hospital, and I didn’t remember much of anything helpful by the time I was in labor.  Those hospital classes did not teach me any coping skills.  I was going to “try” to go natural (lol).  I ended up getting pitocin and thought I had to stay confined to bed.  None of the nurses there told me it would be easier for me to get up and move around.  (Maybe they didn’t know because they only ever saw medicated births?)  So, I didn’t.  Culture had me believing that I was supposed to stay in the hospital bed, even though no one ever actually said that to me.  Given that I was in tremendous pain, had no coping skills and my husband was equally at a loss to help me, I requested the epidural.   While the epidural was very effective in relieving my pain, I felt disconnected from my body and the birth experience.  I was an observer;  just another person in the room waiting for a baby to emerge.  I knew if I was going to do this again, I’d need to seek out a different kind of class to have a better birth experience.

Fast forward to my second birth:  we took a birth preparation class that was 12 weeks long.  It was a popular method that celebrates husbands.  We got a lot out of the class and I think it did a great job preparing us.  But there were weeks we *really* didn’t want to go.  I think if we were not already parents, we probably wouldn’t have taken that class.  The things that drove me to do it were a.) a “night out” without our oldest, b.) I really needed support from my instructor in navigating things with my care provider (another story for another time) and c.)  I was determined to have  a natural birth.  Long story short, I coped with all of my labor at home and in the car.  I don’t think my husband actually did any of the physical support he learned in that class.  Most of what I did to get through labor in those three very intense hours was primal and instinctive.  The main thing I got out of that class was that my body was made to do this.  The class convinced me that I could give birth without interventions.  (and I did!)  I appreciated that my husband learned how to identify the different stages of labor by observing my behavior.  He knew I was further along than I thought I was and thus, contacted our support people to come before I probably would have.  I believe the classes were a good investment of our time and money.

Third birth:  To prepare for our first homebirth, I read a book on self-hypnosis for labor which was accompanied by a CD.  (The book is also available in class format with instructor, which we did not take.)  I was confident in my laboring skills after my second birth but I felt like maybe I just got lucky to have a 3 hour labor last time, so thought it wise to add some more tools to my toolbox.  It was a little weird for me, to be honest.  I didn’t get into it, even though I love “new-age hippie” stuff.  Maybe self-hypnosis just didn’t resonate with me at the time, or maybe it was the scripts, or the voice on the CD.  I could not “connect” with them.  I also don’t believe calling contractions “surges” made them any less painful for me.  So, did it help me during labor?  What that book helped me do was understand that I had to be in a different part of my brain.  I suppose I inherently knew this already because I made the effort to plan a homebirth;  I couldn’t see myself laboring like I wanted in a hospital having had the previous experiences I had.  I think the birth hypnosis book most helped me engage in the idea of seeing contractions in different ways; waves, colors, etc. to help cope with them and brought me to understand the value of birth affirmations.

Fourth Birth:  By the time I was pregnant with my youngest child, I had already been a Childbirth Educator for several years.  I knew that all of my laboring instincts would kick in and that I could trust the process.  I had another homebirth and added a doula this time for good measure.  My doula was able step in and provide physical comfort/support while my husband took care of setting up the birth space and preparing supplies.  It was SO NICE to have someone 100% dedicated to my physical and emotional needs while Chris managed other equally important aspects of the birth setting.  The thing that stands out most to me, though, about coping with my fourth labor is that I had been able to turn inward and completely surrender to the will of my baby and my body.  I didn’t have to use my thinking brain to remember things to do . . . it was instinctive.  After reflecting on that birth, I came to the conclusion that the practice most closely associated with how I “turned inward” is known as meditation.

A pregnant mother practices meditation to prepare for birth.

 

I had never taken any classes in meditation until long after my fourth birth.  But when I started meditating, I knew instantly that this place in my brain seemed familiar.  It was just where I had been during the deepest, most divine part of my birth experiences.  After researching, I understand now why practicing meditation is so profoundly useful for pain relief during labor.

I believe that the efforts I made in preparing for birth during my pregnancies helped to get me where I needed to be for labor.  These classes and books gave me tools I may not have had otherwise.  Because I had experience with several approaches to childbirth preparation, I was able to make the informed decision to become certified by an organization (CAPPA) that doesn’t teach/promote/utilize a specific method, but rather draws from evidence based practices as well as the varied experiences and expertise of many mothers and birth professionals.  Coupled with my training, I am able to draw upon my own experiences and knowledge to teach expectant couples a wide variety of tools to help them through their birth journeys.  I firmly believe that a well prepared birth team has the best chances of having a beautiful and positive birth experience.   Now that I am also an Evidence Based Birth® instructor, I am able to offer even more support in the way of preparing families for navigating birth in a medical setting.

If you are deciding on a class that best suits you and your partner, there are many factors to consider including your schedules, your birth intentions and your birth philosophy.  The vast majority of out-of-hospital group classes are going to be great for most couples, but there are sometimes limitations with scheduling and availability, so be sure to explore your options around your community and even a little further out from home.  You might find a perfect fit just a little bit out of the way and it could make all the difference for you, your baby and your birth.

 

Birth Intentions not Birth Plans

Writing your Birth Plan?  Consider reframing it as your Birth Intentions.

We all know births don’t go according to plan, right?  I’d love to see a shift away from calling the birth plan a birth plan and more towards something that allows for sharing our ideas about how we want our birth to go without the “commitment” of a plan.

The Problem with Birth Plans

One of the problems with birth plans is that they can be perceived by hospital staff as a setup for failure or disappointment.  The joke is sometimes bandied about that the birth plan is a ‘ticket to the OR.’   I don’t think anyone who is planning a vaginal and/or unmedicated birth wants to invite that presumption to their birthing space.  A slight change in our language can help hospital staff see what we hope for our birth experience while also showing them that we understand the situation is fluid.

I’ve also heard people call the birth plan their “Birth Preferences”.  While this does acknowledge that birth is no place for a rigid plan, I think that the word ‘preferences’ is too non-committal for the hospital staff because preferences are perceived like this:  I would *prefer* to have black olives on my pizza, but it’s okay if I don’t get them.  Using preferences for your birth:  I would *prefer* that you don’t stick your hand in my vagina, but it’s okay if you do.  <—-  That doesn’t work for a lot of reasons.   But, the main reason I really don’t like the word “preferences” is because it gives the power to someone else.

Why We Should Call Them “Birth Intentions”

Showing up with your Birth Intentions conveys a few ideas.  First, that you the birthing person are, in fact, the person with the power.  You are asserting your autonomy.  Second, it creates a space where you can say what you want about your birth without feeling guilty or disappointed if things go differently.  Third, naming your birth intentions clarifies for your birth team what you expect to happen, unless you deem otherwise.  Intentions are hopeful versus dictatorial (plans) or submissive (preferences).

So let’s say a few birth intentions together, shall we?

My Birth Intentions
i intend To receive my child skin-to-skin immediately after birth and remain this way for as long as we desire.
i intend To keep the umbilical cord attached and intact until it appears white, allowing my baby’s blood to return to their body from the placenta.
i intend To remain undisturbed during active labor unless I specifically ask for support or interventions.
i intend To labor and birth in any position that my body tells me.

 

Now, create your own Birth Intentions.  You can do something as simple as changing the title of your document from “Birth Plan” to “Birth Intentions”.  But, because I’m a fan of the law of attraction, I highly recommend trying to phrase your intentions in such a way that you are inviting them to happen.  This has a way of shifting our mindset if we are in need of reclaiming our power.

I’d love to hear your birth intentions so please share in the comments if you’d like .  It feels empowering to put them out in the world and inspires others to create their own.

Power to the Birther,

Earth Mama Jenn

DIY Birth Affirmations, Mantras, Meditations

Meditation helps you get into the right “head space” for labor, but it takes practice.

If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, you will LOVE writing your own birth mantras for meditation.  What could be more tailor-made for your birth than mantras that resonate with the very soul who composed them?

When we are in labor, the goal is to get through each contraction and rest in between them.  But, if we let our fear get the best of us, we end up suffering during the contraction as well as in between contractions, because we get caught up in anticipating the pain.  “Mantras are sacred words that have spiritual qualities when uttered. They are used to connect with the Divine and protect the mind from sources of suffering,” writes Jillian Babcock in an article for Yogapedia titled, “The Sacred Meaning of Mantras”.

The goal of repeating mantras (or affirmations) and centering your meditation on a mantra is to get into a part of your brain that is very primal.  This part of the brain called the “mammalian brain”, when accessed during birth, can most easily be done when the birthing person feels safe, supported and loved.  When you are in your mammalian brain, your birth experience is more likely to unfold just the way nature has designed.  The cascade of hormones that helps your body relax and open is unleashed from that place inside of us that is pure animal instinct.  To let go of rational thinking and submit to the will of your body and baby; that is the goal.

But how do you get there?  Seems like a strange place to be for someone who tends to overthink things, who overprepares for everything . . . who is a perfectionist.  You can start by journaling your thoughts and fears.  This is followed by looking over your journaling after a week with ‘girlfriend eyes’ and determine what negative beliefs need to be replaced with positive ones.  Those positive thoughts become your mantras and the script for your guided meditation.  Give yourself time, though.  The process of writing your mantras and changing your negative beliefs into positive ones takes around 6 weeks.

According to Nikki Novo, writing for Miami Racked, “The idea is that if we continue to repeat a positive mantra over and over again, eventually it will override a negative belief our mind has grown accustomed to.”  She goes on to give a step-by-step guide to write your own mantra.  You can tweak this to use in your labor.  Click here to access the guide.

#MeToo and How Kesha Woke Me Up

Kesha._MMVA
By Jeff Denberg (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I am writing this as my child interrupts me for snacks, potty breaks, passwords, and snuggles. Kid TV shows are playing in the background while I flesh out these words to convey my thoughts. This is my life, and it is good. It’s a far cry from where I was 20 years ago, trying to make it in the music industry as a singer/songwriter. I was happy then, too … but in the background of my songwriting season was a different kind of noise: the sexual harassment kind. The majority of men I encountered during my music career were trying to “make it,” just like me. All but a handful were incredibly kind and respectful of me as a human being. I don’t want to paint all men in the music industry with the broad brush of “sexual harassment perpetrator,” because that is not at all true. But there were some who were overly kind or generous—and I knew they were the ones who expected something more.

Last night I sat down to watch Kesha’s performance of “Praying” on the Grammys. It was late for our family, and my 3 year old was begging me to put her to bed, exhausted from having spent the day playing outside. But, knowing how that song affected me—always bringing a tear to my eye—I told baby girl, “Just a few more minutes. I really want to see Kesha perform.” She curled up on my lap, asking to nurse, and I obliged. I nurtured and fed my daughter as I watched someone else’s grown daughter rise up with fire in her eyes and thunder in her voice to confront her abuser. Again. She did it with her sisters around her this time. She spent her voice as they sang with her, lifting her up with their voices any time she fell back a little. I don’t know how she felt when she was done, but to me, she looked relieved and exhausted. The performance ended with her sisters shrouding her with their arms and catching her in hugs as if to say, “Me, too, sister. Me, too.” Then my feelings about my past life as an aspiring songwriter came bubbling up, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks.

Back in the ’90s, things were different. I doubt that any amount of #metoo would have mattered. In fact, after seeing how the victims of a sports doctor were repeatedly ignored when they complained about his sexual abuse, I know it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d said something back then. The problem was cultural, systemic, and widespread. It was like a chronic disease that our world had learned to live with. Women were habitually not heard.

Now that I have this girl-child to raise, along with her older sister who is much more aware, my soul is assuaged with the hope that they might be protected from the harsh reality that I endured. Sexual harassment was a normal part of life. It was a fact not just in my efforts to get my music recognized and published, but in my non-musician life as a food service worker, as a marketing director, and as a woman walking to and from work in downtown Chicago. Knowing that there is a movement—in every realm of life—to bring equality to women, to protect my daughters, OUR daughters, from this type of abuse—buoys my heart. I want to keep them safe from the Dr. Lukes, the Larry Nassars, and the Donald Trumps of the world. The ones who make us think that we owe them access to our bodies; the ones who make us think that because they take care of us, we should believe them when they say that they aren’t doing anything wrong; the ones who will take what they want from us, whenever and wherever they want.

The culmination of Kesha’s performance, Nassar’s conviction, the #metoo and #timesup movements … it’s all so overwhelming. Couple that with the abuse I know still happens in the maternity care system, and I am almost frozen with shock at times. But I can’t be shocked anymore. We have these girls to raise until they spread their wings and fly. It’s heart-wrenching to think they could possibly venture into a world like the one I experienced, or worse. Seeing how pervasive the abuse is angers me, but it also emboldens me. Abuse survivors deserve change, and we all deserve to NEVER BE HARASSED OR ABUSED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Last night, seeing Kesha supported by her sisters while I felt her pain as I simultaneously held and nursed my girl was a significant moment for me, and I woke with fresh eyes today. My work for mothers and children continues with a new and wider lens. I see more clearly the interconnections between human rights activism and my work in maternity care. My new lens now sees allies in places where I previously thought there were very few. It sees into the future, when my children might never know what it’s like to feel obligated to please anyone out of fear or intimidation. May it be so.

Birth Is My Jam

Call me a ‘birth nerd’ or a ‘birth junkie’, but I have letters after my name so that makes me legit 😉  YASSS, birth is my jam.  It totally rocks my socks off.  Not because I am into the ooey, gooey messiness, or because of the rush of oxytocin that fills the room when babies are born (the ‘birth high’), or because I might get to hold a baby . . . but because I have seen women at their most vulnerable and most powerful.  I have seen their strength and fragility.  I have been that woman; I have lived it and swam in it.  It’s just the most beautiful thing to see a woman who KNOWS her power.  It feels AMAZING to be that woman, and I WANT that for every woman.  I think it could change the world.