When we are expecting a new baby, especially if it’s our first, we tend to focus so hard on birth that we miss the new life lying beyond it. Birth itself marks not only your baby’s birth but your birth as a parent. What can you do now, to help smooth your path into this new world?
This list is not intended to scare you. You will absolutely find your way through new parenthood, but it can be helpful to encourage yourself to think about different ways to prepare yourself.
As with the Birth Questions for the Seeker, take your time. Pick one question and chew on it, slowly and with compassion. If you feel overwhelmed, focus on choosing one small, practical thing that you will do in relation to the question. Then come back to each a few times before your baby is born.
What are my parenting priorities? If not all goes to plan, what’s most important? What conditions or resources will those priorities require (time, physical environment, family/friend involvement, research, etc.) and how can I go about getting those conditions in place? What would it mean about me if I were forced to change, or let go of, particular priorities?
What aspects of the way I was parented (either by my actual parents or other important adults in my life) would I like to pass on, and what would I like to let go of? In what ways will I be an amazing parent?
How will I go about acknowledging and remembering the sublime, wonderful moments of new parenthood? How will I celebrate my successes and lessons learnt?
What support services are available in my area for new mums, new dads, breastfeeding, learning infant cues, postnatal depression, birth debriefing, postnatal exercise, socialising, household help, family dynamics, childcare/family dynamics (if you have other children)? You may not need them…but you may.
If I had absolutely no money, in what ways would I prepare for parenthood?
How much exposure have I had to what parents actually do (as opposed to what aunties, uncles, friends, and babysitters do)? How could I go about getting some ‘work experience’? What would I really like to know about parenthood but never asked? Who will I ask?
What are my priorities for myself? What are the things that give me joy; bring me back to myself; keep me going? What steps can I take now to make sure they stay part my life, even if I have less time?
How are my relationships with friends and family likely to change when I am a parent? If I have older children, what can I do to help them prepare for the arrival of their new sibling?
Can I love and accept myself even when I don’t live up to my own expectations? If not, how can I learn more compassion for myself?
How do I normally react mentally, emotionally and physically to fatigue and stress? What supports or outlets have helped me cope in the past? How about my reaction to love and wonderful events? Is there anything I’d like to change about this reaction?
What parenting choices would I most like to avoid? What do I think of other parents who make those choices? What circumstances would lead me to be forced to make them? What would it mean about me/my baby if I did have to make them? Would it really?
How do my partner and I usually interact when we are tired and/or stressed? Are we still able to work together, communicate well and appreciate each other? If not, how can we go about learning these skills?
Who, other than my partner, can I call on for help in the most challenging moments? If there isn’t anyone, what will I do now, before birth, to go about finding someone (preferably more than one)? What will it mean about me and/or about the person I ask if they are unable to help? What will help me to keep seeking support?