Pregnancy and Birth

 

“A child’s religious education begins, for better or worse, the day that the mother knows she is pregnant”

Madeleine Simon “Born Contemplative” Darton, Longman and Todd, 1993

 

 

 

Many parents both fathers and mothers feel very tentative in their parenting role, as though they need permission from some one in order to back up the decisions they take as parents. Institutions are keen to exploit this uncertainty where it can give them power over the process and save funds. It can start with the visit to your GP  to confirm a pregnancy and to discuss the birth.

 

Because of the nature of the hospital birth experience and of attitudes of some health care staff, many start their new life as parents with a deep sense of being inadequate and of not being sure how to relate to their child. In the early months and years of their child’s life, parents very often come into contact with “professionals” who have the settled conviction that they know best and further undermine the parent’s confidence.

 

Whether you opt for a hospital birth, a home birth, a birth in water or a Caesarian, to avoid such a situation arising, it is crucial that your choice is both well informed and genuinely free. So how can parents prepare for pregnancy, labour and the early months?

 

 

  • By attending a good preparation course for childbirth such as those run by the National Childbirth Trust; the courses they run really help you think about, understand , discuss the issues involved in the process of pregnancy, labour and the first few weeks and help you to arrive at a common view, unique to you as a couple. These courses are quite unlike the usual “hospital tour” “courses which are routinely run by local Heath Authorities, the purpose of which is to tell parents how the hospital expects you to behave. Early booking for NCT courses is very important. If you are interested, you need to phone up as soon as you know you are expecting, as courses are very good and there is often a waiting list..
  • By finalising your choice of names and identifying good Saints you think would be a good Patron Saint for a son or daughter.
  • By finalising your choice of who would be good Godparents. Finding a good one, let alone two is often quite an issue and the earlier you start thinking about it, the likelier you are to make a good choice. Approaching your preferred candidates early gives you the chance to discuss what would be involved and them the chance to consider whether they feel able to take on this important responsibility. “A godparent should be an active member of the Catholic Church, who has received baptism and confirmation and who goes to Mass and receives Holy Communion regularly. People often chose other family members or long-standing friends. It needs to be a person who is trustworthy, mature (at least 16 years old) and responsible. Being a godparent is a very important spiritual responsibility and is not to be thought of as a favour handed to a friend or relative or even worse, a new acquaintance of one of the parents…At the anniversary of baptism each year, you might think of sending a card or even a present. This will remind the parents and the child of the great gift their child has received in baptism and then, when the child is a little older, he will want to know why this day is special. As the time for First Holy Communion approaches, and later Confirmation. the godparents will be involved in supporting the child and the family. In every way [a].. godparent.. [strives] to support, encourage and assist [the] godchild along the pilgrim path of faith”” (“Being a godparent” CTS Essentials leaflet 2004 ISBN 186082 249 5. It also, of course, needs to be someone who is in practical terms able to form a relationship with the child; a potential candidate who lives on another continent for example, is unlikely to be able to fulfil their responsibilities as well as a local one. So, becoming a godparent is a weighty and life-long responsibility and it is important that your chosen candidates have the space and permission to say “no” without there being hard feelings; they need to feel genuinely free to accept or decline.
  • By talking to other Catholic parents whose parenting style you admire about the joys and challenges. If you find it difficult to meet other Catholic parents because (as is often the case) people dash off after Mass, then consider starting your own Parish group. Failing that, you can get a great deal of spiritual, emotional and practical support online by joining a mailing list such as; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CathHomeUK/join. (this list is run by Catholic home-schooling families, but you do not have to be home-schooling to join. I have personally found it to be of great help).
  • By reading some good books on pregnancy and labour, discussing them with your spouse and drawing up a birth plan. When you are in labour, it is too late to fully appreciate and think through all of the issues and choices you may face; the decisions you make (or have thrust upon you in labour) will have a marked and long term effect on you as individual parents and children and on your family relationships, for good or bad. It is therefore worth while thinking through the options well in advance. Books I have found very useful include “ Misconceptions” by Naomi Wolf,  Beverley Leech “Am I allowed?” and books by Sheila Kitzinger.
  • By reading some good books on a mother’s and father’s role eg; “A mother’s rule of life” "How to bring order to your home and peace to your soul" by Catholic mother Holly Pierlot ( ISBN 1-928832_41-5) and “Father, the family protector” By James Stenson available from Southwell Books www.southwellbooks.com (01823 401193)
  • By reading some good books on the early weeks with a new baby. Doing so will make the transition to a new way of life very much easier and give you much greater confidence with facing the decisions you will be called upon to make. The book I most wish I had read before our first daughter’s arrival is “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood” by Sheila Kippley.  This is as relevant for fathers as for mothers.
  • By finding friends who are already parents and who respect your right to decide your options for yourself and by asking them about their experiences. A good way to do this is to go along to the coffee mornings organised, locally by the National Childbirth Trust.
  • By talking to couples whose child is breast-fed.  The National Childbirth Trust can put you in touch with other parents who breastfeed if you do not know any yourself. They also provide a very good non -judgemental breast-feeding support service, staffed by sensitive and well-trained breast-feeding counsellors, all of whom are mothers themselves  .(It makes me annoyed with the speaker when I hear them say that a mother has “failed to breast-feed!”, usually this statement comes from someone who claims to be a supporter of breast-feeding .. Successful breast feeding has nothing to do with the virtue or otherwise of the individual mother and everything to do with the quality of support she receives from her spouse and from the wider community. Trying to force a mother to breast-feed is not a supportive act, neither is judging a mother to be a failure because she has had problems breast-feeding. .often irritatingly enough, problems caused by the actions and views of misinformed breast-feeding “advocates”. The important principle here it seems to be is “first do no harm”.) For a summary of the pros and cons of bottle and breast feeding, please click here; breast-feeding.
  • By joining La Leche League; www.laleche.org.uk/pages/about/meetings.htm. “Local La Leche League Groups provide mother-to-mother support by holding regular discussion meetings on various aspects of mothering and breastfeeding. It can be helpful for a mother to come along whilst pregnant to learn about breastfeeding, and reassuring to attend after the baby is born.” La Leche League (Great Britain) PO Box 29 West Bridgford Nottingham NG2 7NP;
  • By looking at some of the Publications and the Website of Association for the Improvement in Maternity Services; www.aims.org.uk
  • By considering whether to have scans and if so, which ones. Many parents erroneously believe that both hospital birth and the welter of ante-natal screening tests to which all mothers and their babies are routinely subjected are compulsory.
  • By considering a home birth; Even if you do not decide on this route ultimately, at least you will be saved from kicking yourself after the event for not having investigated the possibility, as many first time mothers do. www.homebirth.org.uk . wherever you decode to give birth, it is vital that your wishes are heard and you feel supported in your choice.

 

  • By discussing your Birth plan with your GP. If he or she clearly does not understand that his or her role is to advise rather than to prescribe what you should do, consider finding a GP who does.
  • If you want a home birth you will very likely be fortunate to have attention from the most experienced, most empathic Midwifery staff currently working in the NHS. If, however, you are not impressed by the local Health care Trust’s response to your choice or do not click with your community midwife, consider engaging the services of an Independent Midwife. www.independentmidwives.org.uk
  • Especially if you are planning a hospital birth, consider engaging the services of a doula "Doula" (pronounced "doola") is a Greek word meaning "woman servant or caregiver". It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” - enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.  www.doula.org.uk The presence of a doula in labour has been shown to be the single most important factor in reducing intervention rates and in helping parents birth their child in a happy and relaxed atmosphere. As a result births with a doula have been shown to be much less likely to result in surgical interventions than control groups, reliant on Hospital midwives
  • By reading up about what is needed in the way of practical items (in fact very few.. many of the items marketed at prospective parents are designed not for the wellbeing of your child but on the premise that what parents want most is to spend as little time as possible with their child click here for a discussion of the pressure on parents to consume; what babies need.. and obtaining the items you decide you need; You do not have to buy them new; many clothes and slings can be had from Freecycle, from friends, charity shops or from Ebay. Having a child is not the expense that our consumer society would like us to believe that is.
  • By making clear to family and friends that after the birth you will be having a few days to establish your life together as a family and that you will be making arrangements to see them after a period of settling in.