A common refrain from new parents is, “I didn’t expect… .“ The arrival of a baby forces huge physical changes in the new mother, and changes in schedules, sleep, household duties, relationships, and roles for the whole family, making everything seem new. Also, birth can be unpredictable. People have been having babies for generations though, so most things that new parents find unexpected are really variations of things that have happened to others before. Here are nine relationships to develop early on your journey to parenthood to help prepare for those unexpected things that expectant parents should expect.
Develop a relationship with:
Your Health Care Provider – You should feel you can ask about ANYTHING, even the most intimate, potentially embarrassing topics, and get an evidence-based, informative, non-judgmental answer in language that you can understand. You can expect that you will need to have conversations about body parts, feelings, and experiences that are raw and personal, and it will be much easier to have those talks when you have a trusting relationship with your doctor or midwife. If that relationship is not one of trust, it is a sign to find another care provider.
Your Breastfeeding Specialists – Anticipate that breastfeeding support will be helpful and attend breastfeeding support meetings before the baby is born. Meet the group leaders so you feel comfortable using their invitation to call if you need help. Interview lactation consultants in advance “just in case” so making the initial phone call for introductions will be one less hurdle to overcome if you are stressed out by breastfeeding in the early days after the birth.
Your Pediatrician – Your baby’s doctor should be another care provider with whom you can voice any concern openly and honestly and receive an evidence-based, informative, and non-judgmental answer. Before you look for a pediatrician, examine your own expectations for how you would like to approach your child’s healthcare in terms of infant feeding, well-baby care, holistic approaches to health, vaccinations, and interventions during illness. Find a pediatrician whose care philosophy matches yours, and it will be easier to develop a trusting baby care partnership.
Your Birth Team – Childbirth educators and doulas are extraordinary resources who provide lots of information about what to expect throughout the process of becoming a parent. The relationship from attending a high-quality, 6-week or longer class with an independent childbirth educator far surpasses one from a one-day hospital-based class, and the one-on-one support from an experienced doula is a powerful tool for handling the unexpected during the weeks surrounding childbirth.
Your Supportive Community – Experienced parents, family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow worshipers are just some of the people who can help new parents handle the unexpected. Develop these connections before the baby arrives and focus on cultivating relationships with the people who are truly helpful and supportive while weeding out the ones who are judgmental or emotionally draining.
Your HR Specialist at Work – If you are a working parent-to-be you will need to navigate the workplace in a new way. You might be able to receive more personalized support by meeting face-to-face if your HR department is onsite, or by getting the name of a representative and asking for them each time you call for information.
Your Insurance Provider – Unless you are paying for your maternity care out-of-pocket, you will have to deal with your insurance provider. Have the websites and phone numbers handy, review coverage and procedures for filing claims and resolving issues with charges. Call customer service for clarification if you have questions.
Your Hospital’s Billing Department – Hospitals are notorious for billing errors, so expect the billing process will not be straight-forward. Learn tips for managing the hospital billing process from healthcare resources in anticipation of needing to use them after the hospital stay is over.
Your Patient Advocates – Navigating the healthcare system is like going to a foreign country, where having an experienced guide can make the journey safer and smoother. Find advocates online, through your workplace, insurance company, hospital, or community. Learn the basics of navigating healthcare before pregnancy or as early as possible, because that can help inform your choice of caregivers and birth place, which might decrease the chances of unexpected things happening in the first place.
Use these relationships to learn what normally happens during maternity and get proactive guidance about typical “unexpected” procedures and outcomes like induction, cesarean birth, pre-term labor, poor health outcomes for the baby, and infant loss or stillbirth. Expectant parents, because they are hoping for perfect outcomes, often don’t like to learn about these possibilities. But, they happen often enough that birth workers view these outcomes as unexpected only in the sense that they cannot anticipate to whom they will occur. Having some knowledge in advance is very helpful in dealing with these problems if fate deals an unlucky card. Sometimes things aren’t unexpected; they are just unknown, and, in challenging times, it is often our relationships with others that connect us to the tools and resources we need when unexpected things occur.
Michal Klau-Stevens is The Birth Lady. She is the creator of the 11 Steps to Planning Ahead to “Have It All” Audio Class, an on-demand, downloadable program that helps 20-somethings design a life they love that includes career, family, learning, and self-fulfillment. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, consumer expert on maternity care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!
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