MANILA, Philippines — It isn’t easy to be pregnant. Pregnancy entails a lot of changes in the body as your hormones go haywire. Your emotions also hit highs and lows, and you cannot control them.
But there’s a baby growing inside you, and it can be the most wonderful experience for a woman. Pregnancy, after all, means motherhood at the end, and so women embrace it with all their heart and soul. Often, they do not mind how painful childbirth may turn out to be.
These days, however, women prepare well for giving birth, especially if their choice of childbirth method does not conform to the usual.
One such woman happens to be childbirth educator Thammie Sy, whose four unmedicated and natural childbirths have brought her to formalize her passion for helping other mothers through birthing, child care and parenting. Through her experience, motherhood feels less scary for soon-to-be first-time moms.
“I want other moms to have beautiful, empowering experiences as well. There is no one way to have a beautiful and empowering birth. One thing we can all have, though, no matter what our birth experience is, is the right attitude and mindset towards it,” said the US-certified doula and childbirth educator.
She added: “It is my desire to help parents establish the right perspective about birth by giving them a better understanding of what happens during birth so they can make informed choices throughout the process. And by equipping them with skills to help prepare them for labor and birth, they would know what to do.”
Sy shared eight pregnancy and childbirth tips that would come in handy for every mom — and even dad! She added her two-cents’ worth after each tip.
1. Healthy pregnancy, healthy labor.
“This was one thing I should have taken seriously when I was pregnant. I made progress, in the sense that I became healthier and healthier with each succeeding pregnancy. If I had known then what I know now about the role of nutrition and exercises in preparing my body and in helping increase baby’s likelihood of positioning himself/herself optimally, I would have maintained a healthier diet and I would have done prenatal exercises to condition my body for labor and birth better,” Sy said.
2. Know how to filter what you hear and read.
With all the information available to you now, you have to know which is reliable and which is not.
Sy said that she used to panic after spending more time than she should have on Google and Facebook. There are many opinions and voices when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. Though most do raise valid points in their own right, she said one has to know which ones are aligned with one's values and context, and which ones are not. She stressed that every story is unique and that there should be no comparison.
3. Use this time to discuss with your husband/partner how you want your family to be once the baby comes.
There will be more changes once the baby arrives. The childbirth educator said that the time before the baby arives is a good time to discuss and have a vision for your family.
She posed these questions that expecting parents can ask themselves: What is most important to you? What are your negotiables and non-negotiables? How will the baby change the dynamics of your current set of priorities and your schedule? What lifestyle adjustments would you need to start making now before your baby comes?
4. Be wise about where you spend your money.
There are so many new innovations now that are geared towards helping moms, babies, and even dads enjoy their transition to parenthood and having a newborn.
Sy cautioned about using the word "enjoy," saying that most of the products in the market tend to initially impress parents-to-be.
"But you have to know which ones are must-haves and which ones are really just nice to have. Invest in a few essential must-haves, and, more importantly, invest in building skills and knowledge and in your relationships," she said.
5. Tune in.
With all the changes in the pregnant body plus the necessary preparations to consider, Sy said it is not a surprise for mothers to feel overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions.
"You are concerned with the baby who is still inside the womb, and, at the same time, you are already thinking of what it will be like once he/she finally comes out. You are coping with the changes that pregnancy brings to your body, but, at the same time, you are thinking about whether or not you can cope with the coming labor, or how you would be able to cope.
"Instead of ignoring all these emotions and thoughts, it is good to tune in and take time to explore and evaluate those feelings with your partner/husband, as well as birth professionals such as your care provider (OB or midwife), a doula, or a childbirth educator. Taking time to process your thoughts and emotions will make a huge difference in how you approach your birth and adjust to the baby’s arrival," she advised.
6. Know the value of having a birth team.
During the time of our ancestors, giving birth was more than just getting a baby out of one’s womb. They knew that giving birth is like a rite of passage for parents. It is a celebration of life.
As such, the mothers were surrounded by a community of people who supported and empowered them — body, mind, and spirit — and Sy believes that this can be emulated today.
"You need to surround yourself with a birth team you can trust and who you know will support you in the same way that previous generations did for their new mothers. Choose care providers (obstetricians or midwives) who support the kind of birth you wish to have and whom you can trust — no matter how your labor progresses or how your birth story plays out," she said.
It is also important to communicate with the husband/partner and get him involved as much as possible because he plays a key role before, during and after labor.
"Consider getting a doula who can provide physical, emotional and informational support throughout your labor and who can advocate for you and your partner. Connect with like-minded parents with whom you can exchange notes, and even those who have more experience and can encourage you as you go through the challenging moments of birth and parenting," Sy added.
7. Prepare a birth plan.
A birth plan is your vision for birth, written out and communicated with your birth team, said Sy. It is a letter stating your wishes and preferences for birth. There you will describe the kind of management you wish to have, how you desire to cope with your labor, who you want to be involved in your birth, the kind of environment you want to birth in.
She explained that it will help the mother, her husband/partner and her care provider clarify and align their goals and beliefs. It would also serve as a guide in making decisions during labor itself.
A good birth plan will lay out options that would take into consideration variations in labor should circumstances arise that would require a change of plans, she noted.
8. Attend a birth class.
Sy recalled that ever since she gave birth to her firstborn, she would always tell her pregnant friends to attend a childbirth class.
"When I talk about knowledge translating to power, I mean it almost in a literal sense. Much of the pain women experience come from their fears and anxieties and much of their fears and anxieties are influenced by either a lack of knowledge or a lack of skill. I have seen how the atmosphere and calm during labor can potentially affect its progress, and how reduced fear increases a woman’s ability to cope with her labor. Birth classes help you embrace the right mindset, provide you with sufficient knowledge, and equip you with the necessary skills to help prepare you for your labor and birth experience," she explained.
Knowledge and proper preparation are crucial to ensuring that one will always have it together, from pregnancy to childbirth. This is why, for Thammie Sy, having a reliable sanitary pad product like Jeunesse Anion as one of her everyday essentials keeps her going and on top of her game.