Finding quiet corners - looking after yourself when expecting a second (or subsequent) baby
March 17, 2014
Just the other day I met someone who had come to one of my earlier antenatal courses, whose 'baby' is now five and a half, with two younger brothers... My mum, who was also an NCT antenatal teacher for over thirty years (call it the family business?) regularly used to bump into people she had taught, along with their grown-up children - and just before she retired actually had someone attending her classes who had been there many years before - as the bump! I have a way to go before I reach that point, but can imagine it might bring the passing of the years into sharp relief.
This chance meeting prompted me to address something that is really tricky to achieve - finding time within the whirlwind of being a parent to a young child, and all that goes along with it, to enjoy a second (or subsequent) pregnancy and prepare for another birth. Here are my top tips.
Revisit your previous birth experience(s)
It may have been exactly what you wanted, or (more likely) there might have been some twists and turns along the way, but it is really useful to spend a bit of time thinking about your previous birth experience. When I work with second time mums to prepare for birth, I usually start by asking them to write down three things that were part of their first birth that they would want to do again, and three things that they would want to change. After a birth, most people feel initially relieved and grateful, and of course then they have the small matter of a baby to take up their thinking time. Being pregnant again often triggers reflection on the first birth and how the woman (and her partner) felt about it. This can be uncomfortable or upsetting: if it is, it's a good idea to talk it through with someone (see below).
Seek out people who can help you get what you want
I love working with women who have given birth before as they tend to have a clear idea about what they are trying to achieve and how they might get there. If you know what you want, find people who will support you in that - family and friends, midwives, perhaps a doula (professional birth supporter)? Try to surround yourself with positivity - it will help you to get where you want to be. A great resource for those looking for positive accounts of birth is www.tellmeagoodbirthstory.com - you can read on the website or get yourself an online 'birth buddy'.
Look after yourself
You probably don't need reminding, but you are by definition older this time around! Whilst this doesn't necessarily make a difference, what almost certainly will is the presence of a child, whether toddler or older, with physical and emotional needs to be met. Life is busy and the experience of pregnancy second time around (and thereafter) is wildly different to the first. Make sure you eat as well as you can, listen to your body and its limits (you may find pregnancy takes a little more of a physical toll) and if you are able to access help from family or friends, then do so and don't feel too guilty about it. This is all especially important if there is a relatively short gap between pregnancies (less than two years).
Think outside the box
You may want to consider something you wouldn't have done first time around. A good example might be to consider a second birth supporter (could be mum, sister, friend or a doula) - some people do this first time around but manycouples don't like the idea. Often second time around, having experienced the intensity of supporting a woman in labour, the benefits of someone with whom to share the role seem to outweigh possible downsides.Often women who have had difficult first births choose the next time around to explore techniques such as hypnotherapy, which can have a profound impact, and can be learned either face to face with a practitioner or at home using CDs.
Remember, there a new human being in there!
In all my pregnancies after the first one, I remember going periods of time - hours sometimes - when I just forgot I was pregnant altogether! In the bustle of life with a small child, it can prove really challenging to find time to focus on a new birth, and a new baby. Try to carve out some time each week, from as early as possible in the pregnancy, to focus on baby and how your body is responding to pregnancy. Yoga for pregnancy or relaxation classes are a great way to do this - there are several local options - and can usually be attended from about 12 weeks of pregnancy. Booking a 'refresher' antenatal course can also provide a window of opportunity for both parents to think ahead as the arrival of the new baby approaches. A lovely way to look forward - and one that can be done without leaving the house - is to hold a 'mother blessing'. Different in emphasis to a baby shower (where the focus tends to be on stuff for the baby) a mother blessing is a gathering of friends, usually female, who come together some time in the mother's third trimester to nurture her, share comfort food and stories and express their care for and support of the expectant mum. Some wonderful ideas can be found at www.blessingwaybook.com.
I hope those of you who are pregnant again enjoy a lovely, if very different, bump experience!
Good places to start if you want help to understand or deal with a previous birth experience: all of our local hospitals offer a birth afterthoughts service, where a midwife will take you through the notes from your labour and explain what was happening, talk about alternative choices, etc. The best way to contact is to ring either delivery suite or the main hospital switchboard and ask for the birth afterthoughts service. Alternatively, you could contact the Birth Trauma Association or the Birth Crisis Network - the latter provides a network of telephone counsellors who will talk through a birth – phone numbers listed on the website.