My Atlanta-based pregnancy team

Pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period are incredibly vulnerable, raw and transformative times for birthers. Now is not the time to settle with substandard care. You should feel supported, safe and free to be honest about your questions and concerns. If you aren’t happy with your provider, find a new one. And if you have the resources, consider building a team of support, or at a minimum, do your research so that you have contacts on standby as needed.

In choosing my pregnancy team, I did a ton of research and also paid attention to what I instinctually felt about the caregivers I found. My physical therapist is an hour drive from my house but I connected with her on a deep level, and I knew we needed to work together. I had the luxury of choosing chemistry and comfort over convenience.

Here’s the dream team:

MIDWIFE – Margaret Byrne, Empowered Birth Atlanta

I’m a big believer in the midwifery model of care for pregnancy and childbirth and have so much to say about how empowered and genuinely cared for I felt during my own experience. During each of my monthly appointments with Margaret, I met with her face to face for an hour. She got to know me and my husband very well, and she was an amazing resource with tools and wisdom that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. We talked about my physical health, but she also understood that my emotional health was just as important. She was by my side for 18 hours during my labor, she fed me my first meal after delivery and she came to our home two days later for a postpartum check in. She’s exactly what I needed to feel prepared, safe and seen.

CHIROPRACTOR – The Brainery

I highly recommend seeing a chiropractor throughout your pregnancy and postpartum. I’d never been to a chiropractor before I got pregnant, and I was super nervous when I first started going during my second trimester. But I can honestly say each appointment instantly made my back, pelvic and sciatica pain disappear. Seeing a chiropractor regularly towards the end of pregnancy can help optimize the baby’s birth position, which is key to a smooth birth experience. I have small hips, and the chiropractors at The Brainery helped relieve tightness in my pelvic area and improved my pelvic position to allow more room for the baby. Our postpartum visits have helped with my back pain from lifting, carrying and breastfeeding the baby. My baby also gets adjustments, they immediately addressed early signs of torticollis when she was first born and have helped us support her physical and mental development. If you decide to work with a chiropractor during pregnancy, make sure to find one that’s Webster certified.

ACUPUNCTURIST Dr. Hannah Tran, Tran Acupuncture

I started seeing Hannah at about four months postpartum to address my depletion and regain my vitality. Her acupuncture treatments and supplements she prescribed totally alleviated my sleep issues, lack of appetite and exhaustion and helped me feel like myself again. I saw major results in the first two weeks, and after six weeks, the difference was dramatic. Now that I’m entering week 10 of my second pregnancy, I’m happy to report that I’ve had basically no morning sickness with this pregnancy, and I truly believe Hannah’s care has made all the difference.

LACTATION CONSULTANT – Atlanta Lactation

If you’re planning to breastfeed, it’s a good idea to have a lactation consultant’s number saved in your phone, just in case. We met with a lactation consultant in the hospital, but only for a few minutes, and things seemed to go okay until we got home. Turns out, our daughter had trouble latching due to tongue, lip and cheek ties. My midwife recommended Atlanta Lactation, and it was such a relief to have an expert meet with us in the privacy of our home, see the actual chairs and pillows I was using to breastfeed, troubleshoot with us and make recommendations on methods and products to try.

PHYSICAL THERAPIST – Dr. Jennifer McGowan, ReGenerate Physiotherapy

Dr. McGowan did so much more for me than address my pelvic floor health during pregnancy. She gave me exercises to help prepare my body for birth. She introduced me to the concept of postpartum depletion. She asked about my mental health postpartum and gently let me know that anxiety can show up in a lot of different ways during the first months after birth. She diagnosed my diastasis recti and designed a recovery program to rebuild my strength; within six months, my diastasis was healed. Fortunately, my tearing and pelvic floor healed on their own over time, but having Dr. McGowan confirm that things were normal gave me such peace of mind. If she’s taught me anything it’s that you don’t have to suffer with pain and incontinence after having a baby, and there’s a lot you can do preventatively if you have the right support. If you decide to work with a physical therapist, definitely look for one who specializes in women’s health and the pelvic floor.

9 baby registry MVPs

When I first pulled together the baby registry for our first child, I spent hours researching the best products and reading blogs like this one. Once our baby arrived and we had a chance to put everything to use, I realized there were gaps in the list and things that would work better for our family. I’ve created a list of registry must-haves; some you’ll find on other lists because they’re flat-out amazing and some you might not…at least I didn’t. That said, all babies are different and your needs and routines will be different than ours, so what works for us might not work for you!

  1. Treatments for mom. I deeply regret not including gift cards for massages, chiropractic work, physical therapy and/or acupuncture on my registry. It’s a lovely, thoughtful way to recognize mom and give her a nudge to do something for herself. By including it your registry, you help shift the perception that these treatments are necessary for healing and recovery, not luxuries. A healthy mom is the best foundation for a healthy baby.
  2. Help with the household. Keeping a household running with a newborn around is tough. In the early days as a new mom, I would’ve traded all of the outfits and swings and blankets we got as gifs for a warm meal and a hot shower. Unless you have an actual village to help you with meals, cleaning and errands, I recommend adding gift cards for food delivery, cleaning services and (if you’re really lucky) a postpartum doula. If you do have a village nearby to support you, here’s some advice on getting help from them.
  3. Homeopathic remedies. I wish that I’d spent more time researching and buying homeopathic options so that I had them on-hand when I needed them. Our daughter suffered from colic during the first two months, and this Colic Calm Homeopathic Gripe Water was a miracle. It gave our baby instant relief within minutes and also helps with gas, upset stomach, reflux and hiccups. We recently purchased Camilia Boiron Teething Treatment as an alternative to Motrin Infant Drops; we’ve had to dose her more often with the Camilia drops but they’re a lot more gentle on her digestive system than Motrin was. And so many parents rave about Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath for boosting immunity and neutralizing colds and flu before they start. Here’s a great article on DIY therapeutic baths for kids.
  4. Sensory and developmental toys. One item you won’t need on your registry is stuffed animals; my daughter received dozens of stuffed animals as an infant, including at least six white bunnies. Don’t get me wrong. I adore stuffed animals, and they look precious in her nursery, but she’s seven months old now and has never played with one of them. Do yourself a favor and register for toys that promote your baby’s learning and development.
  5. Board books. Speaking of things you won’t need on your registry: any books that aren’t board books. Your baby will be rough on books, rip the pages and chew on the covers. While it’s tempting to get all of your favorite kids’ books now, you won’t be able to enjoy them until much later. I’ve also been surprised at how much our daughter craves variety with the books we read to her; she definitely gets board with repetition. I highly suggest focusing on board books and stocking up on them.
  6. Kyte onesies. Kyte onesies are our absolute favorites. They’ve got zippers instead of snaps, the fabric is super soft and they’re lightweight enough to wear under swaddles and sleep sacks. This is all you need for the first three months!
  7. Wraps and carriers. We’ve gotten so much use out of our Solly Baby wrap and Ergobaby carrier. The wrap was great to wear around the house; my husband carried our daughter constantly in her newborn days, and it helped so much with their bonding. It settled her, and I’m convinced she got some of her best sleep in it. Once she grew out of the wrap, we started using the Ergobaby carrier more (around four months) and are still using it now (seven months).
  8. Swaddles, sleep suits and sleep sacks. We swaddled our daughter from the very beginning, and it was a life saver for getting her to sleep. (Here’s a great step-by-step video we used.) A friend of mine recommended the double-swaddle method, which we eventually used because our little one was very skilled at breaking free of her single swaddle from a young age. Around three months, she graduated from her cloth swaddle and we started using the HALO Micro Fleece Sleepsack Swaddle. It mimics the feel of a swaddle, but it’s got velcro and a zipper, making it easier to take on and off for diaper changes in the middle of the night. We used it for about six weeks until she was able to pull her hands out. The final transition outfit we used was a Baby Merlin’s Cotton Magic Sleepsuit. She wore it for about a month until she was able to roll over in her crib, but during that month, we absolutely loved it.
  9. Soaking tub. We took friends’ advice and didn’t buy a traditional newborn bath tub. Baths in the early days were typically fast and functional, so we just laid her in the bath tub on a folded towel until she was starting to sit up more independently, around five months. By then, she was loving bath time and her bath toys, so we wanted to spend longer and needed a better way to keep her warm and comfortable. I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It was a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. She’s sitting upright, so she can play and splash, and it’s easier to keep her warm because she’s more submerged. It also saves water because we’re filling up a mini tub. She squeals and gets so excited for bath time every night.

Thoughts on empowering our daughters

A distinct memory from my childhood came to me yesterday…as often happens now that I’m a parent. I was in an a high-school-aged-female Bible study, and the two female teachers were showing us how to respond when men in our church hugged us inappropriately (too closely). Their advice was to aim for a side hug to avoid front-of-the-body contact. If a side hug wasn’t possible, our last resort was to turn the front-of-the-body hug into an “A-frame hug” by standing as far back from the man as possible and arching our backs to keep our lower bodies at a safe distance.

Illustrated by Indiana Daily Student

At the time, their advice didn’t sit well with me, but as I think about it as a mother, I see how damaging it actually was. I think that the teachers meant well and hoped that the advice would help us diffuse an uncomfortable situation in a graceful way. But the subtext to their lesson teaches girls that it’s their job to remain silent and do what they can to neutralize the situation when someone touches them inappropriately. That being polite and not causing a stir is more important than personal boundaries.

My daughter might eventually hear these messages, but she won’t hear them at home.

My husband and I will teach her that no one has the right to touch her without permission.

That if someone makes her feel uncomfortable (and sadly, they will), it’s her right to tell them “no,” and depending on the situation, tell someone else in authority (us, a teacher, a flight attendant, the police).

It’s not her job to protect the other person or their feelings.

And their words and actions are neither a reflection on her nor are they her fault. So many girls and women blame themselves and don’t speak up because “I accidentally flirted with them/said or did something bad/gave them the wrong impression/dressed inappropriately/wasn’t clear enough when I said ‘no'” etc.

The only way we can end this turn-a-blind-eye culture and normalize direct confrontation with predators is to empower our girls, one lesson at a time.

2 tips for navigating colic & a word on tongue ties

Doesn’t that picture just leave a knot in your stomach?! Our daughter was born with a tongue tie, lip tie and cheek ties which basically means that the soft tissues in her mouth restricted her mouth movement and ability to latch. Although it sounds straightforward, it was fairly difficult to diagnose and determine treatment options; we saw a lactation consultant in the hospital the day after she was born, my midwife the following day, a lactation consultant in our home the following week, an occupational therapist she recommended and finally a pediatric dentist specializing in tongue ties. Each person told us something slightly different about the severity of the ties, and in some cases, there was disagreement on whether she had them at all.

In the three weeks it took us to meet with specialists and chase down answers, I was pumping and attempting to nurse around the clock to keep my milk supply going. And unfortunately, our daughter felt the brunt of the many interventions we tried: different brands of bottles, multiple types of nipples, breast shields, paced bottle feeding…all with the intent of making her work for her food at the bottle like she would eventually have to do at the breast once her latch improved. The result was colic, frequent and intense fussiness for no apparent reason. My husband and I were up for hours each night trying to make her more comfortable, but for the most part, she was inconsolable. It was horrible to see her so miserable for such long periods of time. We felt completely helpless.

Through those many sleepless nights, we found only two things that helped relieve her colic symptoms:

Colic Calm Homeopathic Gripe Water. Wow, this stuff is a miracle. It gave our baby instant relief within minutes and also helps with gas, upset stomach, reflux and hiccups. It works by supporting the baby’s delicate digestive system as it develops and adjusts to new foods and liquids. The formula is extremely safe with no side effects and is free from sugar, soy, dairy, wheat, gluten, animal products, etc. I’m so glad I put this on our registry on a whim and had it on-hand when we needed it.

Yoga ball. This tip came from our occupational therapist during those first few weeks of trial and error when the colic showed up. She suggested that we bounce our daughter face up on a yoga ball to help relieve gas. I was always too nervous to try to balance her on the ball like that, but my husband did it basically every night for the first two months. On so many nights, it was the only way she would fall asleep. (We got ours from TJ Maxx; they have really good prices.)

Just before she turned two months old, the colic ended. Our theories are that 1) as her body continued to develop over time she simply grew out of it, and 2) we stopped the interventions we felt we were “supposed to do” and went with our instincts instead. We also backed out of the surgery to release her ties because something just didn’t feel right, and within days, her colic was gone. That said, I know so many parents who decided to go through with the surgery and saw amazing results.

The lesson we took away from the experience was that for the millions of complicated, nuanced decisions you have to make as a parent, there’s not always a straightforward answer. Now we try to approach them by gathering information from experts, but ultimately trusting ourselves to make the right decision for our family.

My birth story with Aurelia

For Aurelia’s birth, we planned to deliver at home. I had absolutely nothing against hospital births; I simply thought that I would be more relaxed and comfortable at home. Some people find comfort around doctors and clinical settings because they feel safe there. I’m an empath and very sensitive to sounds, lights, loud voices, cold and energy. I felt that to have the empowered birth that I wanted, I would need to go inward to get my strength and progress my labor, and it didn’t seem likely that a hospital setting would be right for me.

In the two weeks leading up to my due date (June 8, 2021), Braxton Hicks came and went. I never believed I was actually in labor because the contractions were very irregular and would dissipate if I moved around, but I knew that the day was coming soon!

The day before my due date, I woke up at 4:00 am and immediately noticed light contractions. They were about 20 seconds long and eight minutes apart. There are two perspectives on what’s best during the early stages of labor: some believe that rest is key to prepare for the long hours of labor, particularly for the first born, while others believe that going about the day and moving around help progress and shorten labor. I asked my midwife which she recommended, and she said that almost all of the hospital transfers she sees are first-time moms who simply tire our during labor. I was worried about my stamina, so I decided to rest and hydrate as much as I could.

At 8:00 am, I texted my midwife to let her know I was in labor and give her stats on my contractions. She told me to keep her posted on my progress. By noon, my contractions were still irregular, but they had gone from 20 seconds long to a minute. My husband gave me a foot massage and made sure I was hydrated and using the bathroom regularly. Around 2:00 pm, the frequency and intensity of the contractions picked up, so we decided to call my midwife and update her. She asked my husband to put her on speaker phone during one of my contractions so she could assess the intensity. She said it sounded like things were moving along and that she would be at our house with her assistant by 4:00 pm.

My husband double-layered our bed and started setting out our towels, birth pool equipment, a diffuser with essential oils and snacks for everyone. Once my birth team arrived, my contractions became more intense….more like what I expected for labor. I thought a shower might help ease my discomfort, but it didn’t help, so we tried a few different positions in my bedroom to progress labor, including kneeling on my bed and then standing beside the bed with alternating feet on the footboard. Then they suggested that I sit backwards on the toilet, which is a favorite position for midwives. This was by far the most difficult position because my contractions were the strongest they’d been. I was on the toilet for an hour or more and started vomiting from the intensity. We had planned for a water birth, but my midwife said we should wait because the warm water might make me more tired.

By now, it was about 10:00 pm. We decided to do a cervical check, but I told my midwife that I didn’t want to know the number in case it was low. She checked to see how much I was dilated; I found out later, I was only 4 cm. While she was checking, she inadvertently broke my waters. She said it was the most fluid she’d ever seen and later told me she thought that the waters were cushioning the baby’s head so that my cervix wasn’t being pushed to open as quickly as it should. There was also meconium, stools from the baby, in the fluid, which usually indicates that the baby is under stress. She said that wasn’t a cause for concern, but that we wanted the baby out in the next 24 hours to be safe.

The baby wasn’t in an optimal position, so the birth team moved me around a lot on the bed. In the process of moving, there was one terrifying moment when the baby’s heart rate dropped. My midwife said the baby didn’t like the position we were in, so I moved and that resolved it immediately. I was vomiting frequently, and we all began to worry about dehydration since I couldn’t keep fluids down. My contractions were coming back-to-back, for about four minutes total, so I wasn’t getting many breaks to recover. I definitely went inward during this phase of labor. At one point, my midwife announced that it was officially Tuesday, my due date, and I was shocked that it was past midnight. Around 2:00 am, I began shaking uncontrollably, which my midwife’s assistant said was perfectly normal and due to the baby putting pressure on one of my nerves.

I continued to labor like that until 3:00 am. Despite feeling like I was in very intense labor, I had a sinking feeling that my progress had stalled. I asked my midwife to check my cervix again but not to tell me how far along I was. I was afraid that I would be disappointed and lose even more momentum. She checked and then left the room with her assistant and my husband so that they could discuss. When they came back into our bedroom, I told them that I thought we should transfer to the hospital. My midwife and her assistant agreed. The assistant said that there was a difference between laboring and suffering, and I was suffering. What I learned later was that I was still only 6 cm dilated.

My midwife said that we could either go to the hospital closest to us, or a hospital that’s about 25 minutes away that she highly recommended since it was more aligned to the birth experience I wanted. I decided I could stay in the car longer for more supportive care, so we got ready to leave. In hindsight, I regret not packing a hospital bag in advance because we left our house with absolutely nothing. I was in my husband’s workout clothes and a diaper…not my best look! Moving from our bedroom to my car was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.

We got to the hospital at 4:00 am, 24 hours after labor began. The nurses immediately put me on a saline drip to hydrate me. They also gave me anti-nausea medicine and a pain reliever to try to take the edge off of my contractions. I was trying to avoid getting an epidural and hoped I could get some rest and try again. Unfortunately, they didn’t help and I continued to vomit. (The nurses were very surprised because that’s not at all common.)

At 5:00 am, I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist administered it a little before 6:00 am. I’m pretty sure I told him I loved him. The epidural made my contractions more manageable and allowed my body to relax. I remember being surprised by how much I could still feel since I expected to be completely numb. My husband and midwife got some much-needed sleep for the next few hours. The nurses had hooked up the fetal heart monitor, so I stayed awake and listened to my baby’s heartbeat.

A little after 10:30 am, my nurse came in to check my cervix and said that I was fully dilated and that it was time to start pushing soon. I was so overjoyed and couldn’t believe my ears! The pushing phase was so rewarding. The nurses set up a mirror at the end of my bed so that I could see as the baby’s head emerged.

The hospital midwife who was helping with delivery said that the NICU team was going to be in my room for delivery as a safety precaution since there was meconium in my waters. We told her we really wanted a delayed cord clamping and that if they need to resuscitate the baby, we’d prefer for them to do it in my arms (with cord intact) if possible. She said that our best bet was to make the baby cry immediately once she was born so that resuscitation wouldn’t be necessary.

My contractions were still coming right on top of each other, which was great because I could push for four minutes straight and make a ton of progress, but they were spaced several minutes apart so we were spending a lot of time in between just waiting. The hospital midwife suggested just “a tiny hit of Pitocin” to speed up the contractions, and in the next few pushes, our sweet little girl was earth side! She was born (screaming loudly!) at 12:37 pm. She was 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 21 3/4 inches long.

While the details of our birth plan didn’t turn out the way we expected, I was incredibly happy with my care at the hospital and how empowered I felt throughout the process. I listened to my body and made every decision based on what I knew was best for me and my baby.

Morning sickness tip that worked for me this week

I recently wrote about the wonders of acupuncture for preventing morning sickness. Seriously, it’s changed my life and made the first two months of my current pregnancy so comfortable and pleasant. Compared to my last pregnancy and the horrible all-day sickness I had for the first trimester, that’s nothing short of a miracle.

At an appointment with my acupuncturist Hannah earlier this week, I mentioned that I feel fine when I wake up in the mornings, but after I eat, I feel nauseous for 10 to 15 minutes, then it goes away. I’ve been eating either a bagel or toast because I thought bland food would be best on an empty stomach.

Turns out, the choice of food was my problem. Hannah said I should be eating something easier to digest like oatmeal, an omelette or congee, rice porridge. I replaced my bagel with oatmeal for the past three mornings, and that small change completely eliminated my nausea. I was blown away that such a small change could make such a difference!

What about you? Have you found any morning sickness tips worked for you?

P.S. If you’re feeling sick throughout the day or at night, that likely isn’t morning sickness; it’s a sign of depletion. In other words, your body is struggling to supply the nutrients it needs to create a baby. You might want to see an acupuncturist, functional medicine doctor, nutritionist or other specialist to get support. You don’t need to suffer!

Sweet Water Lactation Tea

This recipe is from Ysha Oakes, Ayurvedic cook and doula. This Ayurvedic lactation tea helps promote digestion, hydration, lactation and rejuvenation. I drank it throughout the day for the first two months after childbirth for lactation support.

2/3 tsp fennel seeds

1/3 tsp fenugreek seeds (I found mind at Banyan Botanicals.)

2 quarts water

Directions:

  1. Mix the seeds in this proportion in a glass jar to store for easy access.
  2. Boil water and add 1 tsp of the mixed seeds. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the seeds. (The seeds can be used in soups or with cooked vegetables.)
  4. Refrigerate half of the unused tea for later in the day. Drink warm or at room temperature. Make fresh daily.

Healing herbal bath tea for postpartum

Herbs can be incredibly effective at reducing inflammation, soothing perineal tissue and healing tears after a vaginal birth. The blend I’ve chosen below is made up of beautiful and fragrant blossoms that are uplifting, soothing, healing and antiseptic.

A fresh bath can be taken once or twice daily for three to five days after a vaginal birth. (If you’ve had a Cesarean birth, a lavender or rose foot bath is an excellent alternative way to pamper yourself.) These herbs also aid in healing of the umbilical cord stump, so baby and birther can take this healing bath together.

In addition to using this blend in a bath, it can be used as herbal compresses, peri-rinses, sitz baths and frozen maxi pads, as directed below.

I found all of the herbs for my bath tea certified organic at Mountain Rose Herbs. They sometimes do sell out, so plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (15 g) comfrey leaves
  • 1/2 cup (18 g) dried lavender
  • 1/2 cup (5 g) calendula blossoms
  • 1/2 cup (130 g) sea salt

Directions: In a medium pot, bring 6 cups (1.4 L) water to a boil. Add the comfrey, lavender and calendula, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes, covered. Strain the tea water.

For herbal bath: Add tea directly to the tub, along with 1/2 cup of sea salt while filling with warm water.

For peri-rinse: Transfer the tea into a peri bottle. Use it to cleanse the entire area between the legs, especially after going to the bathroom. This helps with inflammation and stinging.

For sitz bath: A sitz bath is a nice alternative if you don’t have a bath tub available or if you don’t feel like fully immersing into the tub. A sitz bath is a basin that fits into your toilet seat. Simply fill the basin with tea and soak for 10 to 15 minutes or as long as you’re comfortable.

For compresses: Soak a washcloth in the tea and apply warm or cold to the perineum as needed to reduce tenderness and swelling.

For frozen maxi pads: Dip the maxi pads into the tea, one by one. Twist each pad gently to wring out the excess, then place them side by side on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. When the pads are frozen, stack them in a zip-tight plastic bag and return them to the freezer. You can sit on a frozen pad for 7 to 10 minutes at a time.

For partners: how to prepare for labor

For most people, labor is hard work. It also can be incredibly powerful and transformative, particularly if both the birther and her partner feel present, prepared and supported. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that I’m a big advocate for empowered births, and a partner’s role in enabling an empowered birth is critical. Most birthers spend hours laboring at home before going to the hospital, so in most cases, you (the partner) will be the only support she has during that time.

Below, I’ve outlined four ways for a partner to show up and support the birther during labor, directly impacting her physical comfort, emotional state and the overall labor experience.

  1. Do your homework. It’s so important to understand the phases of labor so that you can best know how labor is progressing and how to support the birther according to what she’s experiencing physically and emotionally. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon is an amazing resource that describes each stage of labor according to what’s happening physically as contractions open the cervix and prepare the body for childbirth. The book then describes the emotional roadmap of labor, describing the emotional signposts –excited, serious, self doubt — that alert the partner to a very reliable map of the experience of labor that post people have from beginning to end. Understanding all aspects of labor — frequency of contractions, length of contractions and emotional signposts — collectively is the only way to accurately determine how labor is progressing, which is critical to effectively coaching and supporting the birther.
  2. Be her advocate. I’ve heard so many birthers express disappointment about their birth experience because they felt their wishes weren’t being heard by hospital staff. For soft-spoken or non-confrontational birthers (myself included), that can be a legitimate concern. My husband is direct and fearlessly protective of me, so for that reason and many others, I was relieved to have him by my side during labor. While I was pregnant, we spent a lot of time reviewing my birth plan, not only what I wanted, but what I desperately wanted to avoid. We got familiar with the consequences of routine hospital care like sweeping membranes, epidurals and Pitocin so that we could make educated decisions in the moment. Even if your plans change, you’ll be so glad you had the conversation in advance. I cannot stress how important this simple discussion was for us, particularly after 24 hours of labor at home when my birth plan went sideways.
  3. Ease her discomfort. There are so many ways to help the birther feel more comfortable and at ease, particularly during the early stages of labor. Foot massages, back rubs, cold washcloths, heating pads and guided breathing seem simple but can go a really long way. Once my contractions got more intense, I was surprised how effective the famous hip squeeze was as counterpressure to lessen my pain. Labor loves movement, so knowing a handful of good positions to labor in can help keep the birther moving and labor progressing. The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth by Lindsey Bliss is a great, accessible resource on tools like these for labor.
  4. Talk her through it. Words of affirmation can be incredibly powerful. When I was creating my birth plan, my midwife said that she often asks her clients to write a list of positive phrases that they’d like to hear during the more difficult phases of labor to give them strength and comfort. Meaningful, heart-felt encouragement can go far, especially if “words of affirmation” is the new mom’s love language. Another way to help the birther through discomfort is by guiding her through contractions, either through breathing, guided visualizations (like waves crashing on the shore or a flower blooming) or both. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way is a good resource for examples of guided visualizations to use according to different stages of labor.

Pregnancy timeline for health and wellness

When I was pregnant with our first child, I created a “pregnancy by the month” note in my phone where I kept a running list of classes, books, wellness activities and other milestones so that I could consolidate all of the things I’d read from 100 different sources in one place. Looking back, it was definitely my unique form of nesting, but it was also super helpful.

Below is a less detailed version of my list that I’m hoping will be a helpful starting point for you as well. Note that before 18 weeks, I started doing 30-minute walks and some form of yoga, barre or stretching every day, which I did throughout my pregnancy.