The Real Side Of Pregnancy + Birth

Updated: 6 days ago

That no one tells you.

What comes to mind when you think of giving baby advice to someone? I’ve gone back and forth on this since becoming a mother. Every baby is different. Every parent is different. Each birth is unique. Oftentimes, unsuspecting parents to-be with newfound excitement seek advice and wonder what it will be like for them. From my perspective, you can’t give expecting families cookie cutter advice and hope for the best. What worked for you may not work for them. Families need time to navigate their own path with the right blend of unbiased advice and support to carry them through.

Coming from a large family, I expected to know what to do when I had my son. My maternal grandmother birthed eight children, my own mother eight as well. It was a different time and wasn't spoken about in those days, at least not in my family. Maybe just a dusting of the amusing side, but otherwise pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding was private, taboo, embarrassing, shameful. In those days, a big dress coat hid the growing belly. The fathers waited outside of the delivery room, the mothers were given something to dry up their milk. Why was creation so shrouded?

Fortunately, my mother was a nurse and a huge breastfeeding advocate that lived a homeopathic lifestyle, so this created some awareness for me. Pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding were still not spoken about openly however. I don’t have to guess why these topics are being heavily discussed now, I can feel it in my cells. My own experience has been told, written, screamed, and wept out of my body. The upside to my experience is that it has brought me to where I am today. Turning pain into purpose, I am able to provide prenatal and postnatal yoga and support to expecting families because of the intense need to have real information and create better experiences.

Primal and holistic ways of bringing new life to the earth have always been within reach. Midwives have been around for centuries, but widely accepted? I’m pretty sure no one in my near lineage used a midwife. I didn’t use a midwife because I was uninformed, but I certainly would now! With the popularity of pregnancy and postpartum doula and birth support, midwives may finally be getting the recognition they deserve. It was said 2020 was the year of the midwife was it not?

When You First Find Out

Like many first time parents, I was optimistically naive when I became pregnant. I trusted that it would all go to plan. Much of the advice I received had to do with once the baby was here. I attended a few free prenatal yoga classes, had one birth class and one breastfeeding class under my belt, and was ready to pack my hospital bag and have my baby on the due date. I cringe with self-compassion at my naivete.

Families need to feel prepared, confident, and empowered. Families need to be set up to have the chance to succeed. What I’ve observed from the families I’ve worked with and read in common books and articles is that there is either an innocent positive vibes only approach or profound fear around the birth process. I’ve only come across a handful of second time moms who have explored beyond this. It’s common practice for many professionals to encourage handing power over to someone else.

At the time of having my son, there was a big focus on nutrition and vitamin intake during pregnancy, but not postpartum. My training revealed that you may need more nutrition and mineral support postpartum, especially if breastfeeding. It’s also extremely important to allow the body and nervous system to heal at its own pace aligned with the birth experience. There are herbal and postpartum healing practices that can be done that many don’t even know about.

In my situation, I had followed popular recommendations to take prenatal vitamins and avoid uncooked deli meat, sushi, coffee, and alcohol, but didn’t have a clue how to keep my reserves up after birth and throughout breastfeeding. A mama friend introduced me to fenugreek to aid in milk supply. Another mama told me about a breastfeeding/mamas group, where I learned the magic of oatmeal and teas for milk supply, pumping tricks, among other knowledgeable resources. This group was a step toward awareness and support in my life and was helpful on maternity leave. Upon returning to work, the dynamic changed dramatically. Needing support as a working/pumping mother coupled with unmanaged stress and deficiencies led to a postpartum thyroid imbalance two years after having my son. Much needed healing, yoga, and mindfulness came into my life. This led to becoming certified in yoga and soon to be in ayurveda. Mainstream information for postpartum support and managing the highly sensitive endocrine system was and still is incredibly lacking.

Pioneers in the Birth World and Reducing Fear

From what I’ve seen so far, Australia is trying to get it right. From birth trauma to my studies in prenatal yoga, fertility yoga, belly dance for birth, and women’s wisdom, some of the birth pioneers I’ve learned the most from are from Australia.

Here are some articles and videos from the amazing pioneers I’ve come across:

Reducing fear of birth in U.S. culture

Reducing fear of birth in U.S. culture: Ina May Gaskin at TEDxSacramento

Healing Birth, Healing the Earth

Birth Without Violence book

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother

One of the pioneers that has made an impact on me is Jane Hardwicke Collings. A retired midwife, she has an abundance of knowledge, ecourses, and her instagram alone is a great place to begin. Jane approaches pregnancy, birth, the fourth trimester, and menopause with such deep wisdom. In her Herstory eBook, the information she brings forward is meant to shake belief systems.

Herstory Womanifesto

Bliss Baby Yoga boasts a diverse faculty of women’s health professionals including midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, psychologists, physiotherapists, naturopaths and Ayurvedic practitioners.

Maha Al Musa created EmbodyBirth, Bellydance for birth program and has a wealth of information for those who wish to be more embodied in these areas.

Human Rights in Childbirth

EmbodyBirth Program

I continue to ask, why aren’t we introduced to the work of Ina May Gaskin well before considering conception or birth? We need to hear the possibility and empowerment in birth stories. To take the fear out of what can happen, why it happens, and what can be done about it. I read spiritual midwifery in prenatal yoga training and my mind was blown. It felt like an enormous secret no one had told me about. Why aren’t we educated on how the uterus is the strongest muscle in the body and how to connect and work with this amazingly powerful life force of creation throughout the passages of life we go through as women?

Birth support and birth choices need to be made accessible. Unless someone chooses it, birthing on your back is counterintuitive to the hard work the uterus, baby, and body has to go through. While we’re on it, how about the law of sphincters? How are we not informed of the innate power within our own body to be able to work with it when we need to?

I recently read that birthing is like spending seven years in meditation. This feels intuitively believable depending on the psyche or level of trauma during the thin veil of the birth passage. The point this makes is how can we go from fear to free? How can we go from controlled and constricted to surrender and opening in order to allow birth to come close to being a meditative experience, instead of a trauma event?

What Then

Awareness. Support. Embodiment. Empowerment. Share your story. What triggered you and why? Birth may bring traumas to the surface. Try to face it, feel it, and grow from it. Coming out on the other side of hardship is something to always aspire to. Share your experience with expecting friends and family and what you wish you knew and what support you wished you had. Try to share in an understanding way to help continue the shift that the birth paradigm desperately needs for each new birth, new parent, and the hard work that birth keepers and birth supporters continue to do. Why is it important to do this? To set our future generations up for greatness from their first breath.

The best thing you can do once you are pregnant and preparing for birth is to find the support you will need as the ultimate act of self-care. Support your mind and body throughout, as hormone fluctuations are real. Receive more care postpartum. If feasible, allow distant help during the first forty days and in home help after the first forty days. This may mean lining things up so that when you don’t feel up for it, you still do it. Line up items or meals dropped off at your door, meal trains and anything that can be delivered, lactation and postpartum doula support, pelvic floor physical therapy and postnatal yoga. Postpartum support professionals may be able to recommend healing practices for the birth that you had. Most importantly, allow the family bubble to grow and flourish during that first month, the fourth trimester. I sensed the need for a bubble once I had my son, but didn’t know how to cultivate it in those early days. Follow your intuition mamas.

We are here to keep it real and continue the conversation around important topics for awareness. Would you add to this list of what you wish you knew or ways you could have been better supported?

  • How much support you will really need (that isn’t overwhelming/invasive)

  • 4th trimester/first 40 days/meal trains

  • Postpartum healing/vitamin & mineral support/Pelvic floor physical therapy

  • Allowing time to integrate new role/family dynamic

  • Challenges with breastfeeding/what your baby presents as #1 need(s) for attention

  • How your role/worldview may change with work, relationships, spiritual/religious views

  • Power of the uterus during menses and birth

  • Prenatal and postnatal yoga or movement practice

  • The importance of being strong to prepare for parenting/baby baths/floor based mobility and carrying or babywearing without hurting low back/carrying car seat carrier optimally

  • How non-toxic products and living come to the forefront

  • How hard it is to truly find your “village”

  • Last, and arguably most important - The mother needs mothering too

Bethany is a Certified, Registered Yoga Teacher of Embodyoga and Birthing Mama Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga & Wellness. Bethany aspires to empower women in finding what they need on their own journey. After the birth of her son, her postpartum path led to the discovery of how much of a need there is to support and nurture all women and mothers. She took her self-healing and home yoga practice experience to advance studies and formal yoga certifications 2018-2021 including a specialization in Ayurveda. Bethany has been sharing authentic yoga for women's health and well-being for three years.