Monday, September 26, 2011

Surround Yourself

Have you ever gotten really excited about something, then shared it with the wrong person, only to have your idea shot down? There's nothing like the feeling of going from totally pumped up to completely deflated.

On the other side of the coin, have you ever been excited to try something, then found a friend (or a group) who was very supportive of you? Maybe they were even a bit further down that path and could give you advice and cheer you on? It can make the biggest difference in your success.

The same is true in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. It is crucial to surround yourself with support for success.

In pregnancy, women must search out and find a supportive care provider who shares their view of an ideal birth, whether that person is a midwife, and ob-gyn, or a family practice physician. 

Also, couples should attend childbirth education classes, where they are given support in making decisions for their new family, and are surrounded by other couples in the same situation. This support is especially essential for those who are planning a natural birth and need to have support from people who understand the value of that experience (instead of the doubting comments from that coworker who says, "Just wait until you are in labor. Then you'll be begging for the epidural." Or, "a home birth? Are you crazy?!?"). Childbirth education helps to inform, prepare, and empower couples to achieve the best birth experience possible. 

Note, however, that no one can completely predict or control their birth experience- but by having support and education, that birth can be a positive experience, no matter how it turns out. In pregnancy, surrounding yourself with support can help you to be healthier, more positive about your birth experience, and better prepared for birth.

In childbirth, having a support person (or people), such as a supportive husband, partner, doula, or friend, can actually increase the likelihood of a satisfying vaginal birth experience and decrease the likelihood of necessary interventions. According to a study published by the World Health Organization

"The review demonstrates that women who receive continuous, one-to-one support are less likely to have regional analgesia/anaesthesia, operative vaginal birth, caesarean section.....In addition, women were more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth and less likely to report dissatisfaction with the childbirth experience" 

Check out this page from Childbirth Connection for more evidence about the importance of labor support.
Surrounding yourself with support during labor can make a difference by increasing your satisfaction with the birth experience, which will help you to have a better start as a new family.

In parenthood, it can be easy to get confused and frustrated by all of the different parenting philosophies and challenges. I encourage you, first, to surround yourself with support for breastfeeding, perhaps by attending  La Leche League meetings and activities. You may come to realize that the challenges you face today are totally normal and temporary. :) Or you may be given great ideas on how to overcome the challenges you are currently facing and enjoy your breastfeeding relationship even more.

Beyond breastfeeding, I encourage you to find a group (in person, online, even in books) that supports a parenting lifestyle you feel is best for your family. An example of virtual support is Progressive Parenting (a blog and online talk radio program). In some areas, there are meetings of Attachment Parenting International. Most places have some type of Mommy & Me group. If you can't find a group you feel comfortable with, maybe you can start one!

This past weekend I was able to gather for a few hours with some other natural childbirth teachers in the Salt Lake area, and it was such a great experience to discuss topics and share our enthusiasm with each other. I left feeling energized and excited. 

I encourage you to find people who lift you up in whatever situation you may be in. It doesn't mean you have to stop being friends with those who don't understand your birth or parenting goals. It just means that you set aside time to surround yourself with support! It will make the journey a bit easier; I promise. And, as you are being lifted by those around're probably lifting them too!

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