postpartum

Little girl reading to a new baby

Adjusting to a new sibling

Adding a new baby to the family is tricky enough the first time around. The challenges the second time around are different, but no less tricky. One of the bigger challenges is the adjustment for an older sibling.

Here are some tips for making the transition a bit smoother:

Before the baby comes

Talk about the changes that are coming – You don’t want to alarm your child by talking about difficulties, but you also don’t want to sugarcoat it and give the child unrealistic expectations. Aim for a balance.

Have reasonable expectations – I’m talking about your expectations for your child. Your child might not be as excited about the new baby as you hope. And that’s okay. Your child might not want to be the helper once the baby is there. And that’s okay.

Acknowledge that it might be hard – Acknowledge it to yourself, to your partner, and to your older children. It might be hard, but it will be okay.

After the baby comes

Talk about feelings with your child – Allow them to express all emotions, positive or negative, without judgement. Validate their emotions, and if they need to talk through them, be willing to do that for them.

Pouting child

Adjust expectations – even if you think you had realistic expectations before the baby is born, the odds are good that things won’t go exactly as you think. Make necessary adjustments.

Prioritize the older sibling at times – your older child still needs love and attention, and taking the time to have 1:1 focused time with your older child can lessen their worries about being displaced.

Don’t try to force a relationship – It’s okay if your older child doesn’t feel love and connection to the baby immediately. Many children don’t, but that can come later. Allow their relationship to develop at their own pace. Don’t try to make it happen, and instead create an environment free of competition and with opportunities for them to connect.

Sibling adjustment isn’t a one time event, either. There are tricky times surrounding the birth of the baby, but also tricky times to navigate later. A common one is when the new baby gets mobile and starts getting into the older child’s toys. Another when the older child needs to take on chores and responsibilities the younger one is not yet expected to.

I hope these tips help you have a smoother transition in your family!

New mom depressed

When birth does not go as you’d hoped…

Speech bubbles with insensitive Comments

Can you think of anything worse to say to a mom who is opening up about feelings of disappointment or pain after a difficult birth? I can’t. The unsaid subtext mom hears goes something like this:

“Just be glad you have a healthy baby. Any other emotions you have don’t count. There is only one acceptable emotion to experience after having a baby and that’s pure happiness and joy. Anything else means you are doing it wrong.”

“A healthy baby is the ONLY thing that matters. You, as a mother, don’t matter. Any fear, pain, or helplessness you felt during your birth does not matter. You are unimportant, your experience is irrelevant, and you should get used to it.”

“I don’t know why you are upset, from what I can see, your birth was perfect and you are being unreasonable if you are unhappy about that!”

If I could help new moms understand just ONE thing about processing their birth experiences, it would be this:
You can feel pain or disappointment from your birth and be happy about your baby at the same time!

It is possible to be happy and disappointed at the same time. It is OK to experience BOTH joy and pain at the same time. Negative emotions do not invalidate the happiness and positivity of birth. Having a mix of emotions about your birth is very common and normal.

Your feelings about your birth do not have to be ALL happiness. You can be happy that your birth was amazing AND disappointed a little as well. You can be sad that your planned natural birth turned into a cesarean AND happy to be snuggling your healthy newborn. You can be happy about how your birth went AND sad that breastfeeding is a struggle. You can be thrilled that you were able to birth unmedicated AND struggle with how intense your precipitous labor was and how overwhelmed you felt.

Jen Shipston, from Queensland, Australia, wrote this about her most recent birth experience:

“When I was pregnant, I was informed, excited, confident and knew exactly what I wanted. I did everything I could to ensure a safe and happy birth. One of the things that was so very important to me was having the birth documented, something I’d also wanted with my second but that did not happen. I booked my photographer/videographer almost as quickly as I booked my midwife! The time came for my baby to arrive. I let my photographer know things had started, and kept her updated in the hours that followed. I called her when things were still quite slow and manageable, but not stopping, because she lived just over an hour away. 2 contractions later my waters broke, and my girl arrived beautifully, into my arms, in water – just as I’d wished for, 50 minutes later. 20 minutes before the photographer arrived. My birth was amazing but I was so disappointed to have missed having it documented. It seemed silly – I had an amazing birth, so something as insignificant as photos shouldn’t matter, right? But those photos/video were not insignificant to me, and I mourned…I can be disappointed about what didn’t go to plan while still being thrilled about my birth experience and completely besotted by my baby. Because that’s just how birth is.”

There’s no need to feel guilt over your feelings. Feelings are what they are.

Birth photographer and videographer Brooke Walsh, also a mom who experienced very mixed emotions about her birth that made it hard to talk about, shares what she’s learned:

“For most women, birth is a mix of glee and sorrow. It’s easy to feel that these divergent emotions don’t belong together, but they are perfectly valid. Somewhere in sifting through them we become better mothers, cognizant of the joy and hard work in our lives with our children as they grow, just as we found in birth. Being joyful about the beautiful moments in your birth does not tarnish the validity of the traumatic moments, nor does accepting and working through birth trauma remove the bliss from your baby’s birth. Sometimes birth is a mystery of divergent elements.”

You may find, though, that there are many in your life who are not willing to hear about how you feel. Hopefully you have someone in your life who will be willing to debrief and discuss with you. You can see if your midwife, doula, or childbirth educator can talk with you. Online, you may find the group Solace for Mothers to be helpful. This group was founded with the sole purpose of providing mothers with a place to work through emotions after a difficult birth.

Locally, I really like the women at The Healing Group for all kinds of support and help during the childbearing year.

I love this article, called “Making Peace With Your Birth Experience” by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett as a resource for helping moms process their birth experience.

If you are a friend, family member, doula, or lactation consultant wondering what you CAN do to help, here are some suggestions:

  1. Listen. JUST listen. Don’t tell mom what you think she could have done better, don’t try to find reasons for what happened, don’t try to make her feel better, don’t try to “focus on the positive” JUST LISTEN with full attention and some occasional reflective listening. Some moms might feel more comfortable talking if you work together on a talk like washing dishes or folding laundry rather than a face-to-face talk.
  2. If she needs to cry, let her cry. Don’t try to console her or make her stop, just hold her and comfort her while she cries.
  3. Don’t tell your birth stories. This is not about you. Your positive birth stories make it seem like you are trying to show you did it better, your difficult stories can turn into a “well I had it worse than you did!”
  4. Let her know you’re willing to listen again another time if she needs to talk. She may not be ready yet. She may need to talk more than once. Sometimes it takes moms a few times to process things. Sometimes they don’t get to the full depth of their experience the first time.
  5. Don’t tell her she can do better next time. While this is true, it does not help her process through THIS birth experience. A better birth next time will not erase this experience. When she’s ready to have another baby, then ask her if she’s open to suggestions.
  6. Don’t tell her to “focus on the positive” – instead allow her to process any negativity so she can move on. And SHE gets to decide when she’s processed enough, when she’s ready to move on.

Becoming a mom (or a mom again!) can be a difficult enough adjustment, let’s all gather around new moms and give them the freedom to feel and process their experiences without judgement, and with plenty of loving support.

Pregnant person holding white baby clothes

What do you really need for baby?

MinimalLayetteI’ll admit it, I am a total minimalist when it comes to baby gear. I hate the massive consumerism and all the STUFF they try to convince new moms they NEED. Phooey.

So here I present to you, Andrea’s minimalist list of what you need for a new baby:

Must haves:

  • Place for baby to sleep Your bed, bassinette near your bed, or crib.
  • Diapers Either cloth or disposable.
  • Clothing Probably more than you think. Go for utility over cute, for the most part. And skip anything that needs dry cleaning!! (Why do they even MAKE newborn clothes that are dry clean only?)
  • Car Seat Install it and have a tech check it before baby comes.

Nice to have:

  • Wrap/carrier Go to a babywearing gathering and see what people have and what you like. I’m a ring sling kinda gal.
  • Stroller Depends on how much and how you plan to use it. Are you a runner? Get a jogging stroller. If you’re a one car family and will be going a lot of walking like I was with my first, invest in a GOOD stroller with a basket for groceries, etc.
  • Monitor If you live in a home big enough to need one. We lived in a 1 bed apartment when I had my first and the monitor was a joke.
  • Hand pump If you’re going to mostly be with baby.
  • Double electric pump If you’re going back to work.

That’s pretty much it.


Wednesday Wrap Up August 13

WednesdayWrapUpNNo one, NO ONE, has the right to decide for a woman if her birth was traumatic or not. My Traumatic Birth, According to Me

One of the frustrations about living in Utah. People are so afraid of seeing women’s bodies they do things like call the police over a breastfeeding booth at the Farmer’s Market.
Thankfully the chief of police is well versed in Utah’s laws and handled it well.

And to get my blood pressure down again, I could use of these apps to learn relaxation and meditation in pregnancy.

A new Pinterest board you might want to check out “What Childbirth Educators Want You to Know About Birth”

I’ve already shared a bunch of funny pregnancy announcement videos, but I found a new one that is a fun one:

Wednesday Wrap Up July 30

WednesdayWrapUpNFor two out of my three pregnancies, I chose not to find out if my baby was a boy or a girl. I *loved* the anticipation of not knowing and the moment of surprise at the birth. (For the third, I let my husband get his way and find out. Naturally, he refused to believe it was another girl until she was born, despite making the guy go back and look again FIVE TIMES….) If you’re not sure you want to know, here are 8 reasons to not find out.

Fifteen things no one tells you about motherhood while you’re pregnant. There are a lot of lists like this out there, and I find that most of them are things people DO tell pregnant moms, but they are interesting anyway. I love the last one here.

Loved this explanation of how dads can bond with their baby.

5 Things NOT to say to a woman with postpartum depression – and what to say instead. There needs to be more articles like this. I have heard every single one of these said to or about moms struggling with depression.

Since I also do professional birth photography, I loved this short video on capturing this one of life’s poignant moments, from New Zealand birth photographer Keri-Anne Dilworth

Birth – First Light Birth Photography – Auckland, New Zealand from Keri-Anne Dilworth on Vimeo.

Wednesday Wrap Up 7/2

WednesdayWrapUpJIt’s not often talked about, but there are times when epidural anesthesia does not work. Here are 5 Things to Do When the Epidural Fails

An unusual birth story told with a sense of humor!

And another funny – big brother holding the new baby for the first time.

And to further make you laugh, a completely sarcastic set of instructions: How to Breastfeed Appropriately

A nice collection of videos on using the rebozo in labor.

Loved seeing a positive story about breastfeeding in public!

Great information on breastfeeding and medications, from the Centers for Disease Control.

Today’s video is Jimmy Kimmel going to a childbirth class with Jessica Alba. It’s overdramatized and overdone, but I can truthfully say I have had people like Jimmy in my classes. Many of the comments he made are comments I’ve had in class.

Wednesday Wrap Up June 25

WednesdayWrapUpFThis post marks a year and a half I’ve been doing the Wednesday Wrap Up!

An interesting potential clue about what starts labor. I’ll be interested to see if this pans out and how it might increase our understanding of how labor begins.

A nice collection of links on being active in labor.

I liked this list of how to prepare for labor. Particularly #10. There’s no one way to birth, and moms get to figure out what works for them.

Want to know if your pediatrician is really breastfeeding friendly? These are great questions to ask – and the answers you want to look for.

An interesting debate going on about Natural Birth. This first link:

The Cult of Natural Childbirth Has Gone Too Far is what set it off. I think many people missed the point of the article, which is more about class distinctions and the idealization of something not available to many women.

This response, Natural Childbirth is Not a Cult, missed that point but does make some good points as well.

Today’s video is from Laura Paulescu of Crowned Photography in Seattle (formerly Denver). It shows a mom alternating movement and rest through her labor.

The birth of Naomi Yonina | Crowned Birth Photography from crownedbirthphotography on Vimeo.

Wednesday Wrap Up May 28

Wednesday Web Links
Collection of possible positions for laboring or birthing in the tub. I like to show moms lots of potential positions for any kind of labor to get them thinking beyond the most common ones.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out: A mom sues the hospital for forcing a cesarean against her will. This happens daily across the country, simply by hospitals and doctors refusing to “allow” VBAC, but this case is particularly outrageous.

An interesting list of things about labor, compiled by two moms with lots of personal experience in the process. I can’t say I agree with every single one, but worth a read!

A different way to look at postpartum depression: The six stages of PPD

Fantastic article on what childbirth educators need to know about maternal mental health. Includes a 10 question quiz. Take the quiz and let me know how you scored!

This is such a great birth story. I love the photos by my friend Natasha Hance, but the videos she took and included really capture the emotion. Mom talking about the baby’s sex and dad telling the whole family about how he caught the baby! It’s all so very well done. By mom and dad especially, but also well documented by Natasha!

Wednesday Wrap Up 4/30

Weekly Pregnancy and Birth LinksI’ve wondered for a long time if babies who lose a lot of weight in the first day after birth are just shedding extra water weight from IV fluids! Nice to see someone addressing it.

Good thing they reserved the right to overrule the internet.

The Words that Steal Our Birth Power An interesting look at the words we use when we talk about birth stories, and what that says about our culture.

One thing I have learned quite a bit about in the last year is infant loss. My volunteer work with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep has brought me in contact with many families going through some very difficult circumstances. One resource I was completely unaware of during my first 16 years working in the birth field is perinatal hospice. These programs provide support and help for families who have a baby with a diagnosis that means the baby is not likely to live long past birth. They do wonderful work. Please learn more about perinatal hospice and see if there is a program in your area.

Today’s video is a recent one from Lamaze International. It goes over the facts about cesareans and VBACs in a quick few minutes, with some tips on how to find out if your provider is a good match for your desires. I thought it would be a fitting way to finish off Cesarean Awareness Month.

Wednesday Wrap Up 4/23

Wednesday Wrap-Up Graphic - Salt Lake City birth doulaA good summary of some of the cultural and societal reasons Why Women Don’t Breastfeed.

Spending time skin to skin with your baby is a pretty miraculous thing. I recently had a family with a baby in the NICU, and they were able to see some pretty dramatic positive results from having the baby skin to skin with dad in the NICU. There are lots of reasons skin to skin contact is good, but here are the top 6 Reasons to Be Skin to Skin With Your Baby

Often parents don’t want to think about bad things happening, but in my years as a mom, I’ve used 7 of these 10 First Aid Skills Every Parent Should Know

I have seen many partners help catch their baby in my years as a doula. For parents who want to be involved, it can be a fantastic experience and a good way to be connected to the birth. How Your Partner Can Catch Your Baby

I have loved seeing more emphasis on family connection and bonding in cesarean births over the last few years. This is a good list of options that you may be able to have during a cesarean birth if it becomes necessary. Planning a Family-Centered Cesarean

Today’s video shows a man in his 20s watching his own birth video with his mom. While I think many of his reactions are exaggerated for drama, and there is some strong language, it’s still fun to watch.

Wednesday Wrap Up 4/9

Wednesday Wrap-Up Graphic - Utah Private Childbirth Classes
We are in the middle of planning our family vacation this week, so I have travel on my mind. We will be hitting a few National Parks on a road trip. (Someday I hope to see ALL the National Parks!) If you are pregnant and planning a final kid-free trip before the baby comes? Here are a few links with helpful tips:
Travel During Pregnancy – What to Bring
7 Tips for Traveling While Pregnant
Pregnancy Travel Tips

And if your baby is already here and you want to explore the world:
Car Travel With a Baby
Flying With a Baby
Tips for Traveling with Cloth Diapers
Breastfeeding While Traveling
Bottle Feeding While Traveling
50 Things to Know Before Traveling With Baby

I know, I know, we’re tired of the onslaught of selfies. But I really liked this idea of documenting your pregnancy through photos. It’s a HUGE step up from cell phone mirror shots, and I love how she pairs the photos with words.

Totally tooting my own horn here, but I had an article on Peanut Balls for Labor published on Science and Sensibility yesterday!

Today’s video comes from my friend Amanda McGhee of Kimberlin Gray Photography in Hampton Roads VA. Beautiful home birth that transfers to the hospital. The older kids reactions are just so fun to watch! Just FYI, there are bare breasts in the video, so if you’re not OK with that, might want to skip it. I honestly did not notice because I was caught up in the emotion of the birth.

The birth of Evanora from Kimberlin Gray Photography on Vimeo.

Wednesday Wrap Up 4/2

WednesdayWrapUpGIt takes a special kind of person to be a doula, this is true. But it also takes a special kind of person to live with, love, and share a life with a doula! This article shows what that can be like: My Wife Is A Doula

If you’re starting to think that you might not be a good fit with your care provider, this article has some great exercises to go through as you consider how the relationship is – or is not – working.

This is a great article for all kinds of birth professionals to read and consider. It’s a great discussion of professionalism and collaboration among those from different backgrounds and perspectives.

What a tender way for a dad to get involved in breastfeeding.

I’ve always said that it is unfair to say that the ONLY thing that matters is a healthy baby. Not so! But I loved the way Sharon Muza put it in this infographic: Birth is Like a 3 Legged Stool

Today’s video is a fun letter to a new baby born today from the Kid President. Very fun and sweet!